Fingernails on The Blackboard

Posted Feb 23 2008, 4:43 pm in , ,

There are two words that writers often use that make me cringe like fingernails on a blackboard: Muse and Polish.

“Muse” is just one of those words I don’t like. I’m not really sure why. I only know that there isn’t a little person sitting on my shoulder or in my subconscious that tells me when it’s in the mood to write. I choose to write or not to write. I’m either in the mood or not.

“Polish” elicits more of a personal reaction. I think New York Times Bestselling Author Lori Foster said it best, and I hope she doesn’t mind me quoting her:

“My feeling is that if you polish a book too much, it’ll be flat and shiny and smooth–and not too interesting. It’s the little pits and bumps and whatnot that show voice and make a book unique from all the other super shiny, flat surfaces.”

Back when I was starting to write for publication, I would edit my books until there was no life left in them. They’d be technically correct but boring. Finally, Lucy Monroe, a member of my local RWA chapter, pointed out to me that I was one of those people that should only do a few edits. The more I edited, the more I wrote my voice out of my story. Then I received further proof that “polish” is not a good thing for me to do. On a whim (something I do a lot), I had sent three chapters of a WIP to 3 agents. Those chapters had not been edited at all. I had 2 requests for fulls. If you’re not a writer, believe me when I say that requests for fulls from good agents are a big deal. Unfortunately and the moral of the story, I didn’t have the rest of the book written. 😉 I won’t do that again, and that’s the subject for another blog.

What are your “blackboard” words?

1 Comment


One response to “Fingernails on The Blackboard”

  1. Wendi says:

    I like this post, Jami. I haven’t located my muse yet, either. 🙂 And I’m a big fan of Lori Foster’s quote, too.

    Critique partners have always loved to edit the life out of my voice and I didn’t start getting contracts or requests from editors until I started ignoring them. I still rely on my CPs for plot and characterization help, but when they want me to change a word or a sentence, I’ve learned to follow my instinct that led me to put those words on the page in the first place. 🙂

    I hope there are new writers out there reading your post on this. It could shave months or years off their journey to publication.

    Wendi Darlin