Old School Win

Guy Kawasaki


Very pleased to announce that after several weeks of struggling to maintain some semblance of dignity, passion, and interest in my own writing after being so utterly confused by others’ versions of POV, style, and show vs. tell, my editor-in-chief, my go-to guy, and most helpful of advisers returned home on a week-long break from school.

Hurray! My son is home!

This may sound weird or ‘yeah, right’ to some, but trust me, he has and is my worst (and best) critic. I trust his knowledge of the subject because from the time he came to me at age 7 and told me he wants to be a writer when he grows up to having read more books (and in a broader range to include other languages) than I have or likely ever will, he maintained that interest. He has studied and excelled at the English, Spanish, and even Linguistic aspects of writing for years. My little boy-genius who grew up to work toward his initial goal and who is still capable of reciting not one-liners but complete paragraphs from a novel he read six years ago.

Boggles this muddleheaded, I can’t remember what I did ten minutes ago, mind.

What he isn’t so good at is explaining  what he finds wrong with my writing, but I blame myself for that as being the fault of some damaged gene I passed on to him and will take the guilt to my grave for kind of thing. We both can’t quite convey our thoughts in voice as well as we can on paper. So, his proposal to me was for us to spend an entire day going over the first ten chapters that I’ve edited umpteen times now.

I read: he listened.

Before I explain the critique and how grateful the whole experience ended up making me feel, I have to interject with a few of the funny sides of that deal.

As you know, I write romance, and my son knows this too, but I always assure him I would never expect him to read or listen to the more graphic parts (to save us both a lot of embarrassment), and again, I really don’t have too much in the way of hot & steamy written down yet anyhow. But, as I read aloud, he would always groan when I came to the descriptive aspects of the human body – especially the males. Finally, I turned and asked: What is your problem? And he said: I don’t like hearing about manly chest hair, and strong, virile muscles. It’s … uncomfortable.”

“Really? You mean, like …” and I proceeded to open up my Yahoo!Mail account, to which we both stared at a woman in a bikini for, of all things, auto insurance. Then I clicked on another link and we stared at an anime character with size 58 triple E breasts – because that’s just what every 13 year old boy on the planet wants to look at. And on, and on, and on it went until he caved.

“Is that what you mean by discomfort, my child? Hearing your mother say his well-defined pecs is discomforting? Sitting with her in front of the television during a Viagra or beer commercial isn’t?”

We both laughed, I watched as the brilliant light appeared above his head, and then he caved, admitting defeat and a not-too-late realization of the disproportionate unfairness of my pov over his view of the world.

So, with that out of the way, and due to his new-found understanding of what is fair for the goose is fair for the gander, we got back down to business. But, as a result of this exchange, he ended up giving me a few links to some of the authors he is familiar with, and whom he felt wrote the best sex scenes he had come across in all the time he’s been lost in the world of books.

Wait, I said. You have said for the fifth time now that you’re not a fan of romance novels and aren’t familiar with their structure, and now you’re leading me to novelists who not only write romance, but because you felt that they wrote the best or most captivating sex scenes? Who is uncomfortable now, son?

To which I received another of those ‘ah-ha’ moment looks from him and then waited casually for him to process the information before he finally relaxed, smiled, and then apologized for his own ignorance. I always like to end those moments with something profound, like Derp, and more to lessen his pain than to make me laugh a bit harder.

LOL – another milestone moment of discovery – for him. See, even if he is more intelligent, possesses a well-balanced knowledge of a more vast repertoire of all thing literature, I’m still his mom and I’ll always have something over on him in the older/wiser category of life.

And, the whole issue of this sex thing arose when he started to ask things like: well, aren’t they going to kiss? and: where’s the romance? why aren’t they doing anything … you know … romantic, yet? and the like.

Make up your mind, son. Do you want to hear your mother reading that type of thing or not?

“Yes,” he groaned, falling back with muffled laughter. “I get it now, okay? You’re not going to traumatize me with a lot of … Penthouse knowledge.”

Mom’s turn to laugh. And, I think I even like that phrase.

So #1 problem detected … I’m being too vague in the romance aspect of this romance novel. Well, kind of. There was their first kiss scene, but I left out the emotions of the moment and he caught it where I hadn’t.

