Monday, November 02, 2009

Bandaids—On or Off?

By Ali Cross

The other day I tuned into a radio show that provides people advice in making difficult life choices. A girl, engaged to be married within the month, had recognized problematic behavior in her fiancĂ© and doubted her wisdom in choosing to marry him. As she and the talk show host discussed the situation, it became clear that her boyfriend’s issues were rather serious and would affect her life for as long as she was married to him. She could choose to accept him with all his faults and never complain or let them bother her forever more—or she could choose to end the relationship now, before they married.

In the end it seemed she would choose to stay with him.

Her reason for suffering a lifetime of personal struggle and hardship? Because she didn’t want to accept the embarrassment today of canceling her wedding.

It was a rather stunning revelation to me—that a person would choose a lifetime of problems over one really big problem today. And yet, people do it all the time.

And it got me thinking: How many of us writers choose the easy way out, hoping that we’ll be able to deal with the problems later on, or that our editor/agent will overlook our shortcomings?

A writer might be tempted, having written over three quarters of their manuscript, to ignore an element that needs to be fixed from early on in their story. They know their book would be so much stronger for the fix, but the thought of rewriting their entire story is just so discouraging, so overwhelming, that they would rather patch it with a Band-Aid, than repair it

I know how tempting that is, but which finished work do you think would be more appealing to agents/editors and, inevitably, to your readers? The one in which a quick fix was applied later in the story, or the one that is written with the end in mind from the very beginning?

You can’t really blame that young bride for dreading the prospect, all the hard work, the explanations, the embarrassment, of canceling her wedding so close to the big day. You can’t really blame a writer for not wanting to go back and rewrite his entire novel when he’s so close to writing The End.

But which is the better choice? To live with a decision that you will regret forever or to suck it up now, like ripping a Band-Aid off quickly, and deal with your problem today?

You decide—as for me, I prefer to shut my eyes, bite my lip, and pull the bandage off. A lot of pain now for a lot of satisfaction later.


Keith Fisher said...

Rrrriiiiip. Ouch. that bandadge was stuck with glue, I swear.

Good post. I'm writing a book that I thought through and delibrately put things in the beginning. now that I've got to the end, I'm finding problems I couldn't see without the help of my friends. I've had to go back and rewrite twice now. Another problem came up the other day, and I'm not sure the story is worth the trouble anymore.

Great post. I have seen people do that same thing. Thanks for the advice.

Carolyn V. said...

Wow, good question. Which would I rather deal with? I am not sure. Sometimes I get so stuck on a problem, I struggle to finish the book. I'm keeping a folder full of all the things I need to correct in my MS for later. Maybe that would help??? =)

Jenn Wilks said...

BTDTGTTS (Been There, Done That, Got The T-Shirt) :o)

It's sad, but it's human nature to want to do what's easy now despite the consequences that will come later. Partly because now is so real and even 5 minutes from now is still just a "maybe."

I like your analogy with the book-writing, though. Would I rather go through a lot of painful re-writes now or go through having to be embarrassed every time someone tells me they read my book because I know how badly it needed to be re-written? I hope I'd chose the former.

L.T. Elliot said...

I'm all for ripping off that sucker. My name's on that spine (someday!) and no matter how much work it is, I'd rather live with the work load than the eternal shame of seeing those mistake in print FOR.EV.VER!
Excellent post, Ali!

Cassandra Jade said...

I'm all for facing the reality now, because sooner or later you have to and the sooner you do, the sooner you recover.