The topic of weddings came to mind recently after my best friend shared a story about attending a wedding as the date of a Boy Behaving Badly (BBB). How badly? For one, there was an attempt at motorboating the M.O.B. on the dance floor. (No, I'm not making this up, and it's just the tip of the iceberg, people. Tip. Of. The. Iceberg.)
So I got married last September. For those of you who are not married, planning a wedding kind of sucks. There are many details to sort out and people pulling you in different directions, and the whole time you kind of just want to hide out on your couch under a big blanket with a pint of Ben & Jerry's and a superbly bad Lifetime movie featuring women in dysfunctional relationships who will never have to worry about planning a wedding. Which you can't. Because you have to worry about fitting into your wedding dress and B&J will definitely sabotage this.
In hindsight, I have realized that the process of planning a wedding is eerily similar to the process of writing a book. Don't believe me? Check out the 7 Reasons Why:
1. Stress isn't in the planning, it's in the procrastination.
The most stressful part of wedding planning is going over your checklist and looking at all the stuff you have left to do. Actually getting those tasks done really isn't stressful at all. Flowers? I pulled some photos online of what I was looking for, went to a florist by my office on a lunch break, and an hour later had something I was happy with and fit in my budget.
A lot of times I procrastinate instead of writing because I'm actually scared. Scared I'll never be able to fix that plot hole uglifying Chapter 6. Scared I'm going to open up my document and my brain will go completely blank. Basically scared of failure. But once I actually get my BIC on (butt-in-chair, for you non-writers), I'm always happy I did. Whether it takes me hours to get one conversation right, or I whip out ten pages, I always feel good about the fact I accomplished something.
2. There will be moments where you lose sight.
I was never one of those girls who daydreamed about their huge, Princess Diana wedding. But I also knew I wouldn't be satisfied doing one of those City Hall deals. A girl needs a little bit of romance. However, at times I found myself swinging wildly from one end of the spectrum (Would it really be that much more expensive if we bump up the guest list another 25 people?) to the other (I can't %$@*ing take it anymore--let's just elope already!). In the end I had to remember what was important: marrying the love of my life with the people we cared about around us.
We writers tend to undermine our goals in a variety of ways, from comparing our work to other, usually more experienced writers, to indulging in wild fantasies where we write our first novel, land an agent, and sell it in less than half a year. Sometimes we have to ground ourselves to remember what is important. Right now, for me, that includes improving my craft and writing a saleable book that will attract the attention of an agent.
3. You start second-guessing your vision.
I didn't plan on getting married in a church. I haven't stepped foot in a church since my grandfather's funeral 5 years ago. Yet somewhere along the path of venue selection, I debated having my ceremony in an Episcopal church. (neither my husband nor I are Episcopalian) Maybe it was pressure from my mother to figure religion in there somewhere. Maybe it was just the general sense of crazy that wedding planning brings with it. I don't know.
I recently blogged about this problem in writing. 100 pages in and suddenly you're questioning everything, from the small details (why did I name her Zoey? she's not quirky enough to be named Zoey!) to the big-picture stuff (I don't think this character should get into that car accident in chapter 3, after all). The big-picture stuff can't be taken lightly, as they will have huge repercussions on story arcs, possibly changing what the books is about altogether. So you have to ask yourself: Am I changing this because it makes it a better story? Because it better helps me achieve my vision for this book? Or am I feeling the pressure to make this change because I'm afraid that agents/editors would like it better?
Ultimately any decision you make has to hold true to your vision and not allow yourself to be influenced by outside pressures. That doesn't mean completely ignoring your audience (eg, cursing is not appropriate for MG audiences). But first and foremost you're writing this story for yourself. And if you love it, someone else out there will probably love it, too.
For the record, we ended up having both our ceremony and reception on the rooftop of a cute little hotel on Park Ave. It was lovely and I couldn't picture having done it any differently.
4. Not all advice is good advice.
Thankfully I have extremely wonderful and helpful friends and family and did not encounter the problem of bad or unwelcome advice. However, I was approached at a wedding event by a man trying to sell me on the idea of makeup airbrushing everything from my shoulders up. Yeah, I could just see the look on Hubby's face if I stepped into the aisle and various freckles/tattoos were missing. Not to mention the salesman looked like he was made out of wax. Definitely some kind of Botox overload happening up in that piece.
Be open to criticism/critique feedback, but don't follow it blindly. Even industry professionals will have varying opinions on the same piece of work. Book publishing, just like book reading, is subjective. If it doesn't feel right in your gut, or you think it contradicts your above-mentioned vision, you don't have to follow it.
5. You're gonna have to dig deep.
In terms of weddings, I'm talking about using either your wallet or your creativity. If you can't afford nice flowers, you're better off going with something less traditional but understated and simple, like white tea lights. Giant bouquets of pink carnations scream cheap. You just can't fake elegance.
You can't fake anything in writing, either. Writing a book--correction, a good book--isn't easy. If you think it is, you're probably doing it wrong. The results you want won't just happen on their own. Put in the work.
6. Perfect isn't going to happen.
You WILL wake up with a giant zit on your face the morning of your wedding. Thank God for foundation!!
You should make every effort to clean and polish your manuscript before sending it out into the Big Wide World. But the great thing about writing is, there's always room to grow. With every sentence we write, we're improving (hopefully) our craft. So don't fall apart if your critique partners come back with feedback that is anything other than "don't change a thing!" If they do, they're probably not very constructive crit partners.
7. It's totally worth it.
My wedding really was the happiest and one of the most emotional days of my life. I cried through like half the ceremony. All of the stress, the details, the planning--none if it mattered anymore. The only thing that mattered was me and Hubby.
I can only hope that one day I will feel this way (or close to it haha) when I sell my first book. But even putting that aside, just completing a manuscript holds its own sense of accomplishment. The satisfaction that you somehow took 60,000 words and made a story out of them. Not everyone can do that, and even fewer can do it well. So give yourself a pat on the back! But don't take too long, because now it's time to get cranking on those rewrites... :)