In today’s Journal
* Subscriptions to the Journal
* In light of that
* Topic: How to Quiet the Critical Voice (Chapter 4)
* Daily diary
* Of Interest
* The numbers
Subscriptions to the Journal might be changing soon. The thing is, I’m not some big marketing master. I’m just a writer who wants to share my experiences with other writers.
Via Linda Mae Adams, see David Gaughran’s “Time To Ditch Mailchimp?” at https://davidgaughran.com/2019/05/16/mailchimp-alternatives-criticism-changes-pricing-plans/.
If I can do so seamlessly, I’ll be switching to a new service (probably MailerLite), so you won’t have to resubscribe, etc.
If I can’t do that seamlessly, I’ll let you know what’s up once I decide. I don’t like dealing with underhanded companies.
Especially in light of the coming changes above, I’m also considering starting a newsletter over on HarveyStanbrough.com for fans of my fiction.
At the moment I’m flipping a coin. Should I start a whole separate venture (newsletter) or should I slowly transition the blog over there to a blog for fans of my fiction?
The former would be more focused, I suppose.
Then again, I’m already familiar with the blog format. And I have posts pre-posted over there out through mid-August 2019. Between now and the time I stop posting blogs about writing, I could “practice” posting intermediate posts about my novels and series, the characters, etc.
So maybe that’s my answer. But at the moment, I just don’t know. Any ideas or thoughts? Yeah, I know. Whaddayou care, amIright? (grin) Okay, here’s your dose of stuff for the day.
Topic: How to Quiet the Critical Voice (Chapter 4)
Chapter 4: Attacking the List
More than likely there are some stubborn folks out there clinging to the myths like a toddler clinging to his favorite blankie. (By the way, refusal to let go of the myths is also a function of the critical mind.)
So in this chapter I’ll talk about the list that headed up the previous chapter. For your convenience, that list was
1. Put your finished manuscript in a drawer to let it cool off,
2. Read over it again later with “fresh eyes” and revise as you go,
3. Send it to a series of “beta readers” (by definition, critiquers),
4. Revise per your beta readers’ input,
5. Rewrite at least ___ times (everyone says so),
6. Re-send to your beta readers,
7. Revise per your beta readers’ input,
8. Do a final word-by-word polishing (everyone says so).
Let’s take them one at a time.
1. Put your finished manuscript in a drawer to let it cool off.
Admittedly, I have an overactive sense of urgency. That being said, whenever I see this one, I wonder how many thousands of readers might have been looking for and bought and enjoyed exactly that story while it languished in my drawer.
But that concern aside, if you don’t cycle as you go (much more on cycling in Part 2 of this book), this one might be a good idea.
If so, it’s the only good idea on the list.
If you set the manuscript aside for a few days, then read over the whole thing on the computer and strictly for enjoyment — meaning STRICTLY AS A READER (not critically) — and allow your fingers to rest on the keyboard as you do, this can be a good thing.
Why allow your fingers to rest on the keyboard as you read?
Because as you read AS A READER (with your creative subconscious, your sense of disbelief suspended) your characters will change or add what needs to be changed or added. In every case, these will be things you don’t consciously think about.
If you do this, I recommend you also read aloud. If you do, your creative subconscious will “catch” a lot more things, like “the the” and so on.
2. Read over it again later with “fresh eyes” and revise as you go.
Okay, so if the first item on the list gets a pass and can be a good idea, why not this one too?
Because of that word: revise.
Revision and rewriting are both products of the critical mind, and they both evoke the critical voice.
The notion of “revising” makes you want to “look for” (conscious mind) things to revise or replace.
Never allow your critical mind into your work.
And there’s something else you should never allow into your work: other people, and especially other writers or those who fancy themselves writers.
Which brings us to
3. Send your manuscript to a series of “beta readers.”
I’ve never done this, but I’ve heard the term widely used, so I had to look it up.
By definition, “beta readers” are people whom you invite to critique your work. But if you aren’t going to let your own critical mind into your work, why would you let someone else’s?
This is not a good idea, nor is it harmless. In fact, this is actively a bad idea.
For one thing, you’re telling your subconscious mind you don’t trust it.
For another, you’re allowing other people into your work.
If those people are writers or fancy themselves writers, chances are they’re going to offer opinions on how they would write it, with “it” being a word, sentence, opening, scene, ending, etc.
H.G. Wells famously noted that “No compulsion in the world is stronger than the urge to edit someone else’s document.”
Which leads us to
4. Revise per your beta readers’ input.
There’s the R word again — revise — and this time it’s coupled with allowing others and how they would do it into your work.
Per Chapter 3, if you do and if you’re very lucky, you will experience that sinking feeling. And you deserve to. If you experience it, obey that little voice. It will say exactly what I said in the previous very short paragraph: Just Don’t.
5. Rewrite at least ___ times.
Ahh, there it is. The other R word.
How many times have I heard writers (both published and unpublished) say to do this? Dozens. Maybe hundreds.
And in every case, they say they do it because “Everyone says so.”
