I had an incredibly useful writing chat with a month or so ago, in the midst of chatting about something else, and I found the talk so worthwhile that I saved it–and keep looking at it and looking at it. Finally, because I thought that maybe it would help someone else, too, I asked if I could post it. He said he didn’t mind, so here it is. I hope someone else gets as much out of it as I have.
deannaeditor (7:12:47 AM): I need to get the hang of writing no matter what like you do. I fret too badly about things!
jelakejr (7:13:01 AM): it’s the ‘get out of your own way’ thing
deannaeditor (7:13:04 AM): And I get to wondering what’s going on with it, and check on it, or worry…
jelakejr (7:13:11 AM): have you ever tried fast-writing flash fiction?
deannaeditor (7:13:16 AM): Yeah. I really have to overcome.
jelakejr (7:13:23 AM): just to open up those ‘no matter what’ muscles?
deannaeditor (7:13:26 AM): Yeah. I do well at that.
jelakejr (7:13:31 AM): it’s what I recommend as an exercise
deannaeditor (7:13:40 AM): Okay. I’ll try some more.
deannaeditor (7:13:52 AM): Just to try it for so many minutes a day, or what?
deannaeditor (7:13:58 AM): Or just to get yourself started?
jelakejr (7:14:43 AM): well, at one point in my career (not long after I started being publishable) I started writing it by the boatload
jelakejr (7:14:52 AM): for specific developmental reasons
deannaeditor (7:15:02 AM): *listens*
jelakejr (7:15:04 AM): “I’m going to work on smoother dialog tags and patterns”
jelakejr (7:15:10 AM): “I want a good female characterization”
jelakejr (7:15:14 AM): whatever
deannaeditor (7:15:18 AM): Ah..
jelakejr (7:15:19 AM): because a flash piece does one thing and one thing only
jelakejr (7:15:29 AM): it can be almost *anything* but there’s no room for more than one thing
jelakejr (7:15:36 AM): so there’s some idea or image underlying it
deannaeditor (7:15:38 AM): Right. Like my smut snippet I posted the other day.
jelakejr (7:15:46 AM): and there’s one structural or technical thing happening
jelakejr (7:15:49 AM): exactly
jelakejr (7:15:56 AM): the cool thing about flash, though, secondary effect
jelakejr (7:16:05 AM): is almost anyone can write it straight through at one sitting
jelakejr (7:16:15 AM): whether they’re 300 words per hour or 3,000 words per hour
jelakejr (7:16:20 AM): it’s a digestible chunk
jelakejr (7:16:37 AM): so if you can blap out flash without tripping into analysis paralysis and look-back hell
jelakejr (7:16:48 AM): then you can convince yourself to write a 1,500 word piece that way
jelakejr (7:16:51 AM): then a 3,500 word piece
deannaeditor (7:16:55 AM): Ah…
jelakejr (7:17:00 AM): sneak up on the longer bits as a ‘fast writer’
jelakejr (7:17:08 AM): just like training up for a sport or martial art
jelakejr (7:17:22 AM): doesn’t work for everyone, but it works for enough people that it’s worth trying
deannaeditor (7:17:30 AM): Yeah, the most luck I’ve had writing was in NaNo, because I was able to turn off my internal editor, which is what kills me.
deannaeditor (7:17:40 AM): I will! Thank you!
jelakejr (7:17:41 AM): obviously when you jump from flash to 1,500 (or whatever), you’re adding complexity, which tempts that editor
jelakejr (7:17:52 AM): yes and YOU have an amazingly highly-trained internal editor
jelakejr (7:17:55 AM): it’s what you *do*
deannaeditor (7:18:01 AM): I know.
jelakejr (7:18:02 AM): that’s a nigh crippling handicap as a writer
deannaeditor (7:18:10 AM): It is. I have to fight it.
jelakejr (7:18:22 AM): it’s like being a bicycle designer who worries about gyroscopic precession every time they get on a two wheeler
deannaeditor (7:18:30 AM): Heh.
jelakejr (7:18:31 AM): I’m amazed you don’t fall off every single time
jelakejr (7:18:51 AM): one of my cardinal rules is don’t revise while I’m writing
deannaeditor (7:19:04 AM): Yeah, I do that too.
deannaeditor (7:19:09 AM): But what happens with me…
jelakejr (7:19:20 AM): that’s not literal — I’ll back up and fix a broken sentence if it doesn’t lead on — but I never page back, except very rarely to plant a lookback note for later fixing
deannaeditor (7:19:23 AM): Is that I think I can’t write at all. I sit for hours and come up with no words at all.
jelakejr (7:19:23 AM): :: listens ::
jelakejr (7:19:32 AM): ah
deannaeditor (7:19:42 AM): But what I finally realized was happening is that it wasn’t that I wasn’t *thinking* of anything to write..
jelakejr (7:19:53 AM): mmm…?
deannaeditor (7:19:56 AM): It’s that I was *discarding* every single sentence I came up with.
deannaeditor (7:20:07 AM): It was a breakthrough, at least.
deannaeditor (7:20:18 AM): Now I make myself write the sentences down anyway.
jelakejr (7:20:52 AM): yep
jelakejr (7:20:54 AM): you can always cut them later
deannaeditor (7:21:12 AM): Yeah. And actually, once they’re down, I go back and look, and I like them okay!
