In today’s Journal
* Straight to it today
* Topic: Every Story Needs an Editor….
* Daily diary
* Of Interest
* The numbers
Straight to It Today
No lollygagging about. It’s time for a little tough love.
Topic: Every Story Needs an Editor (and Other Stupid Blanket Statements)
I read a blog post yesterday by a writer who has stopped learning because she apparently believes she knows enough. She even wrote, point blank, if you believe your story doesn’t need other eyes on it, you must believe your words are “precious.” Ugh.
I really wish I hadn’t read that. It caused me to unsubscribe from the blog. Dropped it like a bad habit. This particular writer is an endless fountain of clichéd, mindless myths.
I hate blanket statements and the ignorance from which they spring. From “All [insert any race, religion, nationality here] are lazy” to “All men are pigs (or all women are users)” to “All stories need an editor.”
And yes, all of those chap my butt to an equal degree.
There’s only one blanket statement I find true at all, and that is this: “All blanket statements are mindless and asinine, except possibly this one.”
What follows is the comment I would have left on that blog post if I’d thought it would do the slightest bit of good.
By definition, writers are supposed to be broad-minded dreamers. Okay, so use that lump above your shoulders to do more than separate your ears. Or for something more than filling out your face and providing a convenient hat rack.
If you feel you absolutely must use a blanket statement, at the very least temper it by replacing “all” or “every” with “many” or “some.”
Because the truth is, until you’ve personally polled every reader of a given story (and read it yourself), You Don’t Know What It Needs. You just don’t.
And that’s especially true of your own story. But then, you’ve at least read your own story, right? At least while you were writing it?
If you lack confidence in your own ability as a writer and storyteller, then go ahead: make your inane pronouncements. But focus them on your own work. Not on mine. Not on anybody else’s. And certainly not on “all” writers or “all” stories.
And whatever you do, don’t point a finger at another writer and say that if she doesn’t bend to allowing other people into her work, it’s because she feel her words are “precious.”
Actually, the opposite is true.
Okay, end of imaginary comment. The rest of this is for those of you who are still learning or striving to learn. I know you don’t all agree with every suggestion I make. But I also know you at least consider those suggestions, and that’s all anyone can ask or expect.
Almost six years ago I reached my first turning point as a writer: I found (and trusted) Heinlein’s Rules and Writing Into the Dark.
Then, some 40 novels back in my own journey as a professional fiction writer, I reached my first major plateau with the realization that I can’t tell my characters’ story better than they can. I also learned that second-guessing them eventually silences them.
Hand in hand with that realization came an understanding: that I don’t know everything about writing. That there’s a vast world of knowledge about the writing craft on levels still above me. Techniques that I want to learn and practice a bit at a time.
It took me 61 years of breathing to get to that plateau. It took me thousands of poems, hundreds of essays, a couple of dozen articles, several short stories, 4 novels and a novella to get there. A lot of other writers arrived there much sooner in their own timeline than I did.
But I did get there. And as a result, today I’m swamped with characters wanting to use my fingers to tell their story.
Know why I haven’t written any fiction for a few weeks? The truth?
Because a little bit of my mind is busy thinking about the business side of being a writer: inventory, licensing, and so on.
And the rest is trying to filter through A Few Dozen story ideas.
I’m not writing fiction at the moment because I’m overwhelmed with story ideas from my characters. Because they have learned they can trust me not to second-guess them. See how that works?
The blogger I mentioned above talked about how priceless editors are. She also continually talks about the value of critique “partners” or groups.
Now I’ll grant, especially if you aren’t well-grounded in the rules of grammar and syntax and punctuation (you have to know the rules in order to break them intelligently), one editor—a good copyeditor—is priceless.
The others (development and content editors and so-called “book doctors”), not so much. In fact, they’re downright harmful. Exactly like other writers who try to lump “all” stories in with their lack of confidence in their own.
Unfortunately, finding a good copyeditor (meaning one who is actually knowledgeable in the mechanics and nuances of the language) is an entirely different matter.
I am a great copyeditor. But in today’s bizarro world, I’m the exception, not the rule. I even teach as I go. Yet paradoxically, I charge so little that few people will hire me. Go figure. Instead of playing the “implied value” game, I provide a free sample edit so people can see up front what I can do for them.
But let’s move on: Common (and erroneous) wisdom say if I don’t want to pay some stranger (“content” or “development” editor) to make MY story THEIR version of “better,” that somehow translates into me believing my words are “precious.” Seriously?
