In today’s “Of Interest” DWS talks about trusting your character(s). As usual, he’s spot-on, and with a very timely post.
And there’s an absolute must-read from The Kill Zone blog. Enjoy.
Topic: Averting a Conscious-Mind Attack
Yesterday, in addition to what I wrote and reported here, I also took a wrong turn in the story and wrote 560 words that I didn’t report.
How did I know it was a wrong turn?
Because the writing began to trudge along.
I’d write a sentence, then stop. Then I’d think “Just write the next sentence,” and I did. And then I’d stop.
I kept wanting to think ahead, figure out how to make it fit, figure out where the scene was going next. And it finally dawned on me (duh) that was all conscious-mind stuff. I consider myself lucky I caught it only 500+ words in.
So if I was “just writing the next sentence,” why didn’t it work out?
Because I’d already taken that wrong turn without realizing it.
When I’d written the first few hundred words of the scene, it was like the character crossed her arms and stopped talking to me. I could almost see her standing there, glaring at me with one of those “Okay then, YOU figure it out, smart guy!” looks on her face.
But as I wrote above, I forged ahead. Sure enough, the scene finally sputtered and died, in the middle of a sentence, at 560 words.
The whole experience was miserable. I was reminded why writers who outline and hold their characters to the writer’s vision of the story consider writing drudgery.
I only know it was 560 words because I glanced at the word count when I highlighted the scene just before I hit the Delete key.
I just deleted what I’d written in that scene, then took a short break. And when I came back to the novel, I surrendered to the character. I read back over about 1000 words before the part I deleted, and started writing again.
I began with having that same character (Stern’s secretary) come into his office. This time the scene flowed naturally. And it was completely different than the part I’d written and then deleted.
This isn’t something you have to think about while you’re writing. When you have that nagging little feeling in the back of your mind that something isn’t right, trust it. If you feel like you’re pulling teeth to make the story come, most often it’s a character telling you that you’ve taken a wrong turn.
Topic 2: Writers Write (But….)
Sometimes I say things about writing and meeting goals and publishing that others apparently take as harsh. Like everyone, maybe, I have moods. But my comments are never intended to be anything but motivating.
My comments are certainly not meant to be demeaning or demotivating. And I certainly never intend for my comments to indicate to any other writer that I believe he or she is a failure.
The fact of the matter is, Writers Write. It’s just what we do.
And when we aren’t writing, when we’re doing something else, we’re still writers, but we’re writers who are doing something else at the moment. Does an automobile mechanic stop being a mechanic when he plays in a park with his children on Sunday afternoon?
When we aren’t writing, we’re writers doing research, or writers being parents, or being day-job workers or students or musicians or whatever.
We all have had those or similar pursuits “interrupt” our writing.
Everything is a matter of priorities. Sometimes, maybe even most of the time, writing is our priority. Hence the tag “writer.”
But sometimes other things take priority, either in an emergency kind of way, like a death in the family or Dean’s recent move or my recent health scare.
And then sometimes other things take priority just because we want them to. Like reading or doing chores or practicing a hobby.
There’s nothing wrong with any of that. And taking the necessary time, in an emergency situation or otherwise, to follow other pursuits certainly doesn’t make any of us a failure as a writer.
The only thing that might be misconstrued as “failure” in writing is if we stop writing. But even then, that word is actually a misnomer.
Consider, my own productive output is pretty good. By most standards, I’m considered “prolific,” although most of the time I feel like a bit of a slacker.
But the point is this: Even if I stopped writing today, right this moment, just over 22,000 words into my 38th novel, and if I never wrote another word of fiction, could I realistically be considered a “failure” as a writer?
As an old Marine Corps buddy would have put it, “I don’t ****ing think so.”
A note on my process…
Of course, I’m not going to stop writing until I have no choice. I love writing, and I love being a writer. I mean, think about it. My “job” is to sit alone in the Hovel and make stuff up, just writing off into the dark. Just writing down what my characters say and do.
It really is that simple, and by any standard, it’s a pretty great gig.
It isn’t work, and it definitely isn’t drudgery. Mostly because I don’t outline and “tell” my characters what to say and do, and I don’t rewrite to “correct” what they say or do.
Are there mistakes in my stories? Of course. I’ve yet to put out a perfect manuscript, one in which there are zero inconsistencies, zero typos, zero timeline glitches, etc. I just do the best I can at the current point in time, run it past a first reader, publish it and move on to the next story.
And I’m fortunate that most readers seem to enjoy my work. The same story that entertained me originally as my characters conveyed it to me entertains them as well, to the point that they happily overlook the glitches, forgive them and buy the next book.
And that’s what I wish for you, regardless of your method of getting there.
If I were in an advice-giving mood, I would say I hope you’ll trust yourself (and your readers), publish your books, and let your readers decide how they feel about them as you move on to the next story.
After all, reading and judging your work is the reader’s job. Your job is to write.
But if you choose not to do it “my” way, that’s fine too. Do it however you want. You certainly don’t need my permission. Your process is your process.
But please don’t ever see yourself as a failure. And if someone else does, mark it up to them not having a clue what the hell they’re talking about and then go back to your writing.
You really are that good.
Pretty good day today. Could have been better, could have been much worse. I’ll take it.
Talk with you again soon.
See “Trust the Character” at https://www.deanwesleysmith.com/trust-the-character/. This is SUCH an important post on many levels.
See “TKZ Members Weigh In on Series Writing” at https://killzoneblog.com/2019/01/tkz-members-weigh-in-on-series-writing.html. Oh my. Oh yes. This one is definitely going into Writers Resources over on my author site.
See “Free Fiction Monday: Still Life 1931” at https://kriswrites.com/2019/01/14/free-fiction-monday-still-life-1931/.
Fiction Words: 2803
Nonfiction Words: 1230 (Journal)
So total words for the day: 4033
Writing of The Case of the Mourning Widow (novel)
Day 1…… 2784 words. Total words to date…… 2784
Day 2…… 3250 words. Total words to date…… 6034
Day 3…… 2507 words. Total words to date…… 8521
Day 4…… 1049 words. Total words to date…… 9570
Day 5…… 2459 words. Total words to date…… 12029
Day 6…… 2723 words. Total words to date…… 14752
Day 7…… 1355 words. Total words to date…… 16107
Day 8…… 3151 words. Total words to date…… 19258
Day 9…… 2803 words. Total words to date…… 22061
Total fiction words for the month……… 23709
Total fiction words for the year………… 23709
Total nonfiction words for the month… 12560
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 12560
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 36269
Calendar Year 2019 Novels to Date………………………… X
Calenday Year 2019 Novellas to Date…………………… X
Calendar Year 2019 Short Stories to Date……… X
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)………………………………………… 37
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)……………………………………… 7
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)……………………… 193
Short story collections…………………………………………………… 31