Getting published: part three

I’m procrastinating by writing this post, let me just put that out there. Click here to read part one and part two.

I didn’t make the November 1st deadline. Once I figured out how to fix the big problems of my story, I worked day and night, every day, to meet the target. But hey, I do also have a life. For some reason I’d agreed to host a food party on October 31st. November 1st was also my cousin’s hen party (for whom I was maid of honour). A day later was the wedding. I also had to write a poem to perform during the service of said wedding. A day after that I was going to Norway. EVERYTHING AT ONCE.

I burnt out. I hadn’t had a chance to stop and reread any of my novel, aside from a fresh scene before moving onto the next. Consequently, I felt like I no longer even knew my novel anymore.

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That led to feelings of “my novel is shit,” “why am I writing,” and eventually, “maybe I just can’t write.” I had to apologise to Suresh and explain, “I just can’t meet the deadline.” I was only 26 pages from the end of the novel, but there’s a lot to fix in those final 26 pages.

Suresh was really nice to my husk of a writer soul. He told me not to worry, the deadline had to work for me and my novel, we’d work out a new deadline when I returned from Norway. Thank shit.

I hate it—absolutely hate it—when I don’t meet deadlines or my own expectations. But Suresh’s calm attitude and understanding helped set me at ease. I really needed a break from my novel.

When I came back from Norway, I reread the entire book, and explained to Suresh that, despite having cut a chunk from the beginning and making it more concise, it had lost something… Something important was missing, but I couldn’t figure out what.

Until two weeks ago. Conflict. I’d cut and changed so much of the beginning that I’d cut out the true source of conflict between characters. It wasn’t until last week, AFTER CURLING UP LIKE A BABY IN MY PARTNER’S LAP, and wanting to TEAR OUT MY BRAIN FOR IDEA EXTRACTION SERVICES, that I found an answer.

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For my story, the secondary source of conflict needed to come from nature, not the immediate people in the main character’s life. Awesome. I could move on, until, wait.

When I first wrote the novel, I’d introduced a problem I didn’t know how to answer. Quite simply: two characters had fallen out, I just didn’t know why. But it felt—still feels, actually—important for these two to fall out. From this problem, I spawned an answer that turned the secondary conflict of my novel into a complicated mess I knew even less about.

Upon reaching this point in the novel again I realised: I need to cut it all out and start again. Why are these two characters upset with each other? I asked my friends for advice, and amazingly, they had the perfect solution.

In Japanese culture, it’s important to think of group success before yourself, to the point of sacrificing things that would make you happy for the happiness of people around you. It stems from Buddhist principles of “sacrifice yourself for the good of others.” It’s almost the complete opposite of Western ideology of doing what’s best for yourself and succeeding above your colleagues/competitors. It’s also really hard to boil down into a few sentences, so I’m not going to.

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Back to the novel: one of the characters having this fall-out is Japanese, the other is American. Understanding the cultural difference mentioned above has finally given me the answer to my very first big problem within the novel. I just had to remember that the cultural beliefs in Japan are very different to the US/UK.

This whole rewrite has improved motive, conflict, world building, and cultural aspects. But bloody hell, there’s a lot of red text and strikethroughs. I’ve gotta finish this week. I MUST, for my own sanity. Wish me luck!

8 thoughts on “Getting published: part three

  1. Good luck! I would like to think that by helping others first can lead to success what ever nationality!
    The word ‘success’ is very different for each individual.
    I found success by becoming a nurse, I enjoyed helping others knowing I had made a difference to the patients I was caring for.
    Mick found success by helping a nations rubbish problem…totally unexpected the level of success he has achieved by one film. But ultimately the aim of his film had no motive other than to help the environment. Millions of people are now fighting the cause and working in groups to help the massive problem. People do care…thank goodness!
    I always believe if you enjoy helping others, that is success in itself because it makes you feel good about yourself as a person (well I know I do). It might be as simple as helping someone who has fallen over, with their shopping, opening a door for someone struggling, baking a cake for a lonely neighbour, just simple acts of kindness go a long way to making a difference :). Success does not have to be defined my money or material things :).
    Your book is going to be amazing, never doubt yourself…

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    • This is true, there are messages of “put others first” across nationalities, but the West is much more competitive and many do deem success by factors they can measure. Do I have a house? Do I have a well-paid job? Did I come first place in the sports relay? Will I get promoted like I deserve? But that’s not to say Japanese people don’t also consider these things as markers of “success”. The mention of success in my post is relating to a specific circumstance in my story: putting the group before yourself.

      For example, in some Japanese sports shows, team members might sacrifice their own success for the happiness of others – including the person who is their competitor, or “enemy”. Western audiences find this uncomfortable, particularly US audiences who have it driven into their culture that “winning” is the ultimate goal, not simply “doing your best”. The idea of giving up your dream or success for someone else isn’t actually instilled in us as a culture, therefore it happens less often, and we don’t consider it something to feel guilty over.

      Sacrifice, including suicide in Japanese history, are deemed as signs of an honourable person. Their attitude to the world around them is shaped completely differently. Obviously, not all Japanese people are selfless and sacrifice their happiness just to be polite, but as a nation they are much more introverted, conscientious of their peers, and hardworking for the benefit of “the team” and not just “myself”.

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  2. Pingback: Getting Published: Part One | Lemon City

  3. Pingback: Getting Published: part two | Lemon City

  4. Pingback: Getting Published: part four | Lemon City

    • This is something I was really afraid of, and it took me a long time to find an answer. One of my favourite book stories is set in Japan, it’s an acclaimed series “Tales of the Otori” and it’s written by a white Australian woman. I realised that her work isn’t hated because she’s dedicated almost her entire life to researching Japan’s history and its culture.

      That doesn’t mean we have to dedicate our lives to one study, however. I think it’s just a case of really doing your best to question how you’ve written behaviour and culture. To ask yourself “why have I written it this way?” But not to stop there, to then research that small aspect. That way we can do our best to avoid racist representation and appropriation.

      I don’t think we should be afraid to write from the perspective of other cultures and races, because it doesn’t help us move past writing what we know and giving representation to others. I do feel we should be as mindful as absolutely possible though, and dedicate our time to research, talking to people, meeting people who can give us first hand insight, reading fiction directly FROM that culture where possible.

      Appropriation is the act of taking something culturally significant from someone else and trivialising it – turning it into what YOU want it for. We can, however, praise and appreciate other cultures for their history and cultural richness. There’s a difference between having a “party where we dress with bindi spots” and a “party to celebrate diwali.”

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