Listen to me: In every case, actions speak louder than words.
Some writers begin by laboring over every single stinking word, sentence and paragraph as they write.
That’s because they lack confidence in their ability to Just Tell A Story. These are stage-one and early stage-two writers.
They probably outline in advance, and they almost certainly at least plant “signposts” along the way. More than likely, they also claim to “sweat blood” or “open a vein” or “suffer for their art” or some other silly, stupid cliché.
Then they “comb through” the “finished” manuscript two or three (or more) times to make sure every paragraph, sentence and word is as “perfect” as they can make it.
And just as if that weren’t already far too much, then they send it off to critique partners or critique groups (inviting-in external critical minds) and/or to a development or content editor for further “improvement.”
Why? Because although they won’t admit it in so many words (except to wag a finger at “all” other writers or “every” other story), that’s what writers do when they believe their words are precious or their story is special. They require external input to give them assurances, and they arrogantly assume “all” other writers need the same assurances.
Well, we don’t. Some of us are well aware of our own faults and of all that we still have to learn. We realize we’re putting out a flawed product, and that to become a better storyteller, we have to practice, not hover. We don’t judge our own work. That’s the individual reader’s job. We leave it to them.
But it’s fine. By and large, most writers who can’t bring themselves to believe in their own abilities are gone in a few years. Writing simply becomes too much work. No surprise there.
Me? I would never dream (nightmare?) of allowing another person into my work. No negative (critical) voices, even my own.
I don’t second-guess my characters as they tell THEIR story because I don’t want them to stop talking to me.
Instead, I finish a story, send it off to my first reader(s), “fix” what they recommend (that I and my characters agree with), then publish it and move on to the next story.
It works. Try it. I dare you.
Rolled out at 3. Here’s a brief personal aside:
Yesterday my little girl cat did something I’ve never seen before. She never ceases to amaze me.
As she and I were sitting on the patio outside my back door, she alerted, then raced off around a corner.
I launched and followed her.
She pounced, then was coming toward me with something small and brown in her mouth.
I yelled, “No!” then turned around, passed by my chair, and closed the door to the house so she couldn’t take whatever it was inside.
Then I went back to see if I could talk her out of whatever she had.
Just as I got around the corner, she was coming toward me again. This time the back fence was a few feet behind her, and her mouth was empty.
I went to where she’d first pounced and found a few quail feathers. She’d caught a baby quail.
I looked all over the place and couldn’t find it. Finally I went to the back fence and looked through.
The baby quail was just disappearing into the brush.
When I yelled, then turned to run for the door, she’d gone to the fence (where she’d seen me release numerous creatures before) and let the little bird go.
Good girl. (grin)
Today I’ll read some more and maybe write. (That option is always open.) I’ll also begin to upload all of my collections to Google Play.
Talk with you again tomorrow.
See “Random Signs” at https://www.deanwesleysmith.com/random-signs/.
See “Business Musings: Art (Rethinking The Writing Business Part Six)” at https://kriswrites.com/2019/07/31/business-musings-art-rethinking-the-writing-business-part-six/.
See “Masterful Wordsmithing with Metaphor and Imagery by C. S. Lakin” at https://www.janefriedman.com/metaphor-and-imagery/.
See “Why Settle for Half the Fun?” at http://prowriterswriting.com/why-settle-for-half-the-fun/.
See “The Book Designer : Embed Words in Your Photos for Discovery” at https://www.thebookdesigner.com/2019/08/embed-words-in-your-photos-for-discovery/. I know at least one writer who will be interested in this.
See “Key Ways to Rediscover your Writing ‘Fun Mojo'” at https://killzoneblog.com/2019/08/key-ways-to-rediscover-your-writing-fun-mojo.html. I list this one just in case you might find something useful. But please ignore her second sentence. If writing is hard, go find something else to do. Seriously.
Fiction Words: XXXX
Nonfiction Words: 1530 (Journal)
Total words for the day: 1530
Writing of ()
Day 1…… XXXX words. Total words to date…… XXXXX
Total fiction words for the month……… XXXX
Total fiction words for the year………… 358737
Total nonfiction words for the month… 15300
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 219600
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 578337
Calendar Year 2019 Novels to Date…………………… 7
Calendar Year 2019 Novellas to Date……………… 1
Calendar Year 2019 Short Stories to Date… 1
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 43
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 194
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31