In today’s Journal
* Quotes of the Day
* Contradictions in Writing Advice
* Still Working into a Routine
* Of Interest
Quotes of the Day
“I often get questions about what it takes to become a long-term, full-time fiction writer. My answer is never quit, and when you do fall down, get back up and keep going. My answer is also get everyone out of your writing and your work and keep learning.” Dean Wesley Smith
“We didn’t exactly believe your story, Miss O’Shaughnessy. We believed your two hundred dollars….I mean that you paid us more than if you’d been telling the truth….and enough more to make it all right.” Dashiell Hammett
“We would love to use the paper you sent us, but it appears you have written on it.” A rejection letter I occasionally considered using (but never did) back when I was acquiring stories, essays and poems for publication
Contradictions in Writing Advice
I’m never surprised when those writing gurus who teach the old outline-revise-critique-rewrite-polish nonsense contradict themselves. However, I’m constantly amazed that they do so, apparently, without realizing it.
Stop over at the Kill Zone blog and read “What Preys on Your Fiction?” at https://killzoneblog.com/2023/03/what-preys-on-your-fiction.html. I recommend scrolling down to the three main points. I’ll wait.
Did you see the contradictions?
In every case, I agreed with the author’s opening statement, but I couldn’t disagree more with the contradictions. And yes, I left a comment, though one not quite as thoroug as what I wrote here:
Self-doubt—“Every writer goes through periods of self doubt …. You will not be shocked to learn that the remedy is to write.”
Yes, I absolutely agree.
For various reasons (most often, I suspect, to sell nonfiction books on writing), some writing gurus actually instill and propagate self-doubt in writers. In you.
They do that by teaching you to invoke your own conscious, critical mind—to outline, revise, and rewrite—and then to invoke others’ conscious, critical minds with critique groups and beta readers. To actually invite criticism of your work. On the other hand, I teach that you should defend your work.
Then, as in the first point of the article, they say writers shouldn’t doubt themselves. In my book, that makes them wonderfully right and supportive in theory, but wildly wrong and irresponsibly harmful in practice.
They actively teach you to doubt yourself and the knowledge you’ve acquired over a lifetime of absorbing Story. They teach that you cannot write an excellent short story, novella or novel on your own. From where I stand, that is the very definition of self-doubt.
Trust yourself. You really can write a short story, novella or novel on your own. You are cabable. Learn with your conscious, critical mind, then Don’t Think and apply what you know (write) with your creative subconscious.
Inner critic—“If you find yourself prey to the inner critic, you need to get used to turning it off.”
Again, absolutely. I couldn’t begin to agree more.
But don’t intentionally turn your inner critic back on later and invite it in to “correct” your creative subconscious. If you do that enough times, very soon your creative subconscious will realize you don’t trust it and it will stop wanting to participate. Ideas will dry up and your characters will refuse to talk with you. Everybody has their own idea of Hell. That is one version of mine.
And this brings us back to self-doubt. The inner critic is a function of self-doubt. Believe in yourself. Trust yourself, and trust the characters to convey the story that they, not you, are living. Again, defend your work. Guard against that inner critic and any external critic.
Risk aversion—“We need to bring our unique voice, heart, perspective, passion to the page!”
Again, oh-dear-god yes, I absolutely agree.
But once you’ve done that, don’t then dilute and erase that unique voice, heart, perspective and passion by allowing your own logical, critical mind and the logical, critical “I would have done it this way” minds of others to pick your work apart.
Again, you’ve been absorbing story since before you even knew there was an alphabet. Learning a craft technique (becoming aware of it) with your conscious, critical mind gives your creative subconscious permission to use it.
At that point you only need to sit down at the keyboard, shut out the critical mind, and write. When the story is finished, run a quick spell check, then send it off to a trusted first reader who won’t “look for” anything consciously. The first reader’s job is to point out misspellings, wrong words, and inconsistencies that pop out at him/her as s/he reads. Then publish it and move on to write the next story.
Still Working into a Routine
Apparently I’m still developing my new routine. (grin)
I didn’t finish the second story yesterday (as I should have easily). I just let the minutes, hours and day get away from me. I wrote only another 600 words or so. I suspect I’ll finish it today. That will give me two for this first week of the challenge.
Talk with you again soon.
See “Where Do You Score on the Big Five Personality Traits?” at http://dyingwords.net/where-do-you-score-on-the-big-five-personality-traits/. Very interesting. My characters are just who they are so I won’t use this for them, but it’s still interesting.
See “In a Swift Decision, Judge Eviscerates Internet Archive’s….” at https://www.thepassivevoice.com/in-a-swift-decision-judge-eviscerates-internet-archives-scanning-and-lending-program/. Yay.
The Journal…………………………………… 900 words
Writing of “Sinister Intent” (short story)
Day 1…… 630 words. Total words to date…… 630
Day 2…… 580 words. Total words to date…… 1210
Writing of Wes Crowley: Deputy US Marshal 2 (WCG9SF4)
Day 1…… 3231 words. Total words to date…… 3231
Day 2…… 2990 words. Total words to date…… 6221
Day 3…… 1805 words. Total words to date…… 8026
Day 4…… 2025 words. Total words to date…… 10051
Day 5…… 1451 words. Total words to date…… 11502
Day 6…… 1886 words. Total words to date…… 13388
Total fiction words for March……… 8030
Total fiction words for 2023………… 60854
Total nonfiction words for March… 16610
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 57940
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 118794
Calendar Year 2023 Novels to Date…………………… 1
Calendar Year 2023 Novellas to Date……………… 0
Calendar Year 2023 Short Stories to Date… 1
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 72
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 9
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 218
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31
Disclaimer: Because It Makes Sense, I preach trusting your characters to tell the story that they, not you, are living. See https://hestanbrough.com/the-daily-journal-archives-gifts-dvds/.
2 thoughts on “Contradictions in Writing Advice”
Thanks for the pointer to the Killzone article – I couldn’t actually bear to read the whole thing. I did delight in the poster’s response to your erudite comment with “Even diamonds need to be cut and polished”. That felt so facile to me – the metaphor doesn’t hold up. I prefer to think of writing a story as less like a diamond and more like a sports game. The Celtics don’t get to cut and polish their play against the Lakers, they just keep practising and play the best they can next time.
Thanks, Sean. I hadn’t seen the response to my comment yet. I knew what would be coming, so I wasn’t worried about it. I only left a comment at all so other writers could see through the nonsense if they wanted to. Unfortunately, he says exactly what they all expect to hear (the same stuff they’ve been hearing all their lives) so they praise him for it, they all say Amen, then go have dinner on the ground. 🙂 I’m good with that.
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