Well, maybe almost everyone says so. That’s because they’re all trapped in the vicious cycle of the same myth, believing the same lie.
But I don’t. I don’t do it, and I don’t advise others to do it. And I never will.
I left the blank space in this one because various writers and publishers set a minimum number of times a writer should rewrite.
The editor-in-chief for one publication (a short story magazine that will remain nameless but that I actively hope is defunct now) once told me via email, “We’ll read your story soon and get back to you, but just so you know, we require a minimum of three rewrites before we’ll seriously consider a story for publication.”
Did you catch that “we’ll read your story soon but”?
She effectively rejected the story without having bothered to read it first. Seriously?
I wrote back immediately to withdraw the story from consideration.
Out of the kindness of my heart, I also recommended they put that requirement in their submission guidelines so prospective contributors could see it up front.
I never heard back from her and I never checked to see whether they’d amended their guidelines per my suggestion.
I’ll skip the next two items on the list (6 and 7) because they’re a post-beta-reader-and-revision repeat of the third and fourth items.
Which leaves us with
8. Do a final word-by-word polishing.
Again, because “Everyone says so.”
And again, not everyone. Not Dean Wesley Smith. Not Stephen King. Not Lawrence Block. Not any other long-term professional writers that I know of. And not me.
Ignore the list above, folks. That’s my advice.
The best example of stupidity is doing something that doesn’t work — especially when it can actually do harm — over and over again in the hope that it will work the next time.
Okay, so as long as I’m being free and easy with the advice, what do I recommend?
Longtime readers of my Daily Journal at https://hestanbrough.com already know.
But for those of you who don’t, go ahead and flip the page. I’ll start covering that in Chapter 5.
Rolled out at 3 a.m. Read Linda’s email, then David Gaughran’s take on MailChimp (he’s right).
Then I saw that someone had bought my audio course on Writing Narrative. So I sent out those audio files. (The process is more time-consuming than I remembered.)
Finally started checking around for items “Of Interest” at 4.
To the house at 5 for a short break, then to feed the neighbors’ horses (next door).
Finally to the novel at 6. Another break at 7:45. Which turned into a trip to the post office and the local store. (grin)
Back to the novel at 9:30. Wrote off and on for a couple of hours. Even with the door of the Hovel closed (and the Hovel has walls three feet thick) the wind is so loud today it’s a constant annoyance.
At noon I took care of another chore, tearing down cardboard boxes that have accumulated in the rear of the Hovel. Soon I’ll need to turn on my portable swamp cooler, so I needed to get those out of the way.
Weird, weird day. I was headed back to the novel at 1 when I was sidetracked yet again. I’m gonna call it a day and come back to it tomorrow. Maybe with my internet turned off.
Talk with you again then.
See “Want to Work With Me?” at https://www.deanwesleysmith.com/want-to-work-with-me/.
See “Use It” at https://killzoneblog.com/2019/05/use-it.html.
See Alison Holt’s “Begin with an individual” at http://prowriterswriting.com/begin-with-an-individual/.
See “Plot Threads – Taming the Kraken” at https://terryodell.com/plot-threads-and-continuity-taming-kraken/. (My inclusion of this link is not an endorsement. I personally trust my characters to tell their entire story without leaving plot holes or dangling threads. However, to each his/her own.)
Fiction Words: 1890
Nonfiction Words: 1650 (Journal)
Total words for the day: 3540
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
Day 19… 2586 words. Total words to date…… 34561
Day 20… 1890 words. Total words to date…… 36451
Total fiction words for the month……… 36451
Total fiction words for the year………… 297921
Total nonfiction words for the month… 27120
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 138980
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 436901
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
4 thoughts on “The Daily Journal, Wednesday, May 22”
The problem with beta readers is that it’s likely they won’t know what they’re talking about or that they will put their personal opinions on the comments as if they were facts. If the writer isn’t confident or knowledgeable, they won’t have a clue what to ignore and what might be worth a look. When I worked with a cowriter, he got two beta readers (he insisted). It was for a thriller set during the Civil War.
Beta Reader #1: Never read fiction, except for Cold Mountain. “Get rid of all the dialogue. The narrative tells the story.” (If you haven’t read CM, the dialogue is really weird. I kept thinking the characters were telepathically communicating to each other in whispers).
Beta Reader #2: She was a published romance writer. I had my doubts about her because genres were so different. She read until page 70, stopped, and then wrote two pages of scathing comments. Her kindest words were “Your prose is clean.” She nitpicked at everything, right down to the sounds we chose. I looked at the comments and my first reaction was that she hated it–and couldn’t figure out why. So she’d picked it apart to justify why she hated it. Six months later, I found out she was vehemently anti-gun. Right. So she knowing reads a book during the Civil War and gets mad because it has guns.
Writers put way too much emphasis on other people telling them what’s wrong with the story. The hardest thing though is getting form rejects and not knowing why.
For what it’s worth, why don’t you transition to a similar format as this but for readers and have a link for those who might like to read both? That seems simple & consistent & (unless I’m missing something) easiest.
Thanks Karen. I’ll think about that.
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