Saturday, August 30, 2008

"Writer Me," Come Forth!

I'm reading The Artful Edit by Susan Bell, and since I haven't read a book on writing for a while and hope to savor this one slowly, I'd like to discuss it over time rather than cover it just once in a review. I've also heard mixed reviews about this book's originality and helpfulness, so I guess on this blog I'll be forming my opinions about all of that "in public," with the help of feedback from others. I hope you'll enjoy coming along for the ride. I'll try to post questions for your reaction. Please jump in and discuss!

First -- it's quite possible I should now be reading a book called The Artful First Draft, since that's what I'm currently writing. One of my biggest problems with my own process, which I've only partially wrestled into submission, is that Editor Me starts to horn in too early in a book's life, when Writer Me should rule. Editor Me loves to pick at words, and Editor Me realizes that my wordsmith gifts exceed my storytelling gifts. Editor Me also keeps one eye on the calendar, knowing that in X number of days or weeks I'm going to have to submit something coherent to one or the other of my critique groups. Critiquing, of course, brings yet more evaluation to a new work too early. (Yet it also brings me gems of advice that I truly want, even early on, maybe especially early on.) This fact of too-early criticism has at times ground me to a halt, and I feel like that muppet character who kept screaming, "I'll never get it! Never, never, never!" and banging his head on the piano. If I ever get to a point where I'm bringing "seasoned" work to critique while incubating and forming brand-new stuff "in the womb," as it were, and only there, that will be great. But unless I quit subbing chapters to my crit partners for a year, I'm not sure how to get to that place. All of my work is either brand-new or published, there's nothing in between! Anybody else have trouble with this? Have you figured a way to handle it?

Part of the difficulty with Editor Me and Writer Me is that Editor Me works best when the rest of my life feels too busy, when I know I might get pulled out of the work at any time, mentally, physically, or both. For the last seven (seven!) years -- since I became a member of the sandwich generation in earnest -- my heart, soul, mind, spirit, the part of me that writes -- has been skittish about sinking down into my fictional world and letting me really explore and take it slow. So I let Editor Me rule and call it progress. I need to find ways to let Writer Me know it's okay to live my MC's life, delve below the surface, forget the real world for a while, stay so in tune with the small changes in my MC's emotions that I find I know what she will do next and really can plot after all, and that hopefully everything is motivated and true. Or, as Ms. Bell states in The Artful Edit, I'd like to discover "an as yet unmapped route to a particular emotion or thought."

That's my goal for this fall, to allow Writer Me in the driver's seat where she currently belongs and let the cost be what it may. How are your Editor Me and Writer Me getting along or sharing the work these days? Do you have specific goals for fall?


PJ Hoover said...

Editor Me hibernates when Writer Me is out. She does manage to show up when writing new scenes during revisions, but I let her during this time!

Jacqui said...

Ooh, sometimes I hate Editor Me. I love in Chris Baty's book No Plot? No Problem when he makes you sign a contract banishing your inner editor while you compose.

Fall goal is definitely to finish revisions of YA. And do NaNoWriMo again.

Marcia said...

PJ -- Maybe I can get Editor Me to hibernate if Writer Me is more willing to hold her ground. Or if I can convince EM she's a bear or ladybug or something nice that hibernates (but not a bat or a snake).:)

Jacqui -- Now there's a book I should pick up. Have never tried NaNoWriMo, although I'm intrigued by that kind of output.

Angela said...

I hope you like the book.

I sometimes write notes to myself using the comments feature or just typing in caps...something to come back to when I edit. I think it helps me to keep writing and know I won't forget the idea.

Good luck with your first draft!

Brenda said...

I have the worse time with EM and WM working at different times. When I have to stop writing for the day and go back to it the next day, I will read a chapter or two to get back into the thought process but the next thing I know my EM is taking over and by the time I get to the end where I can start writing, it is time to quit...argh...

Fall goal - with all the talk of school starting, I have decided to treat my writing as if I were in school. Today I will decide which writing book I will be working from and I will be giving myself homework, etc...and if I don't do my homework, I can't go out on Friday night! My "mom me" is sooo mean...grin

Marcia said...

Angela -- Like you, I jot in the margins when I think of something else that has to go here, or something that should be mentioned again in the pretty near future, or where I think I might be going next. It really helps me prevent loose ends.

Brenda -- somebody (forget who) said that a good way of getting back into the work today is to reread yesterday's output. I think that works, as long as you stick to yesterday's output and don't go back farther. Which can be tough for me to resist.

The very same thought crossed my mind to treat my writing as if I'm in school, "homework" (which is of course the writing itself) and all.

Kimbra Kasch said...

I, too, tend to over edit early in the process. Right now I'm trying to stick to 10 pages a day (I know - a great goal but I'm a daydreamer and believe in dreaming big) and that way I don't have time to edit while I write.

So sneaky.


Gottawrite Girl said...

Screaming muppet, yes! The scrubbing process definitely brings out the frantic child in me. I try to focus on the one-next-step at a time. Otherwise, it's overhwelming!

Marcia said...

Kim -- I agree with dreaming big. I think the higher we dream, the higher we reach. So you edit the last ten pages you wrote before beginning the new writing? If you mean you write ten new pages a day, hats off!

gottawrite girl -- Yes, a step at a time does it. It's how anything gets built, step by step.

christine M said...

Editor Me and Writer Me duke it out on occasion - but I am at that happy place where I'm subbing seasoned stuff for critique and working on something new. Of course I'd be in a happier place if something were published. :)

Marcia said...

I am at that happy place where I'm subbing seasoned stuff for critique and working on something new.

That is a happy place, Christine. One I can probably get to if I become a little more prolific.