Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Expanding Our Vision



My sister *waves to Robyn* is having her kitchen remodeled. All along, her plan had been to keep the same basic footprint, but modernize the small space with current materials and appliances. She struggled to see beyond that.

Not that it was any of my business, but I had my own ideas for her kitchen. I didn't see the space as small at all. I saw that she had the perfect space to create the big, open concept kitchen most people dream of.

What was the disparity between our opinions? Vision.

In real life, and in writing, we sometimes need to expand the scope of our vision. How can we do that? Here are some suggestions:

  1. Widen the lens--If we look beyond what's already there, whether it's a kitchen footprint or a finished manuscript, the solutions multiply. Kitchens are not set in stone. Neither are words, plot lines, beginnings, and endings. Marinate on the story for as long as it takes. What's the bigger picture? How can it be deeper? Wider? Richer?
  2. Seek outside help--My sister was really good about this. She bounced ideas around with friends and family, and kept the margaritas coming while we brainstormed. We writers become so close to our own stories, it's almost impossible to be objective about them. I'm always amazed at how productive a fresh set of eyes can be. But, this leads to my next point...
  3. Make your own choices--Ask 100 people about a kitchen design, and you'll receive 100 opinions. Everyone brings different skills and life experiences to the table, and sometimes all the varied opinions become overwhelming. Same with story solutions. At some point, we just have to sift through the ideas, choose what we like best, and apply them. My sister's kitchen is her kitchen, and she makes the final choices. Same with our manuscripts. We make the final call.
  4. Go skeletal--Once my sister's kitchen was demolished, and nothing but 2 x 4's and insulation were showing, she finally saw how much room she had to work with. This helped her see the bigger picture. We can mentally strip our stories down to bare bones, or story structure. If we're satisfied with a solid structure, we can then rebuild the rest in (relative) confidence.
  5. Read widely--When we read widely, and in different genres, we open our minds to so many possibilities. I was surprised how reading the classic A Lesson Before Dying had such an impact on my current story. And even though they're not in my genre, reading paranormal, historical, or dystopian stories teach me so much.
  6. Accept imperfections--My hubby and I built our own home sixteen years ago. Even though it was built the way we wanted it, and we adore our home, there are still things we would do differently. When I read past work, there are always things I want to change. I could do that until I grow gray(er) hair and rock my future grandchildren to sleep. Houses, kitchens, and stories will never, ever be perfect. We must be at peace with that.
When it's finished, my sister's kitchen will be beautiful. It's always been filled with love, laughter, and margaritas, and that will never change.

Our stories can be beautiful, and filled with love, laughter, and drama. Hopefully widening our vision will allow the reader a much richer experience.

Is there anything you'd like to add? Have you struggled with widening your vision, or does a writing partner, agent or editor help you push past that? Please share!

17 comments:

  1. I think you've nailed it! Characters have to be "wide" the same way that people are wide and complex. The more complex we make our character and the worlds they inhabit, the richer and truer will be the experience we create for our readers. it's about sinking into their skin and looking through their eyes. Same goes for the real life people we meet. :)

    I love how you always find interesting ways to show us a different version of an important writing tip! You rock.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Martina, you're right. And I've noticed that deepening happens with each revision. Definitely not draft 1!

      Delete
  2. "When I read past work, there are always things I want to change. I could do that until I grow gray(er) hair and rock my future grandchildren to sleep. Houses, kitchens, and stories will never, ever be perfect. We must be at peace with that."

    Perfect perspective to have, J. In writing, you truly do have to be able to view the possibilities in everything. Even stuff that's published and highly regarded. Exploring what 'can' be done versus what 'was' done is a very important part of the process, and it's how many great stories have come to be.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. EJ, so true. I think we can drive ourselves crazy over what "was." I'm totally guilty of that!

      Delete
  3. Marinate on the story for as long as it takes... I love that. Thanks for the permission. I have this 'thing' that stresses me out while I'm developing or writing a story. "Hurry up," I constantly hear in my head. This actually hampers my progress. Ugh!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sheri, I have that same "hurry up" voice shouting in my head! I have to keep reminding myself that the story isn't ready until it's ready!

      Delete
  4. As writing craft matures ideas flow. Less is always best. I think we can overdo writing & renovating. Reading outside the genre I write has, I believe, created a unique voice.
    I haven't visited in a while. Something had to give as my career grew. Julie, you're someone I admire, respect and love. Thanks for being you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Simon, you are SO sweet! Thanks so much for taking the time to stop by and visit.

      Delete
  5. This is great advice, Julie. I finally learned to be less stubborn about keeping my story the way it started and broadened my vision after a critique pointed out problems. It's so much better for the changes. And you're right, everyone will have a different opinion and you just have to say "enough."

    ReplyDelete
  6. Natalie, I just experienced the same thing recently. A writing friend suggested a different opening. At first I was lazy, thinking "it works the way it is." But it didn't work. I had to buckle down and rewrite it. Will it be better? Time will tell!

    ReplyDelete
  7. My test readers and critique partners push me past those boundaries. I have one I trust with the outline and it's really made a difference.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Oh My... I am an expert in expanding my vision. Yes... I not only paint, tile, building... I get creative. The interesting thing is, while I have spent hours on the floor laying tile, or rolling paint on the walls, or moving stones, I use this time to think about my novel, and characters. Sometimes we just need time to think.... and remodeling is thought therapy. But unlike my work at home (which I value the imperfections because I did it) I strive to make my writing perfect. One thing about both is being involved in the process, makes the product so much sweeter. Pride and ownership.

    ReplyDelete
  9. You are the queen of connecting disparate concepts to writing. Well done. I especially love the MAKE YOUR OWN CHOICES. It's hard to stick to our gut feeling when a thousand opinions are flying.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Reading helps me too, especially because it helps me figure out what works and what doesn't. I've been struggling with writer's block lately, but reading good books makes me want to start writing again.
    I wish I could remodel my apartment, but I'm not even allowed to paint my walls, sighhh....

    ReplyDelete
  11. I LOVE how you see things, Julie!! Sometimes, I think "learning to be at peace with things," is one of the hardest things to do, but once we do so, we become so blessed. Whether it's remodeling our homes or our manuscript, there's always going to be something that slips away unnoticed and we wish we could change looking back, but the truth is, sometimes imperfections make things better, because they're a lesson learned.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Best of luck to your sister with the remodeling. Going bare bones helps you create a better and less clogged story.

    ReplyDelete