Tuesday, February 5, 2013

"The whites of their eyes"



If you are American, prepare to have flashbacks to the last time you learned about the Revolutionary War.

If you are not American, prepare to take a very quick (and relevant to writing, I promise) dip into American history/lore.  Red-white-and-blue diver suit recommended.  

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At the Battle of Bunker Hill (Do not comment and tell me it was actually Breed's Hill.  I know, and I don't care.  This is basically a myth anyway.), the American revolutionaries were still a bit of a rag-tag militia, still somewhat new to facing the big, red superpower that was the British army. 

And they were low on ammunition.

But there they were, fighting this fight with the worst odds and for the highest ideals, and it was at this point that a general is said to have given a famous order.

"Don't shoot until you see the whites of their eyes."  


[Read if you are interested in historical accuracy:  "Whether or not it was actually said in this battle, it was clear that the colonial military leadership were regularly reminding their troops to hold their fire until the moment when it would have the greatest effect, especially in situations where their ammunition would be limited." ~The ever-confident Wikipedia]

Regardless, the incident has been mythologized and we still remember this command:


"Don't shoot until you see the whites of their eyes." 


Imagine how terrifying.  A highly trained army is marching towards you like a machine, bristling with weapons that can either stab you or shoot you--and you're supposed to stand your ground until they're THAT CLOSE?  And NOT shoot, while your finger is sitting there on the trigger? 

I bet if you were an American soldier, the British army marched in slow motion.  I bet those moments felt like eternity. 



weeping eyes
photo credit:  Rick Sampson

Man, am I glad I'm not at the front of a battle line. 

But I am preparing a novel for the query process.  (Relevance--I promised!  Non-Americans, you can take off your red-white-and-blue diver suit now.  Though it does look good on you.) 

Seriously, though--I wanted to send this manuscript off to agents a year ago.  WAITING IS HARD.  But the book wasn't ready then, and it's not quite ready now.  And while I'm not low on ammunition, it takes a lot of time and energy to create more. 

 Even thought it sometimes feels like waiting is going to get me shot, I'm going to hold fire until I know I can hit my mark. 

14 comments:

  1. Good girl! Shooting too fast is usually more destructive. It's hard to wait (I usually fail miserably), but I think you'll be glad you did in the end.

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  2. I like this analogy, especially seeing as I'm at a similar stage in the process as you are. Sometimes the whole thing really does feel like a race to get your story out there, especially when the market seems so trendy these days. Your Bunker Hill/Breed's Hill comment made me laugh:) (I'm Canadian, but I enjoy American history.)

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    1. Ahhh it does feel like a race sometimes, doesn't it? Glad it's not just me. :) *waves at Canada*

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    2. Hah that^ would be my other email... Headless Belle, that's me.

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  3. Great analogy and waiting is hard, but it sounds like it is a great choice! Good luck!

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  4. I think the NaNoWriMo website should adopt that quote for December 1st. :) Good article, Susan!

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    1. Haha I imagine that might not be a bad idea... Thanks for stopping by, Colin. :)

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  5. Welcome to the query trenches, my friend :)

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