#2 – like the kissing scene, he told me that the pace is good and the POV is spot-on (the critiques prior be damned), but that there are key elements that would make the scenes pop if I was to incorporate more imagery into them. Another of the ‘advice’ battles I’ve been struggling with all this time. At one point in my life I wasn’t afraid of anything and wrote that way. Then people came into the mix and their advice or desires started to win out over my own. I let too many people influence me about my own style. STUPID. Dumbest thing I ever could have done, but I know that now. I just wasn’t as concerned about the flowery, imaginative prose in that particular point of my edit routine. I will go back, though, and find areas where such wording is necessary or will add flavor to the writing. Those who don’t like it are welcome to keep walking.

All it took was for one person to say: I don’t like it when they tell me what color his socks are and that there are a lot of cars in the parking lot. That was all it took to make me start to question my own style, and then to notice it and try avoiding it in my writing. Now, the opposite needs to occur. Now I need to start finding where that stuff is missing and put it back where it belongs. Simple.

#3 – it isn’t POV but subjective/objective that I wasn’t getting right – or even getting. My inadvertent desire to point out certain character traits as the author and not through the eyes or ears or lips of a scene’s characters. What gets confusing for me is why I can’t write things like: He opened his big, brown eyes and stared at the ceiling in disbelief of the nightmare he just experienced.” The big, brown eyes and the disbelief parts. What? Why? I don’t get it, but I at least know where they are in my work and can either delete them or figure out the right way to word them. I haven’t come that far in my got it knowledge to know what to do with them yet because I don’t see anything wrong with doing it that way, but whatever – if it’s wrong, then it’s wrong – I guess.

Other than that, he said he likes the story and the way it flows and its development. Like the people who read just the first chapter and had tons of need to know questions about everything from who these people were to how it was all going to end – my son, too, said that he felt a bit left out of that equation, but then as I read chapter 2, and then 3, and then 4 and so on … he left the sofa and sat on the floor at my feet, gaping in wide-eyed awe the way he used to as a child during story time right before bed.

I was touched by the memory and inference, but also by the sudden captivated audience my words had somehow commanded him to become.


He’s also upset about the fact that I’ve managed to make the antagonist more appealing to him than the protagonist, which made me laugh all the more. Tough, I told him – this is only the first 10 chapters, and there’s no way possible for the antagonist and the leading lady to be together. They both know it, too. She isn’t in love with him the way that he is in love with her, and the antagonist has to come to grips with that reality, not her, not the protagonist guy, and not even you or I.

He wasn’t happy, but that made him realize how interesting the protagonist male suddenly became to the story itself. I was able to give him bits and pieces of what is to come, too, and with that knowledge he was able to make new and more encouraging deductions about the story itself as well as the main characters.

So, he knows that this is Neal’s POV, Neal’s love story, and Neal’s battle. Neal is who he is, and if he really wants the leading lady as much as he first tells us he does, then it’s up to Neal to prove his worth. I can’t have him just come right out swinging any more than I can realistically portray him as some sex-god superhero who blows the antagonist out of the water in chapter 3, thus saving the day and now what? The end? This is Neal’s battle, and until it’s won, my son and anyone else reading will just have to keep turning the page.

He does win. He does shine, too. He ends up shining brighter with each passing chapter, becoming more alive, more like-able, and with better presence of mind as the learning process increases along with his love for the leading lady. Again. What? Is this wrong? I don’t think so.

What I do understand now that I’ve had this session with my brilliant editor is that I am in much need of going back to my roots of writing style and interject more with back story and presence of mind. It’s necessary whether you like reading the details or not. Which, to me, sounds like I took a lot of stupid advice. So, what you’re saying is you don’t want to know the details, but you do want to know the why of everything. You don’t want a lot of flowery prose, but you don’t want to be confused about what is going on in a particular scene, is that it? You’re not interested in what they look like or how they act until you get to chapter 12, and then suddenly it becomes imperative to know these tid-bits?

Derp. And again, I think the confusion comes in not knowing the difference between imagery, show versus tell, and even POV perspective within a story. If you really want dry, bare-bones, cut to the chase dialogue volley start to finish that’s fine. Go to Kindle and download every free or .99c book you can find and have a blast. Read he said/she said to your heart’s content. I’m not scared of you or your opinion. I’m not afraid to step outside that narrow box of ideals and write the way I want, the way I know the story should be told, and in my style of story-telling.

LESSON LEARNED again. Back to basics once more. I’m happy with that, and I hope those who do choose to stick it out with my novel will agree with that assessment once they’ve finished reading it. Whenever I get it finished. Sent to a publishing house. It gets accepted. And finally published. In print. Then. Then I’ll actually know whether all this BS and heartache was actually worth the time and effort it took to accomplish.

About RaineBalkera

Aspiring Author of Romance
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