In today’s Journal
* Persistence pays off
* Topic: I Do Rattle On
* For something beautiful
* The numbers
Persistence pays off in blog-watching. Neil Gaiman is back with “A Long Catch Up…” at http://journal.neilgaiman.com/2019/09/a-long-catch-up-and-go-and-see-amanda.html.
Also check out Dean’s site for a great opportunity.
I also suggest checking out today’s PWW post at https://prowriterswriting.com/witd-a-new-question. My advice re WITD or don’t WITD? Don’t get wrapped around the wheel. Just write. Try to do so in a way that the writing is fun.
Topic: I Do Rattle On
Over on PWW today, I ended a comment with an implied apology for rattling-on so much. But I do. I rattle on seemingly endlessly sometimes. In fact, I go on so much that frankly, more often than you probably think, I get tired of hearing my own voice.
I’m passionate about what I do (and how I do it) but passion really is no excuse, is it? When you’re boring someone to tears with repeated admonitions, you’re boring them to tears, passionate or not.
One person emailed me recently to thank me for advice I’d given him via email. In his response, he also said the best advice (I’d given him) was to “write the next sentence.”
The thing is, today I realized that advice is all but lost on many writers. Everything depends on the writer’s process, how he writes or how he wants to write.
If you want to experience the unbridled joy of writing into the dark, the idea is to “write the next sentence,” then the next and the next without thinking about it. Just write the next sentence that pops into your head. That’s where my advice came from, and that was the spirit in which it was given.
But the unfortunate fact is, some writers “get” writing into the dark and some don’t. Some writers eventually come to trust in their own subconscious ability to tell a story and some never quite do. Or another way to say it, some writers get to the place where they trust the characters to tell their own story and others can’t quite relinquish their need to levy control over those same characters.
Still, “write the next sentence” is good advice in more ways than one.
For example, you can also write the next sentence that comes to you after you decide whether it will fit (or not) with your carefully plotted outline. Or after you’ve given that sentence very careful conscious thought in the context of what you want your characters to do next. Or in the context of how you want them to behave. Or how you want the situation to unfold.
Or you can write the next sentence to set up what you have decided will happen in the next scene or the next chapter. Or to lead to the predetermined (by you) end of the story. Or for any other carefully considered purpose.
In other words, you can “write the next sentence” strictly as a way to keep your fingers moving across the keyboard. And if that’s you, hey, that’s perfectly fine. (And I mean that in the best Shirley Jackson sense.)
Certainly writing the next sentence in any of those ways would address the letter of the law (guideline) to “write the next sentence.” But it misses the spirit and intent by a b’jillion miles.
When I advise someone to “just write the next sentence, then the next and the next,” the advice is meant as a way to help them learn to trust their subconscious and quiet their conscious, critical mind.
In other words, I say it as a way to help them practice writing into the dark. And I do so because I assume (often erroneously) they actually want to write into the dark.
Why do I recommend writing into the dark? Because doing so flushes all the “work” out of the writing process.
If I had to endure the sheer drudgery of writing word by consciously considered word and sentence by carefully constructed sentence, I simply wouldn’t write. I’d find something fun to do instead.
I suppose for some people the drudgery IS fun. If that’s the case, by all means please have at it.
But those folks shouldn’t ask me for advice, because I’m like the broken record some of us remember: I’ll keep saying the same things over and over again in the hopes that you’ll get it, because some things are just true no matter what kind of spin you put on them:
1. WHAT you write is not important, ever; at best, any short story is nothing more than a few minutes’ entertainment for the reader, a few minutes’ escape from real life. And any novel is only a few hours’ escape. Any “importance” is assigned by the individual reader, not the writer.
2. THAT you write is what matters, and even that matters only because you call yourself a writer. Whatever profession you choose, you should show up and do the job. Duh.
3. The ability to tell stories doesn’t come from the conscious mind; it comes from the subconscious mind. After all, you were making up stories long before you even knew there was an alphabet.
4. Every conscious-mind effort you put into your stories — every editing pass, every rewrite, and every “correction” you make beyond spelling errors and homophone misuses (waste for waist, etc.) — WILL polish part of your unique, original voice off the work. And that’s truly ironic, because most rewriting and polishing is done in an effort to “perfect” a manuscript specifically so it will stand out. Sigh.
Look, being a professional fiction writer is among the easiest of gigs. All you really have to do is follow Heinlein’s Rules: You must write; you must finish what you write; you must not rewrite (trust yourself and your own voice); you must put what you write on the market; and you must leave it on the market so readers will continue to buy it. That’s it.
In other words, all you have to do is learn to let go and have fun.
Fun? But so many writers say writing is “hard work.”
Seriously, how “hard” is writing? I mean, it isn’t like you’re being shot at (emotionally hard) or digging a ditch with a shovel (physically hard) or participating in a council of world leaders trying to solve whatever real or imaginary problem the politicians have created this time (mentally hard).
No. Your sole purpose in life is to sit alone in a room and make shit up. That’s it.
You make up a story, slap a cover on it, upload it to Draft2Digital and Amazon, then close the door to your room and make up another one.
That’s how hard it is.
But then there’s the problem that if something is easy, it lacks value. If that’s how you feel, well, you can always MAKE it hard.
Maybe to lend your story a sense of value, you have to think of it as being “important.”
And to make sure it’s important, maybe you spend years writing one novel. Maybe you have to spend untold hours outlining and carefully plotting every twist and turn.
Maybe you have to carefully consider each word and every sentence and every single stinkin’ mark of punctuation. And when you’re finished with your “first draft,” maybe you have to workshop it with a critique group. Then maybe you have to rewrite it until you’ve made it “sound” just like [insert famous name here] whose work you’ve read and enjoyed.
But you enjoyed that work in the first place because it was written in Famous Author’s unique, original voice. Thing is, that writer wrote that way because he or she finally learned at some point to stop polishing that unique voice off the story.
But when you voice any of the objections that many of you are probably thinking right now, any professional fiction writer who knows what he or she is about will smile and say, “Well, every writer’s different.” Because they are.
How different? As different as night and day. As I wrote earlier, some get it and some just don’t.
When I emailed my friend Stefan Kanfer (Google him) about five years ago to tell him I finally learned to Just Tell a Story, he emailed back with a big grin and wrote, “So, you finally got it. Welcome to the big leagues.”
And now, it occurs to me (far too late, of course), that those who “get it” didn’t need any of this at all. And those who don’t get it? Well, they won’t be able to bring themselves to trust anything I’ve written here. (grin)
See? I told you I tend to rattle on.
For something truly beautiful, see “The Currency of Tears” at https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2019/09/09/the-currency-of-tears/.
Talk with you again before too long.
Writing of Blackwell Ops 7: Glynn Marco (novel)
Day 8…… 1253 words. Total words to date…… 15916
Fiction words today…………………… 0
Nonfiction words today…………… 1480
Total fiction words for the month……… 0
Total fiction words for the year………… 374653
Total nonfiction words for the month… 5220
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 251930
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 626583
Calendar Year 2019 Novels to Date…………………… 7
Calendar Year 2019 Novellas to Date……………… 1
Calendar Year 2019 Short Stories to Date… 2
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 43
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 195
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31