Tuesday, May 4, 2010

That Thing You're Not Supposed to Write About

It's in all of our WIPs. We know it's there, lurking in chapter three, hiding out at the end of chapter 17, waiting to pounce on unsuspecting readers. All of us have it, but many of us leave it in there anyway, at least in early drafts.

What is this? It's the Plot Device You Know Isn't Working, and it has to go. (PDYKIW for short. I tried to come up with a catchy, hilarious nickname that would go viral and ultimately earn me fame and fortune in the online writing world, but my brain is off today.)

But does it have to go?

I had a PDYKIW. When I first came up with it, I thought, "This is kind of cool!" Then I came up with a host of issues.
  1. Is this even technological possible?
  2. My presentation is way too abrupt. (I believe the exact words I thought were "dues ex machina." I even described it to the hubs, and asked whether he thought it was. He did. And he hardly reads fiction.)
  3. People (in the world of the book) would have realized this already. No one is that stupid. 
  4. Etc.
But despite my reservations, I left my PDYKIW in. Why? Because I was hoping to see my crit partners' reactions. No, I didn't think they would say, "Wow, Heather!! You're a GENIUS!!!" (OK, maybe a teeny, tiny, part of me was hoping that my view of the flaws in the PDYKIW was all in my head, and that the CPs could smooth that all over for me. Which so didn't happen.) Actually, what I was hoping is that they would say, "This is stupid and isn't working and you FAIL." (Which isn't what they said either, because they are awesome. One of them even said "This is too dues ex machina." OMG we were obviously made for each other.)

And why would I ever want my CPs to tell me something isn't working? Because then they can help me figure out what will work.

Some people get their crits from their partners, read them, and accept or reject changes based on their whimsy. I'm not one of those people. I annoy the heck out of my partners. I send them emails at 2am that might say things like, "I had a dream last night that Kaia should have a purple, mustache-sporting elephant for a sidekick. Thoughts?" (OK, that's extreme. But the 2am emails are real. And they are looooong.) I also use them to help me work through the PDYKIW. Because after 25 1,000 word emails (OMG, that's half a book! I'll call it "Letters to My Crit Partners"), the Plot Device You Know Isn't Working turns into the Plot Device of AWESOME. (Which is also a way better acronym.)

So don't be afraid of the PDYKIW. Leave it in, and let your crit partner read it. Or just email them about it (though I think reading it in context is sometimes more effective then trying to describe everything...just my opinion.) Because you might have something AWESOME hidden underneath it.

P.S. I apologize for the over-use of parenthesis in this post. I can't even begin to focus tonight.


  1. Great post. It made me smile. You have great crit partners.
    I'll keep this in mind.

  2. great post!
    btw - i read PDYKIW in my head as "piddycoo" which could be interpreted as "pretty cool" which is exactly what it turns out to be when you get awesome feedback from awesome crit partners.

  3. Gotta love crit partners that will hold you accountable for a PDYKIW (btw, could totally go viral.). I rely on my own CPs probably more than I should, but they still haven't abandoned me yet. Thankfully.

  4. You do have great crit partners. Not all do that. Not all allow you to bounce off ideas from them. My last group didn't really do that. Fortunately they did point out things that didn't gel in their minds.

  5. Really good post, Heather! I keep it in mind next time I'm pondering my PDKYIW. Hope I got the acronym right :)

  6. I LOVE when you discover that something that wasn't working COULD work (and be awesome) with a tweak here or there... Sometimes it seems like it will be a TON of work, but even when it is, it's so worth it. I love having awesome CPs--don't you feel so lucky???

  7. :)

    I'm wondering now how you turned it to an idea of awesome...

  8. Ha- shouldn't have told me that. Now there's about 15,000 words that will continue to exist when they should've died long ago. :)


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