The Journal: Finished an Edit and the Critical Voice

In today’s Journal

* Finished an edit
* Topic: WITD, Cycling and the Critical Voice
* Today
* Of Interest
* The Numbers

Well, I finished the copyedit I was working on, and Oh Wow was it ever a great read. The thing was so fast-paced I kept wishing it had already been copyedited so I could ‘just read’ it.

I don’t usually announce new releases of any work but my own here, but I think I’ll announce this one when it’s published. It’s just that good.

Topic: WITD, Cycling and the Critical Voice

A writer wrote to ask me a question. I don’t think he would mind if I shared his email (in part) and my response.

He wrote

I took your advice and got into a new WIP, which I expect to be the first novel I actually finish. I won’t listen to my critical voice anymore, just focus on the fun. At least while I write. After the writing my critical mind still bothers me.

I have the feeling that what I wrote so far is a very enjoyable read (at least for me), because I let my subconscious play. Still I am not very fast, I write about 600 words per hour. Do you think there is still critical mind involved? Or will the word count grow the more I practice?

Second thing I have a question about: You and Dean are talking about cycling where you jump back and add stuff in. Well, I have the tendency to jump out completely out of the timeline, right into no-man’s-land so to speak.

For example, I write a scene, and in the middle of that scene my mind is jumping right into a new setting with new characters. Absolutly no clue why that is. So my WIP tends to be a mess, with a whole load of fragments. There seems to be no connection at all! Can I trust this? Or should I force my mind to write in a linear way, so that everything is fitting right from the start?

Here’s my brief response to him. Because I expanded it and turned it into a topic, it isn’t inset:

As you wrote, my advice is “Just focus on the fun.” Just let the characters tell you their story. What could be more fun than that? And if you enjoy being a little afraid, what could be more fun than not having a clue where the story is going as you write it?

“… what I wrote so far is a very enjoyable read (at least for me)” Perfect. You’re the very first person ever to “hear” the story.
If it pleases you, it will also please about 80% of those who eventually read it. And because you trusted your subconscious and didn’t let your critical mind in, the story will be in your own unique, original voice.

“Cycling” just means after you take a break, read back over what you’ve written (not critically, but just as a reader). As you do, if your subconscious wants to add something, let it. If not, no worries.

This takes practice. Remind yourself constantly to trust your subconscious voice. It will become easier as it learns that you actually trust it and will not allow your critical, conscious mind to second-guess it.

Cycling also refers to being free to move in the timeline. Readers read from A to Z. But writers don’t have to write that way. The writer is unstuck in the timeline of the story. The writer can pop in and out at will.

So if something happens unexpectedly in Chapter 28 (say Aunt Marge pulls a pistol from the pocket of her robe), you can “cycle” back to an earlier time in the story to plant some foreshadowing (show Aunt Marge slipping the pistol into her pocket) for that event.

So that’s cycling too, and when the reader reads from A to Z, it will make the novel seem tightly plotted and controlled, whereas actually you’re writing into the dark and pre-planning nothing.

The first review of the first novel I ever wrote said it was among the most tightly plotted novels he’d ever read. Yet I wrote that novel in only 20-some days and didn’t plot a word of it. (grin)

Some writers (Kris Rusch is one) write only scenes. They write them when they occur, then go back later and put them in the proper order. If that’s how you write, it’s how you write, and more power to you.

My scenes tend to run linearly most of the time, meaning one leads to the next all the way through.

So write how you write and don’t worry about it. Just follow your subconscious (you can ALWAYS trust it) and don’t “think.” When you start thinking about structure or anything else about the story, that’s always the conscious, critical mind intruding, and it’s always with a negative voice.

If you’re writing only 600 words per hour, why? Are you searching for just the right word, worrying about sentence structure and all that, or are you just writing the next sentence?

If the former, then yes, probably your critical mind is intruding, making you doubt. (Remember, its job is to make your writing grind to a halt.) If not, if you’re writing the next sentence, then the next and the next (shrug), no worries.

Addendum: My correspondent wrote back again to update me: “Just now I wrote over 1600 words without noticing it! Felt like 100 words. All because I let my subconscious have fun. What a blast!”

Yes, my friend. Yes it is.

Not sure what else I’ll get done today. I have a few chores to do, but otherwise no clue. I have a major life-roll coming up too, so I’m keeping an eye on that.

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

See “Reader Friday: First Lines” at Comment with your own choices. I did. (grin)

The Numbers

Fiction words today…………………… 0
Nonfiction words today…………… 970 (Journal)

Total fiction words for the month……… 6481
Total fiction words for the year………… 391574
Total nonfiction words for the month… 10200
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 291280
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 682854

Calendar Year 2019 Novels to Date…………………… 7
Calendar Year 2019 Novellas to Date……………… 1
Calendar Year 2019 Short Stories to Date… 4
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 43
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 197
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31

6 thoughts on “The Journal: Finished an Edit and the Critical Voice”

  1. Make writing fun again. Ought to give you a thrill helping people help themselves out of their writerly holes, Harvey 🙂

    • Thanks, Anderson. Just paying it forward, really. It does make me feel good for the writer when he/she tries WITD and actually gets it. But the critical voice is a tough nut to push away, especially at first. Unfortunately, most tend to sink back into self-doubt and buying into all they myths we all were taught in school. And most of those never make it past Stage 2 as writers.

  2. Playing catch-up on your posts, Harvey, but this was an excellent one. My last novel, it was a mostly linear affair. This current one though, whew…It’s got me channeling Kris and her writing-out-of-order method. For awhile, I was wondering if I was doing it wrong, but then I thought about you and Kris’s and Dean’s advice and decided:

    1. If it keeps me writing, chances are, it’s not wrong.
    2. “There are no wasted words.” I may end up throwing a lot of these away, but they’re all practice, and they’re all helping me explore the characters and setting.

    • Thanks, Pillip. Don’t know whether you’ve read much Jack Higgins, but most of his books read like that, jumping from one scene to another until eventually they all tie together. I’m (re)reading Storm Warning right now. The guy is definitely a Stage 5 writer.

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