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October 5, 2012

Friday Fun with Elizabeth Lang

Important Lessons and Painful Decisions

I’ve been writing for quite a few years now. Got about two dozen novel-sized stories under my belt, though I only seriously took the plunge into publishing three years ago. Writing used to be a hobby, a bit of therapy and at times, a descent into zaniness, but it’s gradually become a way of life, even a vocation.

When people ask me what I am now, I don’t say Senior Systems Analyst, I tell people that I’m a writer. This, of course, produces as many raised eyebrows and queries as an SSA.

What is an SSA? It’s a glorified name for a computer programmer.

When I say that I’m a writer, the usual reaction is…silence. One lady sitting next to me on the plane asked, “Are you famous?” That would be a no.

The people I’ve come across don’t seem to know what to do with a writer, unless they’re fellow writers, or closet-writers. We seem to be a strange, ethereal creature from another world who deals in things that AREN’T REAL.

My other favorite response is, “Can you read my manuscript?” or “I have an idea for a story, you can use it if you want.” I usually get these from total strangers or casual acquaintances.

I try to be polite and decline, or give some advice if they’re serious about breaking into the maze that is publishing these days, but alas between my own writing activities and mentoring an online writers group, I don’t have time to read a 300 page unedited manuscript, and surprisingly as a writer, I usually have a mind bursting with ideas. Would you like some?

So, what is the most important lesson I’ve learned so far as a writer? There are a whole host of topics I can touch on dealing with book covers, marketing, editing, self-publishing and small presses, and even more to do with the nitty-gritties of writing, but the one that has impacted me the most is one that snuck up on me.

I attended a reading by Julie Czerneda during a fan convention. She was reading from a new fantasy novel and during the question period, she mentioned that she had edited out almost as much as she left in. I thought this was interesting since the story wasn’t short, but didn’t think much of it at the time until I was hip-deep into my second novel, The Rebels.

I created a character who was a rebel leader, but whose actions are questionable. I included in him some characteristics of a character that I detested from an old TV show. My character was different, but those similarities served as a thorn in my side as I continued writing until the story came to a standstill and for weeks, I couldn’t get past it. All the hero and the rebel leader did were snarl at each other instead of advancing the story.

I ended up writing the third story in the trilogy in order to get away from it for a while. I was actually further along in the third story than the second one when I realized some drastic surgery had to be done if I was ever to finish the second book. I didn’t think readers would appreciate a trilogy without a middle part.

So, 60,000 words into the story, right in the middle of chapter 25, I decided to scrap the rebel leader and create a brand new character. It was a painful decision because so much work had already been put into it and since the rebel leader was a main character that meant that I had to almost start from scratch because the dynamics would be different, along with the decisions that were made during the story.

But it was the right decision and the new character of Tucker ended up being far more interesting than the original.

It was a valuable lesson, somewhat like having your wisdom tooth pulled out. It hurts like hell but it feels so much better when it’s out.

So, on this part of my journey as a writer, sometimes what makes or breaks a story is as much about what I take out as what I leave in.

What have been your most important lessons as a writer?

About the Author:

Elizabeth Lang was an avid reader from an early age. Science Fiction and Fantasy were and still are her passions, with occasional dips in the pools of Mystery. She has spent many years in the IT industry and started writing late in life, but once begun, she couldn't stop.

Elizabeth lives in Canada though she's worked in many places around the world. She loves traveling, learning about different cultures, and sampling their delectable foods.

She has 2 science fiction thrillers published with IFWG Publishing. From
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