In today’s Journal
* Quotes of the Day
* Some Fiction Writing Truths
* Of Interest
Quotes of the Day
“Forget artificial intelligence — in the brave new world of big data, it’s artificial idiocy we should be looking out for.” Tom Chatfield
“The next time I see comments suggesting that an author focus on platform instead of the work at issue, I’ll know where to ship another pallet of Kool-Aid.” C.E. Petit in a comment on the last post in “Of Interest”
“If you’re thinking of your fiction book in terms of message, it’s probably a bad book, as you’re focused on message not story.” Elaine T in a comment on the same post in “Of Interest”
Some Fiction Writing Truths
I didn’t expect to be back here today, but a young writer emailed me again with some concerns. And I probably can’t get through to her, I know that. I can only try. Anyway, I thought I’d share part of our exchange here in case some of you glean something valuable from it.
She wrote, “[W]hen I first started writing as a teenager, I naturally cycled. (I’ve also always hated revision, so I never did until I was told to by teachers.)”
And the conditioning began. Isn’t it odd how readily we believe what we hear about how to write fiction from people who’ve never written fiction or who are hobbyists at best? Yet we don’t believe people like Ray Bradbury, who did nothing but write fiction his entire life and was extremely successful, when he says “Plot is no more than footprints left in the snow after your characters have run by on their way to incredible destinations.”
She continued, “It was only in college, when I started taking creative writing courses and critiquing/being critiqued, that I wrote significantly less, and started hyper-analyzing my work as I was writing. As much as I learned from the MFA, I also think it only contributed to this self-consciousness, which hasn’t helped me in my writing. I’ve become stuck, thinking I need to revise and that all my stories are crap.”
If any of YOU feel you have to revise or rewrite because you think all your stories are crap, as I told her, Get over yourself.
Your opinion as a reader is only ONE opinion. Just because YOU think something is crap doesn’t mean anyone else will. I guarantee some readers will love your work, most will like it, and a few will agree with you that it’s crap.
I have to laugh at this nonsense. When writers think their work is GOOD, they say, “Oh but we writers are the worst judge of our own work” and they feel all smug and self-satisfied in sending the work to critique groups or beta readers for a second (third fourth etc.) opinion.
But when they think their work is CRAP, suddenly writers forget all that “worst judge of your own work” stuff. They hide the story away and it never sees the light of day. And potentially MILLIONS of readers are robbed of the opportunity to make up their own mind about the story.
She also asked point-blank, “Are the myths ever true?”
No, the myths are not true. They’re all based on fear, and in every case it’s an unreasoning fear. There are zero real-world consequences.
Writers listen to all that BS because they’re literally inundated with it 24/7 from every direction. Even in series episodes and films, whenever writers are portrayed, it takes them years to finish a book as they revise and rewrite, engage critique groups, etc.
But all of that is actually harmful to your work and to your self-confidence. It’s a lie. The myths are lies. Not one of them is necessary to writing fiction.
My respondent also wrote that when she tried cycling it was hard because she “was so hyper-aware of needing to include enough tension, plot, movement, etc. What if there’s a giant plot hole in my story? etc.”
To which I replied, “What is ‘enough tension, plot, movement, etc?’ As for a ‘plot hole,’ only stories that are constructed block by block even have those. And if you’re determined to construct false stories block by block, I can’t help you.”
I also sent her what follows, but it felt important enough to share here.
You are a human being with a brain and a mind. You can do anything you really want to do. For many it’s easier to succumb to the unreasoning fears and follow the myths as if they’re gospel. They aren’t.
Most long-term professional fiction writers Just Write, recording their characters’ stories as they run through them. Stephen King, possibly the only Stage 5 writer writing today, calls himself his characters’ stenographer.
It really is all up to you. You’re perfectly within your rights to remain stuck in your own certainty of how very important your stories are. (Um, if you don’t see them as earth-shakingly important, then why do you spend so much time revising and rewriting them?)
Likewise, you may choose to succumb to the fear (Ohdeargod what if there isn’t enough tension, plot, movement, etc?) and control every word your characters say and everything that happens to them in what, after all that, is only a false construction.
OR you can come down from your ivory tower, toss aside the authorial robes, slip into a pair of jeans and sneakers and a t-shirt, roll off the parapet and race off through the story with your characters As It Unfolds Around You.
Then, finally, your job will be to do your best to write it all down as it happens. The important distinction is this: You aren’t making up (constructing) anything. You’re reporting what happens as it happens, recording your characters’ story.
THAT You write is important because, um, you’re a writer. But WHAT you write, the individual story or novel, doesn’t matter in the slightest. It isn’t important, or it matters only to the degree that the eventual reader finds it entertaining.
For more on Cycling, visit https://hestanbrough.com and key “cycling” into the search box in the sidebar.
Talk with you again soon.
See “What Heinlein’s Rules Mean to Me: An Excerpt” at https://killzoneblog.com/2023/02/what-heinleins-rules-mean-to-me-an-excerpt.html. My guest post on The Kill Zone blog. You’ve seen it before, but might be fun to read the comments in that venue.
See “Maybe the Book Doesn’t Need to Be “Disrupted” in the First Place?” at https://www.thepassivevoice.com/maybe-the-book-doesnt-need-to-be-disrupted-in-the-first-place/. See PG’s take.
See “How Author Platform Connects to Author Brand” at https://www.thepassivevoice.com/how-author-platform-connects-to-author-brand/. In case anyone’s interested. Two quotes of the day came from comments on this article.
The Journal…………………………………… 1080 words
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
Total fiction words for February……… XXXX
Total fiction words for 2023………… 46873
Total nonfiction words for February… 1840
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 22190
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 69063
Calendar Year 2023 Novels to Date…………………… 1
Calendar Year 2023 Novellas to Date……………… 0
Calendar Year 2023 Short Stories to Date… 0
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 72
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 of my zen-like non-process. If you want to learn it too, either hang around or download my Journal Archives at https://hestanbrough.com/the-daily-journal-archives/, read them, and try WITD for yourself.