Letting The Story Flow

(This posting originally appeared on The Melt-Ink Pot)

Sometimes, I hate my inner editor.

Right now, she’s giving me all kinds of grief, because she’s reasonably certain that about 3/4 of the last 40,000 words I’ve written on my WIP, The Daughters of August Winterbourne, are totally unnecessary and should just be deleted now. Right now. Before I go any further.

She’s probably right about the fact that they need to be deleted, or at least condensed, but the problem is this: Each of the sections she wants me to delete contains at least a small nugget of plot detail that’s important. Some of these can be moved to or combined with other scenes, but until I’ve written the whole story, I won’t know for sure which ones can be moved where, and which ones need to remain.

Part of the problem is that I did something totally out-of-character for me and posted a couple of chapters of my first draft to my WorldCon critique group. The feedback was overall very positive, with the biggest criticism being the story’s pacing (which I’ve noted a couple of times is very lackadaisical and needs to be tightened up), so there weren’t any surprises there.

The problem is that the sample I posted, while largely unedited (I did go through and correct spelling/grammar errors and take a stab at getting out the excess commas), was actually remarkably clean and tight for a first draft. So now Inner Editor keeps pointing at it and saying, “Don’t you think the rest of the story should meet this standard?”

Well, that would be nice, but when I try to do that, it interrupts the flow of the story. Sometimes you just have to dare to suck. Sometimes you have to leave in the three-paragraph scene where nothing much really happens until you’re sure you don’t need it. Sometimes the dialogue in this Victorian-era story is going to sound way too twenty-first-century, at least on the first pass.

The point is to get the story down on paper (or at least, stored away in computer bits) first. It can be primped, tidied, pared and prettied later. But if I spend all of my brain power trying to do all of that as I go, I’ll flail around forever and never get it done.


Dear Inner Editor,

Please shut up. NOW. Your turn comes later. Thank you.



And since I found a good one on Twitter, I’m going to close with an inspirational quote, this one from Nancy Springer. If you’re not familiar with her work, you should be; she has a way of writing a male lead that will make you fall heartbreakingly in love with him every time. I want to write like her when I grow up.

My two favorites of hers are Larque on the Wing and Metal Angel. Go find them and read them (you may have to hunt down used copies on abebooks.com). You won’t be sorry. You should also be following her on Twitter (NancySpringer). Lots of good writing advice.

Anyway, today on Twitter, she writes:

“Don’t let the success of others get you down; don’t compare. Go where the joy is. Know what your writing means to YOU.”

It’s so simple, so obvious, yet so hard to do: Go where the joy is.

I’m going to try. How about you?


About sheilamcclune

Aspiring author, sharing the tidbits I've learned along the way.
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