This article from the weekend Review section of the WSJ got me thinking. (As a quick aside, for my 40th birthday I'm thinking of subscribing to the New York Times as well. So those of you thinking that this blog is a tad too WSJ heavy, just give it some time)
In the article, Mind & Matter: Our Unique Obsession With Rover and Fluffy, Robert Sapolsky discusses the way that we interact with pets in our lives. Its a fun little article that has very little to do with writing, but it got me thinking about my first writing, critique group. In that group there was an older gentleman, probably early to mid sixties, who was writing a book about a cadaver sniffing dog. This guy was a part of a volunteer organization that would go out and try and find lost children. It would make for interesting novels I bet. The problem was that he was writing from the point of view of the dog. It was a fiasco.
The worst part was that he refused to take any type of criticism. Not only was he wedded to the idea, but he was against making any changes in the entire book. The whole first chapter of the book describes the dog watching his owner make a cell phone call. We tried to talk him out of opening the book this way. Who wants to read about a dog's thoughts on his owner's cell phone calls. It was one of the more boring ways to start a book. Would he change it? Nope. Not a bit.
I hope I never get so standoffish that I won't make changes. I doubt I ever will be. I think any and all writing vanity was drilled out of me when I started as a technical writer and had to turn my procedures in for editing. Those editors were ruthless. Martha, my first editor, was particularly liberal with her red pen. I remember those first few procedures came back, procedures that I thought were perfect, and they were completely reworked and red-marked. Years of that will train a fellow not to think to highly of his writing.
Then again, I sometimes wonder if the opposite reaction isn't worse. I rarely go out and promote my writing as anything other than mediocre. Even mediocre writing can be sold as spectacular. I can think of many books that I feel Toe the Line and On the Edge are better than, yet those books are nationally known while mine are still struggling out of the starting gate. Perhaps a bit of pride is a good thing to have as an author.
Still, one lesson I do know, be careful of the POV you choose. Choosing a dog? That's iffy. And as I wrote when I was a novel contest judge . . . choosing the POV of a pill? That's right out.