In today’s Journal
* Quotes of the Day
* Defend Your Work
* Writers’ Resources
* Of Interest
Quotes of the Day
“The only person with whom you have to compare yourself is you in the past.” Sigmund Freud
“When I came in contracts were basically licensing contracts and you could get your IP back at a certain point. Now the contracts are all rights for the life of the copyright and you never see your book again.” Dean Wesley Smith
Defend Your Work
As I probably have said before, if I could teach fiction writers only one overall concept, it would be to defend your work, and I mean zealously, against all comers. It’s simple—be true to your creative subconscious, your characters and the story that they, not you, are living. It isn’t your story. It isn’t happening to you. It’s happening to your characters.
Both Dean Wesley Smith and I advocate depth in setting and in the POV character’s opinion of that setting. One hallmark of my own fiction is that the reader feels s/he is actually in the story, in the setting, with the characters. That, in my opinion, should be your goal with every story.
But—and this is of maximum importance—that level of depth can be delivered accurately and authentically only by the POV character. It is not your place as the author to go back and add details that you, the writer, “think” should have been included.
You are the writer, the reporter. You are external to your characters’ story. Yes, even if you’re running through it with them. You can observe and record what you see and what the characters say and do in their reaction, but if you influence the story in any way, it ceases being authentic.
Someone out there right now is thinking, “Well, what about typos, Mr. Writing Instructor Person?”
Simple—if You made the typo or misspelling, by all means, correct it. But if you have a dyslexic (for example) character who occasionally makes an error, leave it alone. Understand? That’s the difference. The story isn’t Yours, it’s your characters’.
In your story, you’re sitting alone in a room with your fingers on a computer keyboard. With any luck at all you’re typing, recording your characters’ story as you (the observer and recorder) and they race through the trenches of that story.
Whatever comes as you Just Write The Next Sentence and the next and the next is the authentic story. As you cycle and your characters add or subtract details or dialogue or emotion or whatever else, those aspects are also authentic. But if you, the writer, the outsider, engage your conscious, critical mind and “look for” details or dialogue or emotion or whatever to add or subtract, those “fixes” are not part of the authentic story.
Which is to say, it is not the place of the critical voice—yours or anyone else’s—to second-guess what the POV character sees, hears, smells, tastes or feels, physically or emotionally, in describing or delivering an opinion of the setting.
What’s the difference?
Well, for just one example, you personally might abhor the smell of pipe tobacco smoke. But you can be certain others don’t mind it or even like it, right? Because people are different. They enjoy and dislike different things, and they have different opinions of those things. As it should be.
But within the story, whether you like, don’t mind, or abhor the smell (or taste or feel or sound or emotion) of anything at all simply doesn’t matter. All that matters is how the POV character feels about those things.
This is precisely why I preach so strongly against critique groups and critique partners. Critique, every single time, is a function of the conscious, critical mind. And trust me, if I won’t allow even my own critical voice to “correct” my creative subconscious, I certainly won’t invite anyone else to do so. And neither should you.
Others defend being mired in the myths by saying “whatever works” for them is “right,” even if it doesn’t actually result in new words put on the page, stories or novels finished and published, etc. In other words, “whatever works” even if it doesn’t actually work.
I respond to “do whatever works” with “write whatever comes.” That is the only path to writing an authentic story.
Now, all of that said, if you can’t escape the fear or if for any other reason you personally want to engage your conscious, critical mind to “correct” or change things in what was once your characters’ story, that’s completely up to you. You already know my advice: don’t do it. My advice is trust yourself and defend your work from all comers, whether internal or external to your own mind.
But again, you do you. Whatever works, whether or not it actually works . Please just don’t tell me about it. I’ve written far too long and put far too many words on the page to believe author intrusion is ever a good idea.
As I’ve said many times before, cycling (a function of the creative subconscious) is perfectly fine. To cycle, simply read over what you’ve written, but don’t read critically, “looking for” errors or omissions. Read strictly as a reader, strictly to enjoy the story.
As you read, allow your fingers to rest on the keyboard and allow your creative subconscious (the POV character) to touch the story as you go. The POV character might add more depth, more details about the setting, and s/he might not. But don’t second guess.
Don’t read critically. If you find yourself consciously thinking anything at all about the setting—shouldn’t it be darker? lighter? warmer? cooler? louder? quieter? maybe I need more of this? less of that? etc. —ignore it. Don’t allow your critical voice to second-guess your POV character,
For a great deal more on cycling, key-in “cycling” into the Search block in the sidebar at https://hestanbrough.com. For a great example of a secondary use of cycling, key in “Aunt Marge” and read the example.
In today’s “Of Interest,” the first link is to a must-read article by Dean Wesley Smith. The post is so good I added it to my list of Writers’ Resources over at https://HarveyStanbrough.com/writer-resources/.
And that reminded me those resources are there. Stop over there and browse sometime. Like most of what I offer, my links to those resources are free, and there are dozens of them. I can only wish I’d had such resources available to me when I started writing fiction in earnest.
Talk with you again soon.
See “I Feel Bad For New Writers” at https://deanwesleysmith.com/i-feel-bad-for-new-writers/. If you read nothing else today, read this.
See “Go Wide or Run Away or Amazon Fail” at https://www.thepassivevoice.com/go-wide-or-run-away-or-amazon-fail/. See PG’s take too.
See “The history of Cinco de Mayo” at https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2023/05/04/cinco-de-mayo-meaning/70179987007/.
See “Six Word Stories: How to Write the Shortest Story You’ll Never Forget” at https://www.thepassivevoice.com/six-word-stories-how-to-write-the-shortest-story-youll-never-forget/. Disappointing. I had high hopes for this article, but I knew it was BS the instant I read “you’re not going to be able to tell an entire life story in six words” (great negativity, yes?) and “Six word stories are a great way to practice your writing without actually having to write much.” More negativity. What real writer doesn’t want to write much? And none of the author’s examples approach the professional level of Hemingway’s (attributed) “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”
The Journal…………………………………… 1240
Writing of Wes Crowley: Deputy US Marshal 2 (WCG9SF4)
Day 11… 0323 words. Total words to date…… 19819
Day 12… 2445 words. Total words to date…… 22264
Day 13… 3184 words. Total words to date…… 25448
Total fiction words for May……… xxxx
Total fiction words for 2023………… 83464
Total nonfiction words for May… 5380
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 87520
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 170984
Calendar Year 2023 Novels to Date…………………… 1
Calendar Year 2023 Novellas to Date……………… 0
Calendar Year 2023 Short Stories to Date… 4
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 72
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 9
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 221
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31
Disclaimer: I am a prolific professional fiction writer. On this blog I teach Writing Into the Dark, adherence to Heinlein’s Rules, and that following the myths of fiction writing will slow your progress as a writer or stop you cold. I will never teach the myths on this blog.