In today’s Journal
* A friend emailed me
* Topic: How to Quiet the Critical Voice (Chapter 3)
* Daily diary
* Of Interest
* The numbers
A friend emailed me today to ask whether we wanted more readers over at the PWW blog. He said at hsi table at the RWA (Romance Writers of America) meeting on Saturday, everyone else at the table was talking about worthwhile blogs. But he kept PWW to himself because he didn’t know for sure whether we wanted more readers.
Let me be a clear as I can: PLEASE spread the word about PWW. Not that I have a particular horse in that race. I don’t.
But PLEASE ALSO tell other writers about this Journal, HEStanbrough.com.
Over the next short while, the Daily Journal will be my go-to site for writers. The bigger site, HarveyStanbrough.com, will transition to my author site and be more geared for readers.
In both cases, I and the writers of PWW are writing to help other writers. So yes, of course we want more readers.
Any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask. Thanks.
Topic: How to Quiet the Critical Voice (Chapter 3)
Chapter 3: Recognizing the Critical Voice Pre-Publication Delays
Let’s flash forward. Say you finally stop procrastinating and actually write the thing. You’ve typed The End. It’s done.
Now comes the second round of major critical mind delays, again, approved and encouraged by every writer’s group and critique group you know, not to mention your high school and college English teachers.
Now it’s time to
* Put your finished manuscript in a drawer to let it cool off,
* Read over it again later with “fresh eyes” and revise as you go,
* Send it to a series of “beta readers” (by definition, critiquers),
* Revise per your beta readers’ input,
* Rewrite at least ___ times (everyone says so),
* Re-send to your beta readers,
* Revise per your beta readers’ input,
* Do a final word-by-word polishing (everyone says so).
Let me say at the start, this entire process is fear-based. And silly.
Even the list above is nothing more than a series of delays instigated by your conscious, critical mind to keep you from suffering rejection or bad reviews. To protect you from ridicule.
Yes, everyone does it. Yes, everyone says to do it. But the perpetuation of a myth doesn’t make it a good (or valid) idea.
On the surface, it sounds as if you’re attempting to make your work “better,” or even “the best it can be.” But defining “better” or “best” is a slippery endeavor.
What does making what you’ve written “better” or “the best it can be” even mean?
Okay, I suspect we can all agree right off the top that it means making the manuscript “clean,” right? But that takes only one pass by a good copyeditor. So why all that other stuff?
Again, because everyone says so. Including your own critical mind.
Long-time professional fiction writer Dean Wesley Smith says the notion that doing the things on the list above will improve your work is a “myth.” He is more generous than I am.
The notion that doing those things will improve your work is a Lie, plain and simple. In fact, doing those things will actually harm your work. Irreparably.
I’ll explain why over the next chapter, taking the items on the list one at a time.
But for now, let me say I’ve been there, done that, and don’t even want the t-shirt.
In my early days as a budding fiction writer (about the first 47 years), I listened — closely — to my critical voice. It was (and is) a compilation of all the things I learned from my (non-writer) English teachers and from other would-be writers.
As a result, I read over each word, sentence and paragraph in my short story manuscript critically.
I replaced words with other words, replaced sentence structures with other sentence structures, “improved” paragraphs in various ways (for example, making sure each paragraph covered one sub-topic like I was taught in school).
And every time I made a change required by my critical mind — every single time — I experienced a sinking feeling in my gut.
Something was telling me NOT to change that word or sentence structure or paragraph. Something was telling me to leave it alone and Just Write.
Of course, I ignored that little voice and forged ahead. I revised, rewrote, and polished like a “real” writer is supposed to, and then I submitted what I’d written for publication.
And nothing I submitted was accepted. Nothing. Even by the “little literary” magazines that abounded back then and paid only in contributor’s copies.
Of course I assumed that meant I needed to “pay my dues” and revise, rewrite, and polish even more.
I would bet my last dollar you’ve experienced that sinking feeling too when you’ve revised or rewritten before you send your manuscript to beta readers or whomever else.
So what makes you think you won’t you feel it when you revise or rewrite after you’ve sent it to all those people?
