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Transcript for Episode 1.17

Writing Excuses #17: This Sucks and I’m a Horrible Writer

The podcast started with a vocal flub that I won’t try to reproduce, except that it led to the theme being “15 minutes because you’re in a hurry, and we’re apparently all high.”

Dan related a Neil Gaimon story about being 3/4th done with a book, and calling the publisher to tell him that it was no good, the characters were bad, everything was trash. At which point the publisher laughed and told Neil, “Do you know you do this on every single book? Just keep going.” And Neil did, and it was good.

So the theme of this podcast is deciding when it really sucks and when it doesn’t. How do you know?

  • Ken Rand, “Anybody can say you can’t write, but don’t let anybody say you don’t.”
  • It doesn’t matter whether you think it sucks or not until you let that stop you. Don’t give up.

Sometimes when I stop it really is bad and I need to go back and fix something. Other times, it’s just a bad feeling. How do you tell the difference?

  • writing groups
  • leave it for now, come back and fix it later
  • if it sucks, you can throw it away tomorrow
  • you’ve got a million practice words. Go ahead and get rid of some.
  • sometimes you need to change perspectives, write a new section, go ahead and write something else and then come back.
  • don’t assume you have to write everything in chronological order
Can of Worms: retrofitted foreshadowing (My note: we need a society for anachronistic rewriting!)
  • every writer is different. Practice a whole lot until you can recognize what works for you.
  • there are two groups that never get published. The first group writes Chapter 1, says it’s trash, and then writes Chapter 1 again — day after day, week after week. The second group says that’s awesome and writes and writes. They finish a book, say it’s trash, and start another book. They never go back and revise.

[Interlude while they discuss what kind of writers they are, and have the Tor book of the week advertisement.Two of the three admitted to being type II writers when they started, but learning to go back and fix up. One alluded to being a trapeze artist with no net. Splat? No, plasguns!]

Advice for Chapter 1 re-writers

  • until you write chapter 2, you aren’t qualified to rewrite Chapter 1.
  • Bradbury recommended “Write. Stop Writing.” You have to write, and you have to know when to let go, too.
  • learn to turn off the little internal editor.
  • don’t take your hands off the keyboard. Force yourself not to go back and revise.
  • you can always come back later and fix it up. It doesn’t have to be perfect on the first try.
  • at about the three quarters point, you may think it is terrible, but keep going. Congratulations on getting to that point, now finish it.

Final words

  • keep writing. Doesn’t have to be perfect on the first try. Don’t worry, I usually toss my first three chapters anyway, finish something.

Writing prompt

Consider this as the first line of your piece.

Barry knew his mumbling was going to get him killed someday.

Go, write.

Current Mood: amusedamused
Current Music: Watermelon Crawl, Tracy Byrd