In today’s Journal
* Quotes of the Day
* “We’ll Fix It in Post(-Production)”
* Trust the Story to Unfold as it Should
* Of Interest
Quotes of the Day
“As a somewhat bemused, non-writer outside observer … it occurs to me that there must be quite a number of misguided, myth-believing individuals for whom it’s more important to be able to say ‘Oh, how I’ve suffered for my art!’ than actually to have produced any. Go figure.” Russ Jones
“The best way to improve your craft is to trust the characters and record their story as they live it. I can help with that, but only you can cross your arms over your chest, tell the critical mind to shut up, and actually get on with it.” Me to a writer a few months ago when he asked whether I had mentorship spots open
“We’ll Fix It in Post(-Production)”
This is a reposting, with his permission, of Dan Baldwin’s Writing Tip of the Week. I edited it a bit for clarity. To sign up for Dan’s tips, email email@example.com.
Back in my film/video/radio days a common phrase heard at production was, “We’ll fix it in post.” The reference is to some error or problem that the producer/director/writer team (me) would have to fix in editing and post-production. Those of us with any experience at all knew the fallacy of that pipe dream.
A case in point, I was shooting a film commercial in Nashville which involved the spokesman standing up, making a turn and walking toward the camera. As always, we planned on shooting the scene three times from one angle and then repeating from another angle and then cutting the two together in editing for a nice, smooth transition.
Because this production was considered a big deal at the agency I worked for, the boss came along to watch. Unfortunately, he was watching his personal schedule and plans for the evening more than he was the production. We did one take, and as I was setting up for the second shot of the same thing from the same angle, he took over and told me and the crew to set up for the shot from another angle.
I objected—I always shot a scene two or three times from each angle to have material “in the can” should we need it in editing—but the boss overruled me. “If there’s a problem, we’ll fix it in post,” he said and we broke down the equipment and set up for the next shot.
When the film was developed (this is old school) and we began editing, I discovered a serious problem. In the first take our spokesmen stepped out on his left foot. In the second setup he stepped out on his right foot. There was no way to cut the two shots together and have the shots match. We had to do it anyway because those were the only takes available. In other words, there was no way in hell to “fix it in post.” I listened and took bad advice and the product suffered for it.
Writers often get the equivalent treatment: you’ll fix it in the rewrite. I’ve read advice from so-called experts who seriously advise writers to write a sloppy first draft. Just slug out anything and you can clean it up later.
I don’t do later. My advice to any writer is to do the same.
I write from the heart, from the subconscious mind, and I write fast. I do not write sloppy and I certainly don’t write sloppy on purpose. I write a chapter (or chapters) and review it for any clean up before starting the next chapter. I “rewrite” only to editorial comment and then only if I agree with my editor and first readers. There is very little if any need to fix it in the rewrite.
Look at it this way. A professional will write to the best of his ability in everything he does, including any first draft. He always gives it his best shot.
If it’s your best shot, how can you improve on that? How can you recreate the emotion felt in your heart from a dispassionate reading the next day? How can you relight the “muse of fire” once the flame in your heart is cold?
If you’ve given it your best shot, just check for any necessary clean up. (I once had my cowhand hero get on a horse and get off from a mule. Sigh.) Do your tidying up and move on to the next chapter and give that your best shot.
Having to “fix it in post” just means you didn’t get it right in the first place.
Trust the Story to Unfold as it Should
The above guest post and an email from a writer converged at the right time. In her email, the writer said the current story she’s working on “is requiring a LOT of cycling.”
That wording set off alarm bells in my mind. If she is actually cycling through the story, meaning reading for pleasure and allowing her characters to touch it if necessary as she does so, good, and more power to her.
But “requires a lot of cycling” is negative—it sounds as if something in the story is wrong and needs to be fixed—and negativity is ALWAYS a product of the conscious, critical mind, never the creative subconscious. Hence the alarm bells.
So I gave her some unsolicited advice, just in case, and I thought I’d pass it along to you too, again, just in case you need it:
If your goal is to let go of all the critical voice stuff and just write into the dark, be careful you are cycling, not editing. Don’t allow your critical mind to be, well, critical. If you do, at one point or another you’ll feel that little sinking feeling in your gut, like you messed up and can’t go back to the original.
When the urge to “cycle a lot” (edit) overcomes you, either get up and walk away or at least save the file with a different filename before you start “correcting” things. It’s easy to do. Hit Save-As and simply add a letter or numeral to the end of the file name. That way the original will be untouched. (I recommend this from hard experience.)
Remember, when you cycle, you’re reading only as a reader, simply enjoying the story. NOT thinking about anything writing- or craft-related, and not looking-for anything. Just reading, but allowing your characters to touch it here and there (or not) as you read.
Trust your characters. Trust the story to unfold as it should. The story will turn out as it should only if you trust that it will.
Talk with you again soon.
See “Substack for Writers: Is It Worth Joining?” at https://makealivingwriting.com/substack-for-writers/. Not all about fiction writing, but important for some of you.
See “Special Guest Shares a Short Story” at https://www.suecoletta.com/the-neighbourhood-watch-by-sgc58/.
The Journal…………………………………… 1140
Total fiction words for May……… 14404
Total fiction words for 2023………… 97868
Total nonfiction words for May… 23280
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 104970
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 202838
Calendar Year 2023 Novels to Date…………………… 2
Calendar Year 2023 Novellas to Date……………… 0
Calendar Year 2023 Short Stories to Date… 4
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 73
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 9
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 221
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31
Disclaimer: I am a prolific professional fiction writer. On this blog I teach Writing Into the Dark, adherence to Heinlein’s Rules, and that following the myths of fiction writing will slow your progress as a writer or stop you cold. I will never teach the myths on this blog.