jelakejr (7:21:19 AM): I think you have another problem, too maybe
jelakejr (7:21:26 AM): one I’ve only recently overcome
jelakejr (7:21:34 AM): I’ll describe mine, then put it in your terms
deannaeditor (7:21:39 AM): But now I’m trying to think of a new book, and that “idea discarding” is killing me.
jelakejr (7:21:41 AM): I broke in through short stories
jelakejr (7:21:47 AM): won Writers of the Future
jelakejr (7:21:51 AM): won the Campbell
jelakejr (7:22:06 AM): hit the Hugo ballot less than three years after my first publication
jelakejr (7:22:16 AM): had my first collection do very well critically
jelakejr (7:22:22 AM): I mean, I went *long*
deannaeditor (7:22:25 AM): *wows*
jelakejr (7:22:33 AM): so when I start noodling with novels for serious
jelakejr (7:22:44 AM): my novel skills (which is a very different art from short fiction, as you well know)
jelakejr (7:22:54 AM): were on a par with my first-publication short story skills at best
jelakejr (7:23:01 AM): while my short fiction skills
jelakejr (7:23:06 AM): while not up to Big Name Pro level
jelakejr (7:23:13 AM): were quite a bit stronger and visibly growing
jelakejr (7:23:32 AM): so my expectations of myself as a writer (from short fiction) were seriously mismatched to my capabilities as a writer (of novels)
jelakejr (7:23:41 AM): and I had to slog hard
deannaeditor (7:23:42 AM): Ah…
jelakejr (7:23:51 AM): I think I’ve finally broken through that
jelakejr (7:23:52 AM): but it’s new
jelakejr (7:24:17 AM): the last two novels (TRIAL OF FLOWERS and DEATH OF A STARSHIP) were the first two of, um, nine or so, that felt ‘right’
jelakejr (7:24:26 AM): so here’s where it enters your world, I think
jelakejr (7:24:34 AM): you’re a top-of-the-field CE
jelakejr (7:24:42 AM): which is a fiction skill, and a very important one
jelakejr (7:25:08 AM): you’ve got a lot of inner wiring that looks at your original fiction (prose, ideas, process) and says “this isn’t up to my standards”
jelakejr (7:25:29 AM): you need to take that wiring, rip it out, and burn it by the dark of the moon in a fire soaked with brandy
jelakejr (7:25:31 AM): or something
deannaeditor (7:25:38 AM): LOL!!
jelakejr (7:25:43 AM): because writer-Deanna is not the same person as editor-Deanna
deannaeditor (7:25:50 AM): Jay, that is so exactly right.
jelakejr (7:25:53 AM): that was very hard for me to learn (in my version of it)
deannaeditor (7:26:26 AM): Yeah, I’m very demanding of myself.
deannaeditor (7:26:49 AM): And because of that, too, it makes it difficult to know when to quit messing with stuff.
jelakejr (7:26:58 AM): yep
jelakejr (7:27:05 AM): you have to give yourself permission to start over
jelakejr (7:27:08 AM): be a newbie
jelakejr (7:27:13 AM): and quit worrying about that
deannaeditor (7:27:13 AM): I may have stopped noodling with my novel *too soon* just because I figured I’d *never* be happy with it.
jelakejr (7:27:30 AM): then, once the mss is finished, you can hire CE Deanna to go back into it with that highly professional eye
deannaeditor (7:27:41 AM): And that I might as well shove it out there sometime.
deannaeditor (7:27:46 AM): Heh.
deannaeditor (7:28:02 AM): CE Deanna has a hard time looking at her own stuff.
deannaeditor (7:28:19 AM): It’s like trying to be objective about your kids…
deannaeditor (7:28:51 AM): “Of *course* Tommy didn’t mean that! He’d *never* do such a thing!”
jelakejr (7:29:10 AM): heh indeed
jelakejr (7:29:20 AM): you’re going to have to learn your way around that one
jelakejr (7:29:25 AM): as for what you said about ideas
deannaeditor (7:29:27 AM): Yeah, I know.
jelakejr (7:29:35 AM): I’ve begun writing book proposals to MYSELF
jelakejr (7:29:49 AM): as short as a few paragraphs, or maybe ten-fifteen pages long
jelakejr (7:29:51 AM): depending
jelakejr (7:30:00 AM): because that way I can capture an idea
jelakejr (7:30:05 AM): and set it in cold storage
jelakejr (7:30:10 AM): maybe it dies there, maybe it comes back out
jelakejr (7:30:26 AM): but if you did that (proposals don’t require much self criticism, they’re just story notes)…
deannaeditor (7:30:29 AM): That’s a great idea.
deannaeditor (7:30:34 AM): True.
jelakejr (7:30:41 AM): then you could let them age a little, like cheese, and pull them out and see if they’re still shiny
jelakejr (7:30:58 AM): your Inner Writer will have gotten more used to that idea (because you already wrote down part of it before)
jelakejr (7:31:05 AM): and you might be able to step around the idea block
jelakejr (7:31:11 AM): just a suggestion
deannaeditor (7:31:21 AM): That might work!
deannaeditor (7:31:43 AM): Like when I make myself write down sentences I’d otherwise discard and then am happy with them.
deannaeditor (7:31:49 AM): Okay. I’ll do that. Seriously.
deannaeditor (7:32:03 AM): Jay, this has been the most helpful writing talk anyone’s ever had with me.
deannaeditor (7:32:18 AM): Thank you. Very, very much.
jelakejr (7:32:27 AM): well, you’re welcome
jelakejr (7:32:29 AM): I hope it helps