In today’s Journal
- Welcome to Helen B
- Quotes of the Day
- When I came to work
- Topic: On “Quality” Writing
- Daily diary
- Of Interest
- The numbers
Welcome to Helen B and a few others who recently joined us here at the Journal. I hope you will find it helpful.
Quotes of the Day
“I never had success as a goal. I had this drive to to write the stories that came to me.” Danielle Steel
“Some of my ideas will start off as mundane, but as I write them they become magical—and I can never predict it.” Danielle Steel
When I came to work this morning, emails were waiting for me from my first readers on Blackwell Ops 6. So I updated that file. Woohoo! The cover and promo doc for that one are already done too, so I’ll upload it to distributors this morning.
While I was in the midst of uploading BOps 6, I realized I hadn’t yet uploaded BOps 5 to BundleRabbit (it released on May 1). So I did that too.
It’s kind of nice to have so many books coming out that I forgot to upload my most recent release to one major distribution stream. (grin) Nice but also annoying. You know.
Topic: On “Quality” Writing
I wasn’t going to write a topic today. I have a WIP to write. (grin)
But over at Marilyn Byerley’s blog, someone wrote “I’ve just started writing, and I’m paranoid about my sentence lengths. Too long? Too short? Just right? Help!”
As a result, Marily wrote “How Long Should a Sentence Be”.
When I saw the premise, I physically shuddered. Back in the day, back before I was an actual fiction writer, I too obsessed over words, sentences and paragraphs.
Marilyn handled the topic well, limited as it was in scope.
But here, I thought I’d take a swipe at the broader premise: Beyond learning the basics of grammar, syntax and punctuation, how can writers ensure the quality of our stories? Not only words and sentences, but paragraphs, plot, characterization, narrative vs. dialogue, etc. etc. etc. ad nauseam?
The simplest, best and most direct answer I can give you is Let Go.
I mean once you’ve finished writing a story, don’t hover (revise, rewrite, tweak) trying to make it perfect. Let it go and write the next one. This is a concept that’s foreign to many writers. It’s called Practice.
Back in the day, like most writers I obeyed what I was taught (mostly by non-writers) at every level in high school and college and even in many writers’ groups: to hover. (Again, revise, rewrite, tweak, polish, ad nauseam.)
And let me tell you, I labored mightily. I consciously considered and intentionally selected each word. I checked and double-checked to make sure each sentence was precise, each paragraph was the correct length, each scene perfect. I worried over the balance of exposition and dialogue. I fretted that maybe I wasn’t giving the characters equal time.
I outlined. I wrote character sketches. I developed mind maps and sign posts. And on and on. The only thing I didn’t do was actualy write a story.
I probably lost weight sweating over Quality. Writing was work, like any other work.
Then one day I had an epiphany: I’m a writer, not a critic.
Judging the quality of my writing isn’t my job. That’s the job of the reader. My job is to write the stuff, period. I’m a writer. Writers write.
So I stopped fretting so much. I wrote more and worried less.
I soon learned I was on the right path. Egged on by my devotion to Heinlein’s Rules, I published every short story I wrote. If I thought it was wonderful, I published it. If I thought it was horrible, I still published it. Because judging it wasn’t my job.
And one day I received a glowing email from a reader. It was all about “Old Suits,” a 2500-word short story I’d written and published even though I personally thought it was maybe, possibly, marginally all right at best.
My mindset was that I’d taken the time to write the blasted thing, so I might as well slap a cover on it and publish it.
Wow, am I ever glad I did. That reader said it was one of the best short stories she’d ever read. She even compared it with the work of some big-name writers. (Download a free copy of “Old Suits” here.)
That’s the day I learned that the old saying “A writer is the worst judge of his own work” is actually a truism.
From that day forward, I stopped attempting to judge the quality of my work.
Later, I learned from Dean Wesley Smith that no matter what we think of ourselves, writing is only what we do, not some “calling” complete with an angelic chorus.
Writers truly are “only” entertainers. We write stories. That’s all. Other people like what we write or they don’t, and in the meantime we’re writing more stories.
