There’s a TV show on Syfy called Face Off, in which a dozen makeup artists (of various skill levels) are challenged to make new creations every single week. One by one, the artists are eliminated by three judges until there’s a winner. While watching a recent episode, I was hit with some hard truths about revising, rewriting, and achievements.
Take the Meat, Toss the Bones
For this challenge, Jill (pictured right) sculpted a fairy godmother. She wasn’t on board with the direction that Nick, the Team Leader or Foreman of the Week (pictured left), had in mind for the fairy godmother’s face. There wasn’t enough depth to the creation, Jill thought, so she decided to extend her makeup design while 1) keeping it cohesive with Nick’s creation and 2) continuing to make the fairy godmother her own to leave her stamp on the creation. She heard what Nick was saying, took the meat of the note and applied that and threw out the bones, what she deemed not on one accord with the overall vision. To find out how this played out (and it’s a doozy), be sure to watch Episode 12.03 On Demand or on Syfy.com.
Jill was onto something. When it comes to notes, always focus on what compels you in the story and don’t back down from writing the heart of the story. When receiving notes that feel like part of the puzzle but they just don’t quite fit, take the heart of the note to task. Dig deep into the meat of the note and fix what’s behind what your reader was maybe unable to really say. And then toss what you don’t need because you don’t have to take every note. It’s your story, it’s your name on that story, no one else’s. Be patient and wise about how you receive notes and apply those notes to your story.
In this episode, Team Ethereal Effects chose to create a witch, a faun, and a woodchuck. Kiersten’s faun was not cohesive with the other creatures, so she scrapped the creation of the faun altogether and the team decided to make a mamma and pappa woodchuck and witch instead. Same but different. This can mean so many things. Sometimes the same is just the tone of the heart of the story and the different is you literally having to rewrite your entire manuscript. Or you have to add/take out an entire POV. Or change the tense. Or or or.
Kiersten loved her faun. It was beautiful. But she knew what she had to do in order to get where she needed to go. It pains me when I have to cut pretty lines but if it’s not getting my story where it needs to be, it’s got to go. Whether it’s pretty or messy, when you know that you need to make a change, save/screenshot your work and make that change. See where it takes you. Take chance after chance after chance. Are you in this, whatever it takes? Fear and frustration will come but when it’s time to level up, only hit Pause for a moment. Then, start again. And if you need to, start over.
Don’t Wait for the Agent
The legendary Michael Westmore is the mentor on Face Off. During every challenge (which lasts two-three days), Mr. Westmore comes into the lab on day one, as the artists are working on their creations. He takes the time to see what each artist is working on, hear straight from them what their vision is, and then he consults them on how to take their creations to the next level. The artists revise accordingly before their creations are presented before the judges. And for this instance, think of the judges as an acquisitions board.
The thing is, these artists are already working their absolute hardest before Mr. Westmore even enters the picture. They are on their A game and Mr. Westmore guides them to the A+. As unagented writers, it is so, so, so very important to remember, to remind yourself to be at your A game and query at your A game. It seems obvious, yeah? No.
Please, hear this.
Do not get caught in the “When I get an agent, they can help me fix this” mentality. No. Fix it now. Bring your A game, now. Deliver the book that you would be proud to have on someone’s shelf without an agent or publisher of your dreams. That is what you should be querying. Your future agent and your future publisher will push you further, will get you to the A+ but please do not tell yourself that you will be fine submitting B level work. You know you are better than that. Be better. Do better. Dig deep. Mold and sculpt your story and apply yourself to the absolute best of your ability. Take your time and don’t rush to query. Do your absolute best because if you wait for someone else to make you better, you might be waiting forever. Don’t lose out on an opportunity, on a Yes because you didn’t push and say Yes to yourself first.
And when it comes to offers and saying Yes to an agent, stay on your A game. Mr. Westmore sees the artists’ sketches and their molds of clay forming into something spectacular. If you get to a point where you have multiple offers, pay attention to the agent’s vision for your work and how that aligns with yours. They need to see what you see but more clearly defined. And they need to be passionate about taking your vision in the best direction possible. All of these elements combined bring you to your A+ creation. But you can’t get to A+ if you don’t get yourself as close to A as you can on your own.
The Coveted Number One
In “Last Looks,” which is the final touch up before the artists’ creations are presented before the judges, every artist can see each other’s work, because they’re all in the same room doing their touch ups. This is where the doubt really sets in for many of the contestants since they can see all of the work that they deem better than their own in all its shiny glory. The thing is, everybody has a mold but we all have different hands and we all can do marvelous things when we allow ourselves to. Nobody can do what you do exactly like you can. So…
Along the lines of “keep your eyes on your own paper,” I urge you to focus on you. Do what you need to do to shut out the noise, revise your story and make it the best that it can be. Love what you create. Be proud of your creations. Stop trying to have other people’s successes, other people’s careers. You’ll always, always come in at #2. Instead, strive to be #1 in your own story.
What hard truth keeps you going during revisions?