You will feel it, only now it will present as a false positive: “Ooh, the beta reader’s right. I should change that.” And you do.
It never occurs to you that the beta reader is only one reader of potentially millions who are out there waiting to read what you’ve written.
With what you innately know about human nature and human taste, do you really believe all of those millions of readers will agree with that one lone beta reader?
But let’s leave that for the moment. I want to bring up a point that’s always intrigued me.
Writers are the worst judges of our own work.
We’ve all heard and repeated that all our lives. We believe it, vehemently.
Yet for some reason, we’re selective in its application.
We’re selective because “Writers are the worst judges of our own work” is the flagship thought of the critical mind.
Its sole purpose is to keep you from publishing your work or submitting it for publication.
Think about that.
When you believe what you’ve written is Good — meaning you intend to publish it or send it out for publication — “Writers are the worst judges of our own work” leaps to the forefront.
That saying is a truism, right? So your work can’t possibly be good just because you think it is.
So you dive headlong into the myth (the lie) that revising, rewriting, input from beta readers, etc. will “improve” the work.
Hence the delays in the list at the beginning of this chapter.
Yet when we believe something we’ve written is Bad, “Writer are the worst judges of their own work” is suddenly nowhere to be seen. When we believe our work is bad, we simply accept that it’s bad.
Isn’t that interesting? But why does it happen?
Because the critical voice has already won. You’ve already decided not to publish the work or submit it for publication.
Instead, you stick it deep into a drawer or filing cabinet or computer file (or a blazing fireplace) and it never sees the light of day.
I hear it all the time even from other successful professional writers: “My first three novels sucked. Fortunately they will never see the light of day.”
How many more readers would have enjoyed their work had they published those first three novels? How much larger would their readership have been?
I’ll let you think about that. See you in the next chapter, where I’ll start making my way through the list.
Rolled out at 2:30 and made my way to the Hovel. Wrote all of the stuff above plus another chapter of the nonfiction book, then took a break at around 6:30.
Back to the Hovel to eat breakfast (soda crackers, swiss cheese and sliced turkey) and play a little Spider Solitaire.
By 7:40 I couldn’t stand being away from the WIP any longer and turned to it.
Wrote a little over 1000 words, then got sidetracked. I realized I also had a good short story I could excerpt from the novel.
The short story is titled “Miguel’s First” and runs at a little over 3400 words.
Anyway, I wanted to get the next chapter of the critical voice book out to you, so I’m calling it for today.
Talk with you again tomorrow.
See “Almost to Another Stretch Goal” at https://www.deanwesleysmith.com/almost-to-another-stretch-goal/.
Via Linda Mae Adams’ newsletter, see “Getting the ‘feel’ of your book’s setting” at https://alisonmortonauthor.com/2019/05/jennifer-c-wilson-getting-the-feel-of-your-books-setting/.
See Sean Monaghan’s “Momentum” at http://prowriterswriting.com/momentum/.
To view a book-marketing video from industry leader Penny Sansevieri, click https://drive.google.com/file/d/1T3q8Zs0yyvei7KIltmERo2cF7c1lYG8S/view. This is meat-and-potatoes stuff with some great pointers.
See “Free Fiction Monday: Dancers Like Children” at https://kriswrites.com/2019/05/20/free-fiction-monday-dancers-like-children-2/.
Fiction Words: 1222
Nonfiction Words: 1450 (Journal)
Total words for the day: 2672
Writing of In the Cantina at Noon (novel)
Day 10… 1365 words. Total words to date…… 20874
Day 11… 3696 words. Total words to date…… 24570
Day 14… 1050 words. Total words to date…… 25620
Day 15… 1622 words. Total words to date…… 27242
Day 16… 1413 words. Total words to date…… 28655
Day 17… 2098 words. Total words to date…… 30753
Day 18… 1222 words. Total words to date…… 31975
Total fiction words for the month……… 31975
Total fiction words for the year………… 293445
Total nonfiction words for the month… 24170
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 136030
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 429475
Calendar Year 2019 Novels to Date…………………… 6
Calendar Year 2019 Novellas to Date……………… X
Calendar Year 2019 Short Stories to Date… 1
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 43
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 7
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 194
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31