In today’s Journal
* My Best Advice for Fiction Writers, Part 4
* Of Interest
My Best Advice for Fiction Writers, Part 4
11. Keep Coming Back. As most of you know, I recommend having a daily word-count goal, something that 1) drives you to the writing ‘puter but 2) isn’t difficult to reach if you stretch just a little.
I also recommend taking a break every hour or so. You can train your mind to call for a break at regular intervals, or you can just drink a lot of coffee or tea or whatever other beverage of your choice. Caffeine is your friend. If nothing else, it will drive you to go to the bathroom every so often. That’s a break.
Sometimes a break is only a few seconds. I get out of my chair, walk to the front of the Hovel (about 20 feet) and back, and I’m ready for another writing session.
Sometimes I have to go up to the house. No problem. I do what I need to do there and then go back to the Hovel and my writing ‘puter and the story. It’s also not a problem if you have a planned much longer break, for example a trip to the store or the antique mall or whatever.
But sometimes the break is extended unintentionally. That’s when it’s a good idea to remember that you haven’t reached your daily word count goal and discipline yourself to go back to your writing, even though maybe you don’t feel like it.
The sense of accomplishment that will come to you when you reach or surpass your daily goal because you came back one more time is wonderful.
That is the essence of Keep Coming Back. That little mantra has enabled me to add tens of thousands of words to my stories and novels that I wouldn’t have otherwise written.
12. Following the Myths of Writing will carry you farther and farther from your characters’ unique, original, authentic story.
The big myths are all functions of the conscious, critical mind. NONE of them come from the creative subconscious, nor can you perform any of them from the creative subconscious.
Consider, the conscious mind can logically construct or build something, but it can’t create anything original. It can’t even come up with an original sentence or thought. Only your creative subconscious can do that.
Since the stories you’re writing all come from the creative subconscious, the fact that the myths do not should tell you something. The myths will tell you that you must, with your critical mind,
a. construct an outline or plan or signposts or mind map or whatever before you begin writing
b. revise what your characters have given you
c. invite critical input, not only from your own critical mind by reading critically as you “look for” flaws, but from others—outsiders—just as if they could possibly have a more valuable opinion than any other reader on the face of the earth.
d. rewrite (and then polish, whatever that means) according to that input.
You can make yourself feel better about seeking critical input by remembering that you can discard anything that “doesn’t work” for you.
That sounds good on the surface, but remember, it isn’t YOUR story, and it most definitely isn’t your critique group’s story.
How can anyone, your critique group included, possibly know better than you how to write a story that’s taking place in your head (other dimension, etc.)?
And how can even YOU possibly know better than the characters who are actually LIVING the story?
It’s your characters’ story, so how about discarding what doesn’t work for THEM? Which means anything that doesn’t authentically happen in the story that they, not you, are living.
How about not rethinking and second-guessing and revising and rewriting what they gave you in the first place? How about trusting them? Or put another way, how would your cousin feel if you changed the details of the bank robbery?
Believe in yourself. Defend your work.
You hear it even from traditional publishers and literary agents (neither of which I recommend) every day: They and readers all over the world are looking for unique, original, authentic stories.
Then they recommend revising, seeking critical input, rewriting, etc., all of which eats away at the “unique, original, authentic” story until it’s no longer unique, original, or authentic. And when it finally looks and sounds like all the rest, they don’t want it. And why would they? Again, believe in yourself. Defend your work.
You get to do the easy part, after all. You don’t have to live the story, though you’re welcome to fantasize about it. But your role is much less signficant. You’re the recorder.
13. Finally, to Help You Safeguard against rethinking what your characters give you in their story, you only have to remember this:
Writers Are the Worst Judges of Their Own Work. Always.
You’ve heard that before, probably a million times. Any opinion, even your own, is only one opinion, and it doesn’t count. Why? Because writers really are the worst judges of their own work. It’s true. But it’s true all the time, not only when you believe your work is good.
I find it ridiculously convenient that writers remember and swear by that old saying whenever they believe their work is actually Good. “Oh, it can’t really be good; writers are the worst judges of their own work.”
But when writers believe their work sucks canal water from all 50 states plus Puerto Rico and Guam, suddenly they forget they are the worst judges of their own work.
When a writer thinks his or her work is bad, the saying goes out the window, and the work goes into a desk drawer or the electronic equivalent, never to be seen again.
My friends, THAT is the result of buying into all those stupid myths.
How very sad that those writers are so unconfident in themselves and their abilities, yet simultaneously are so pretentious that they feel the right to prejudge what the reader will or won’t like. Wow.
Even your opinion as the writer isn’t any more valid than any other opinion. Because, again, It Isn’t Your Story.
It’s your characters’ story, and the characters have already given you their opinion. All you have to do is write it down as it happens.
Judging the story is the readers’ job.
Your job is to write the story on behalf of your characters.
If you don’t like your story or if some critic or other reader somewhere doesn’t like it, so what? Ignore thhose opinions. They make no difference whatsoever to the readers who DO like it.
Let the characters’ story stand as authentic. If you do that, the 10/80/10 rule will apply. Ten percent of those who read the story will love it, 80% will like it, and 10% will hate it, probably because they’re having a bad day, it isn’t in their genre of choice, etc. So don’t sweat it.
Trust your characters. If you do, you will be the first to experience their unique, original, authentic story. As a bonus, you won’t bore your readers to death with a story that’s been revised and rewritten and “polished” until any unique, original voice is long since gone.
You are a lucky, lucky person. Once you learn to trust your characters, you only have to put your fingers on the keyboard, look in on the characters, and write down what you see and hear. Nothing could be easier or more fun. And I wouldn’t change that for the world.
This got longer than I expected it to, so I’ll post my Recommendations for Reference and Craft Resources tomorrow.
Thanks for coming along. I’ve had a blast. I hope the posts in this series have been enjoyable and informative for you.
Talk with you again soon.
See “Flash Sale for Decade Ahead and January Regular Workshops” at https://deanwesleysmith.com/flash-sale-for-decade-ahead-and-january-regular-workshops/.
See “Comments on Intellectual Property Valuation Basics” at https://deanwesleysmith.com/intellectual-property-valuation-basics/#comments.
See “Health Effects of Mothballs” at http://npic.orst.edu/ingred/ptype/mothball/health.html. In case you didn’t know. I haven’t written for the past two days because I was ignorant of this.
The Journal…………………………………… 1330 words
Writing of WCG 7 Santa Fe 2 (novel tentative title)
Day 10… 2524 words. Total words to date…… 27438
Total fiction words for December……… 43852
Total fiction words for the year………… 258826
Total nonfiction words for December… 18150
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 216230
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 475056
Calendar Year 2022 Novels to Date…………………… 4
Calendar Year 2022 Novellas to Date……………… 0
Calendar Year 2022 Short Stories to Date… 0
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 70
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 217
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31
Disclaimer: I am a prolific professional fiction writer. Because It Makes Sense, I trust my characters to tell the story that they, not I, are living. This greatly increases my productivity and provides the fastest possible ascension along the learning curve of Craft because I get a great deal more practice at actually writing. It will do the same for you if only you trust it.