Month: September 2011

Authors, Stop Fighting Your Instincts!

I was talking to a friend on Facebook today and he mentioned that he is working on an old project and having a hard time fighting the editing-while-writing syndrome. He said it’s really slowing him down. I know exactly what he means because I do the same thing.

Write a paragraph. Read it. Read it again. Tweak. Read it again. Finally move onto the next.Write a page. Go back to that paragraph up above. Edit it some more. Then edit the page.

Ten times.

Soon, three hours have passed and all I’ve written is a freaking page. Waste of time? Maybe. I know many writers have said that if you write like this you end up with better drafts – meaning less revisions in the long run. This means that your writing time ends up being about the same either way. This is true for me, at least. I’ve tried to fight editing while writing, but what do I end up with? Stifled creativity.

It so happens that if I follow my instincts and edit while I write new material that I actually get more inspiration. I realize things I wouldn’t have realized if I had plowed on through. This is how MY brain works. Some famous authors (I won’t name any names) say this is a WRONG way to write.

Excuse me?

Last time I checked, there was no RIGHT way to write for every single author. There is only a right way to write for you. And to figure out that right way means you need to do a lot of writing. A lot of revising. A lot of reading. I get a lot of people asking me what my advice is to new writers. Well, that’s my advice, right there. Stop fighting your instincts. Instead, let them flourish. Stop comparing yourself to others. Stop trying to follow rules that feel completely wrong for your style.

Rules are not bad. All these little lists that authors and agents keep throwing up on their blogs (and I’ve done it, too) with rules about what makes good fiction good and what YOU should be doing to fix your fiction drive me kind of batty (hence the saying on my blog header). But that’s only because I have my rules figured out right now. Sometimes I throw one out and replace it with another. Sometimes I forget all of them and just do whatever the hell I want to do and amazing things happen. Sometimes I desperately need them. But they are my rules – the ones I’ve tried and absorbed into my instincts because they work for me. Most of them I made up on my own.

So rules aren’t bad, but I do want to stress that the greatest rule is to figure out what works best for you and follow your own instincts. Pay attention to what works elsewhere, what other people suggest, but do not let any of that rule you or your writing. Ever. 

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in Writing Process, 29 comments

When People Love You and Not Your Book, Which is More Often Than You Might Think

I’ve run across an interesting thing that happens to artists. I’m married to an actor so I know this isn’t only related to writers, of course. He does a lot of Shakespeare, which I’ll admit, I used to dislike until I met him. I didn’t understand Shakespeare and I thought he was overrated. Wow, was I wrong. Once I learned to appreciate him a whole new world of beauty opened up to me – including understanding an important part of my husband.

What I began to see, however, was that some of our family and many of our friends are in the same boat as I was before I learned to appreciate Shakespeare. They love Adam. They love me. They want to support both of us when I send out an email or call them up on the phone or tell them face-to-face that he’s in a new play and that it’s Shakespeare. Sometimes their face falls and they come up with an excuse on the spot not to attend. Trust me, I can tell every single time when someone doesn’t want to force themselves to sit through a “bone-dry boring play” they don’t think they’ll enjoy. Other times, however, these loved friends and family will nod and say that sure, they’ll try to come even though I can tell it’s not something at the top of they’re exciting-things-to-do-list.

I love them for that. I love those gestures of caring despite enduring something not entirely pleasant.

This, of course, extends into my own career. I can’t count on my fingers and toes (because it’s much more than 20) how many people have purchased and read my books just to support me. It truly means the world to me that they do so. I have many emails from friends and family who have read Cinders, my novella from last year, and told me that it was different than they thought it would be – that they actually loved it and fully admit they didn’t think they would. This doesn’t always happen, though.

Awhile ago I wrote a post about friends and family who don’t read your work. I was surprised at how many people commented and said I wasn’t the only one who felt like my writing (one of the most important things in my life) was being ignored by some of the most loved people in my life. It hurts, honestly, because there are some people in my life who don’t give a crap about my writing. They don’t read this blog. They don’t ask me about my career. If I happen to mention it they kind of shove it aside like its something they don’t understand and its therefore not important. However, they do care about me as a person, so I ask myself, well, if they care me about as a person why don’t they care about this absolutely essential part of me? Then I stop and ask myself what I might not be understanding about them. They might care deeply about something I could care less about. Goes both ways.

I’ll admit I have high respect for those friends and family who really have no interest in what I do, but support me by trying to show an interest anyway. So thank you to anyone reading this who has read my work mostly because you want to support me more than you had an interest in the actual work. That says a lot about you as a person. I’ve tried to return that kindness with loved ones in my own life. In fact, the more I get into this career, the more I’m trying to open my eyes and see what I might be missing about the people around me.

I just want to make the point today that while there are many people in our lives who love us, they won’t always understand and love what we do. It’s much easier to relate to things we have in common with each other. The other day a friend of mine mentioned in chat that she was so, so sorry she hadn’t bought and read my book Cinders yet. She said she felt lame and awful for being such a bad friend. I told her (and I meant every single word from the bottom of my heart) that she did not have to read my books to be a good friend. I loved her anyway.

And it’s true. I hope other writers in my life understand if I don’t get to their work quickly. I know how personal it can feel when you want someone to read your work and they don’t seem to care. But my advice today is to understand that if you’re an artist (writer, actor, whatever) that this might always be an issue and you never know the other side of the story. If you’re upset over someone not caring, the other person probably doesn’t even know or understand why. There might just be something about them you’re not understanding, either. All I know is that when I let myself open my eyes to that Shakespearean side of my husband my life expanded just a little bit more.

So how do you feel about this? An issue for you? A non-issue? Something you’ve grown beyond and have advice about?

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in Writing Process, 32 comments