Saturday, May 11, 2013

Writing Struggles: The Little Self Editor

Scott D. Parker

I sometimes laugh when people think that writing is such an easy job. If it's talking about pure physical act of writing––which, in 2013, usually lends itself to sitting or standing in front of a keyboard typing away on electronic screen––then yeah, it is certainly easier than digging ditches or working in a kitchen. But if you were to talk about the sheer amount of exertion necessary to craft a story, then writing can be, and often is, pretty darn hard.

I don't think there is an author alive or dead who thought that his or her job as a writer was easy. True, some are more gifted than others, but they still have the words to string together, creating paragraphs, chapters, and books. Even full time wordsmiths don't find this job often simple. In recent weeks, James Reasoner has taken to posting a daily writing update and the sheer amount of time he puts in every day and every week put the 8-to-5 construction worker to shame.

This is a hard business. And there are so many aspects of this business that we have to know beyond 'just writing,' any one of which can lead to discouragement. For me, sometimes the imagination is what is most difficult part of this business. I have ideas, but the mere act of taking those ideas from a germ to a full-blown story of any length can be challenging. Unlike the "pantser" writers who make it up as they go, I work best from some sort of blueprint. I want the map before I make the trip into my imagination.

It is for this reason that I decided to start the new experiment I discussed last week. Using Lester Dent's master fiction plot outline as a basis, I created a little template that I can use to put scenes in order to make a story.  I had a pretty good success rate this process. Then, there is the next step: actually doing the writing.

Yes, I know: this is what we do. But, at times, words flow not, or they flow very, very slowly. I can sometimes be plagued with self doubt. Even the big-time authors have a certain sense of self-doubt as they work through their material. This has always been my number one obstacle. There has always been part of me that is the "on-the-fly" self editor, the part of me that sees all those squiggly red lines under those misspelled words and I have to correct the words Right Now.

In writing the first of four sections of this short story, I had a minor achievement this week: I let that self editor part of me stay behind. I did what so many writing help folks say: just write it down, you can fix it later. Get it on paper, and then get it right. I just wrote it there a couple times when I realized that I was using the same words in the same paragraph two or three times but I didn't care. I was telling myself the story that I had already started telling myself through my outline into. Where my outline just said “PI knocks on door and bullets fly out of the doorway,” I managed to flesh it out to the point where I had it on paper. I'll edit...LATER.

Believe me, I know how elementary this sounds, but I often struggle with this. That I was able to complete this section with that little voice in my head turned off is an achievement. When I'm just trying to get my writing chops back up to speed, I'll take it.

Do you have small victories that help you take your writing journey one step forward?

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