Tuesday, June 24, 2008

What I Should Really Be Doing is Writing

But instead, I'm surfing the internet for news about the latest Marvel Comic movie (ooooh, rumors that Leonardo DiCaprio will star as Captain America....). Why? Well, I've been asking myself about that a lot, actually.

I think the answer is more than the typical answer (which is that I'm a profoundly lazy person,) but that this particular project -- a return to a universe I left several years ago -- means a lot to me. And, because I care so much, I'm having a hard time putting words to the page. My internal critic won't shut up, and my usual tricks to try to fool her into thinking that what I'm writing isn't REAL aren't working the way they usually do.

I have a lot of weird tricks I do to keep my internal editor from interfering. I keep my official novel in Courier, 12 pt, double spaced in a file labeled with the novel's name and a draft number, i.e, "resurrection code [1].doc." When I sit down to write, I open that file and re-read enough of it to get a sense of where I am in the story. Then I open a brand new file and write new stuff in Georgia, 12 pt, single spaced. See, that way I can tell myself that I'm not adding to the REAL novel. This is just draft writing, you see. Of course, usually at the end of my writing session, I end up cutting and pasting the whole thing without a lot of changes. Still, this works to fool my internal editor because, for some reason, I'm much more willing to trash a scrap done in non-manuscript format.

But, that's not working right now... well, not entirely. I'm writing, but slowly. I keep going over what I've previously written and picking at it, perfecting it....

What do you do to try to silence your internal editor? Any tricks you want to pass on to me?


Tim Susman said...

My main trick is similar to yours. I hear the editor speak up when I write something I'm not sure about, and when I get to that point, I say, "hey, it's okay, I know I'm going to just throw it out anyway, just let it go." Sort of the writer's equivalent of "Good night, Wesley, I'll most likely kill you in the morning."

The other thing I do is let the editor chirp away at the small stuff like word choice and proofing as long as it doesn't delay me too much. That way, it feels like you're doing something to "edit." Throw him (or her) a small bone and you can get on with the big stuff.

Douglas Hulick said...

Welcome to my recurring problem. :) Picking at what you just wrote? That's me all over, and I'm trying to get over it, too.

A couple of things I have tried with varying success:

1) Don't go back over what you've written. Just DON'T. Unless you need to check a fact or reference, leave it be. It's behind you on the road -- going back will only waste gas and add miles to the trip. Push ahead. (I'm still working on this one myself.)

1a) If you MUST go back and rework something to get in the grove, don't go back more than a page or two at most. Going back any further can mean killing a writing session working and re-working a scene that ultimately ends up pretty much as it started (meaning your instincts were good to begin with).

2) Plan ahead in short bursts. Know what you are going to be doing for the next two chapters, even if that isn't what you end up doing. Think short-term about where you are taking the story -- it's less daunting that way and easier to resist the urge to go back and perfect rather than press forward.

3) Get yourself some carrots. Figure out a scene or a stretch of dialogue or a cliff-hanger that's coming up that you really, really want to write and work towards it. Lie to yourself if you have to, but have someing you want to work towards. And once that is written, come up with the next must-write bit (see point #2 above).

4) Commit to either publically posting your progress, or to handing out even a small amount at writer's group every time. For some reason, it's harder for me to let other people down than myself when it comes to producing my work. The old "must hand out every other week" rule is what saved me during the tougher parts of Dust and Steel. Maybe you need to commit to a regular hand out schedule, if only for this project.

That's all I got at the moment. Hope some of it helps.

(The above was posted with proof reading or spell checking, 'cause I got kids holleirng for me outside :)

Douglas Hulick said...

Heh. Make that withOUT proofing or spell checking. As if it weren't obvious after that... :)

Kelly Swails said...

I usually subscribe to the "What the hell. Of course it sucks. I'll change it in the next draft" theory. That usually works unless I'm in a "I-suck-and-I'll-never-get-an-agent" funk, in which case I eat some cake and get back to frickin' work. This ain't a pity-party, sister. Write somethin'. (My muse is all about tough love.)

Hope that helps. :)

Stephanie Zvan said...

I mostly work like Kelly X, with one addition (and without cake). I'll reread what I did in the last session to pick up the voice, but I won't let myself change it, except for things like missing words or continuity issues that I might miss later. No revisions for style, etc. until the next chunk to be handed in is fully drafted.

"So, little editor, you want to fix that? Then let me finish this."

Then, once I've handed it in, there's no point in changing it until I have critique back. There's nothing to do but go on with the next chunk.