I've been preparing for the re-start of my writing life, and reviewing previous rejections from HMB to remind myself of (and hopefully strengthen) my past weaknesses.
Both my submissions came back saying that I didn't have the high degree of emotional punch that HMB require. I've had 12 years to ponder the meaning of what the editors meant by 'emotional punch' (hereafter known as EP), and I'm pleased to say that I think I am finally getting it!
Fiona Harper has helped. She's recently blogged about EP, and she's used some excellent examples to show us what this enigma is. Well worth a read, even if you think you already know.
Recently, I've used other media (TV/Film etc.) to examine and research how exactly EP works. IMO you have to experience EP at work in order to capture the essence of it and recreate it in your own writing.
Today, watching the latest episode of 'Our New Life in Everwood', I felt a familiar lump in my throat as the latest EP event hit the characters' lives. Sitting here thinking about how they make it work so deeply, I suddenly had one of those 'light bulb' moments: Before you can hope to achieve emotional punch you must first create real life characters you really care about. Without this connection, no matter what our characters are going through it won't affect us in the slightest. We just won't care.
Now for an extra shocking discovery: EP isn't one single ingredient that you can sprinkle on your story to spice things up. It's much more than that. It's a combination of everything - characters, background, plot, action, narrative...
All these years I've believed that when the time comes for me to write again, all I have to do is repeat what I did before, but add a sprinkling of the magic ingredient - EP. D'oh! Since when is life ever that simple?!
Another revelation to hit me: EP is the reason writing is so tiring! EP is all about feelings. Whether they are emotional highs or lows, we really need to experience EP with our characters. This is exhausting!
Example: If our Hero is bereaved, we are grieving with him.
If our Heroine is hurting from a past relationship, we are sharing her pain.
In real life when we go through difficult times, it’s emotionally draining. So, now for the million-dollar question: If writing exhausts me, it must mean I'm doing something right, mustn't it?