Jeff O'Handley, Author

Jeff O'Handley

The Doubting Writer Finds His Voice


First off I apologize for the weirdness that was this blog last week. Thank you for your kind comments and your patience, I hope that won’t happen again. I can tell you this, March has become a month that is not enjoyed in this house in general. Over the last eight years March has brought to this family two deaths and one diagnosis of terminal cancer, so I think maybe that’s something that rattles around in the brain a bit. In addition to that, the Magpie is now sweating out acceptance letters and financial aid awards. She’s top 5 in her class, has a very specific field of interest, and has, consequently, applied to three rather competitive – and expensive – schools. So we’re kind of sweating bullets here. I’m confident with her record that she’ll get accepted, it’s really a question of whether we can afford to send her that’s really weighing on my mind.

The good news was I was still able to work on the important writing. Blogging can take a back seat to the WiPs. I finished yet another round of rewrites on Parallel Lives and decided to take one last, quick pass through (actually, it’s to make sure the latest alterations are really in there, since I did some of them as separate docs. “newchapter30”, for example, or “33a”, etc. Most of the time I’d work on them as a separate doc and then paste it right in, but some of them didn’t go that way. But it was sailing along.

Until now.

Last week I had a sit down with one of the people in my writing group. We had a great conversation about the book and I walked away feeling pretty darn good about it. BUT…she suggested something. In her view, one of the key characters was like this – and she drew a half circle in the air with her hands – and you want her to be like this: and here she made a complete circle. We talked about ways to round her out a little, and I could see the possibilities, and I could see that the underpinnings were already there. Most of it would require a bit of tweaking. So, I sat down to try to write.

And nothing happened.

Most of this doesn’t require much beyond some tweaking, as I said. The problem is where it requires a fairly big change, and that ain’t happening. I’m not sure if this is a case of me being afraid to kill a pretty major darling or if it’s my instinct saying the scenes in question are perfect* as they are, but it just ain’t happening. I’ve been spinning like a one-legged duck in a whirlpool. So now I’ve got my blog mojo back and my book mojo missing. Crap.

*Knowing that ‘perfect’ means it’s not really perfect, but is probably good enough to stand as is.

And now I’ll shift gears and drop this in. I’m not good at picking favorites at anything, but this is probably my favorite song from my favorite album. No video, just one great piece of music. See you on Friday.

7 Responses

  1. Welcome back! Nice job working on those revisions. That "fairly big change" character revision sounds tough. I guess, since you don't want to change it, you think the story as a whole would be better how it is now?

  2. I understand. March has some pretty painful memories for me, too. On the bright side, it's almost halfway over. 🙂

    I'm glad you're so close to finishing revisions on Parallel Lives. As for your writing group's suggestion, well, sometimes you just have to go with your gut. Good luck!

  3. If it's not coming, I would write down as much as you can remember of what you see happening with this character–just notes to yourself. Then come back later and try to work it. You can continue writing with the changes in mind as though you've already made them. If that makes any sense at all.

    Good luck!

  4. What this tells me is, rather than your writer's group companion being correct in her assessment of your character (Madison??) needing some rounding out, maybe she doesn't, in your mind. And since your the author, you really know best. She's your creation, so you have to be willing to change her. If you like her as she is, then she's exactly as she was meant to be. Just because someone says you might think about doing it this way, doesn't men you have to, or that they are right. You have to feel totally comfortable with your revisions.

  5. Thanks, folks. Donna, it does make sense, and is a good approach to take. I've made a bunch of notes. Some are easy and I could probably work them in in a few minutes. Others, not so much.

    Completely agree, Nancy. The suggestions made tapped into something that's deep in my gut, one of those nagging little doubts, so I can definitely see the validity in what she said. However, I think after a week of not being able to take it anywhere, the writing, so to speak, is on the wall.

  6. Sometimes, that's just your instincts. You can't follow every piece of advice you get. You'll never finish your book and it will end up a disaster. Even advice that makes a valid point doesn't always need to be followed. This is where you have to really have a set as an author because you have to put your foot down and say, that's a great point but this is the way it's going to be. When I was making the rounds of crit partners on Finding Claire Fletcher, one of my partners thought I needed to inject Claire's religious beliefs into the book. Since it is not a religious-themed book, I decided not to do this. Not because it's not relevant but just because I would be trying to do too much. The crit partner really did make a great point but in the end I had to make the decision that I was satisfied with it as it stood. There's nothing wrong with that.

  7. And in the end that's what I've done. I saw the possibilities, and because of that little nagging thing I gave it a shot, but it just wasn't working. The little nagging thing is not nagging now, and I'm 'done'. At least until an agent or editor tells me otherwise, hah hah.

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