The thing is, if we’re doing it right, the story entertains US as we write it, and that’s enough. (If it doesn’t, don’t write it. Duh.) After that we release it to the world so it can entertain others (or not). Yawn.
Once I stopped pursuing quality (perfection) — once I understood that my stories weren’t “important” at all but were only a few minutes’ or hours’ entertainment — I wrote a LOT more.
Meaning instead of hovering over a particular story until I got it “right,” I moved on to the next story. In other words, I practiced.
And guess what? The quality of my stories improved.
If I could teach fiction writers only one thing today, it would be this: Trust yourself. Write the best story you can at your current skill level, then let it go and write the next one. Lather, rinse, repeat, and don’t look back. Again, it’s called Practice.
But I can’t teach writers anything until they’re ready to learn it. The best I can hope for as a teacher is that I’m the person who happens to be around when they ARE ready to hear it. (grin)
In the meantime, I can only share my experiences and tell other writers what works for me. Then I have to fall back on Every Writer Is Different and just let it go.
Which is completely appropriate. After all, it’s your life and your time and your career. And fortunately, how anyone else chooses to do things has absolutely no effect on my productivity or my sales.
- So if you Just Write and don’t sweat the small stuff, welcome to the club. Glad to have you. Isn’t this easy and fun? (grin)
- If you prefer to labor over every word and every sentence, more power to you. Whatever works.
- And if you fall somewhere in between, that’s fine too.
After all, every writer is different.
Rolled out way early at 1 this morning. Beats me. (shrug)
I did all of the stuff above, took a break at 3, then uploaded BOps 6, then sent BOps 6 to my donors via email.
A long break back to the house.
Well, I was moving to the WIP at 9 a.m., and then the urge to write the topic above hit me. (grin) So I did that.
Taking a break at 10:20. It will be interesting to see how much writing I get done today.
Finally to the novel at 11:20.
I got one chapter done. Calling it a little early today. I’m tired.
Talk with you again tomorrow.
See “Dips, Bumps, and Hillocks” at https://phillipmccollum.com/dips-bumps-and-hillocks/.
See “Workshop Decisions” at https://www.deanwesleysmith.com/workshop-decisions/.
Via Linda Maye Adams’ newsletter, see “How the Hell Has Danielle Steele Managed to Write 179 Books?” at https://www.glamour.com/story/danielle-steel-books-interview. Validations, folks. Validation. (Thanks, Linda!)
Also via Linda, see “Why Trying to Be Perfect Won’t Help You Achieve Your Goals (And What Will)” at https://jamesclear.com/repetitions.
See “Adrenaline Rush – Writing Suspense 2” at https://terryodell.com/adrenaline-rush-writing-suspense-2/. An excellent recap.
See “19 Publishers that Accept Science Fiction or Fantasy Novels” at https://www.authorspublish.com/19-science-fiction-manuscript-publishers/.
See “Free Fiction Monday: The Young Shall See Visions and the Old Dream Dreams” at https://kriswrites.com/2019/05/13/free-fiction-monday-the-young-shall-see-visions-and-the-old-dream-dreams-2/.
Fiction Words: 1221
Nonfiction Words: 1270 (Journal)
Total words for the day: 2491
Writing of In the Cantina at Noon (novel)
Day 1…… 1538 words. Total words to date…… 1538
Day 2…… 2456 words. Total words to date…… 3994
Day 3…… 1876 words. Total words to date…… 5870
Day 4…… 1038 words. Total words to date…… 6908
Day 5…… 5807 words. Total words to date…… 12715
Day 6…… 1957 words. Total words to date…… 14672
Day 7…… 1867 words. Total words to date…… 16539
Day 8…… 1748 words. Total words to date…… 18288
Day 9…… 1221 words. Total words to date…… 19509
Total fiction words for the month……… 19509
Total fiction words for the year………… 280979
Total nonfiction words for the month… 14400
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 128280
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 407239
Calendar Year 2019 Novels to Date…………………… 6
Calendar Year 2019 Novellas to Date……………… X
Calendar Year 2019 Short Stories to Date… X
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 43
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 7
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 193
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31