It’s Wednesday. That means it’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. I encourage everyone to visit at least a dozen new blogs and leave a comment. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs.
Leonardo di Caprio said, ‘with age comes wisdom and more relaxation.’ Wow, I wish it was as easy as that! I know I’ve accrued the age, however the wisdom and relaxation parts are a constant work-in-progress. In my adherence to the modern rules of writing fiction, I’ve learned to pare my verbiage; I’ve limited in every possible way my tendency for lots of words. At some point, I realized I’d overdone it and nearly smothered my own voice.
So I endeavoured to loosen up again. Only this spell of freedom didn’t last. I read thirty writing blogs a week and the influence of all these well-meaning advisors began to sway me back into more rigidity again; I went back to learning how to tighten every sentence.
At the start of April, I mentioned to folks via my Newsletter that I was experimenting with reading the first chapters of my book to video. Ostensibly this was to give folks some insight on the manuscript I’m working on. But what ended up happening was something entirely unexpected (as often happens with the best experiments) – I discovered a new way of editing that is incredibly effective.
Via video, I stepped back from my story and experienced it as a reader would. I could instantly and easily see what worked and what didn’t.
As one writer buddy said, ‘when reading our work out loud, it can really pull the screws out of the machine. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or bad.’
For me, it’s a good thing! I’d always heard the advice that you need to read your prose aloud before you publish but my attempts had been sporadic. Through the experiment of filming myself reading ‘The Or’in of Tane Mahuta’, I discovered that editing from video is like the Super Hero Tool of Editing for me.
When you film yourself reading your story, the effect is like putting your cards on the table – in the broad daylight of the camera’s lens – you get to see every word in a clear way. Every flaw in the story gets presented with a bright spotlight. Apart from seeing small errors in the copy, another bonus that came from doing the video editing was a glimpse of the bigger picture. I discovered I’d been so busy cutting out words from my tome that I realized the story didn’t feel or sound like it was mine anymore. I saw that my vision of this story was getting messed up.
Your intuition knows what to write so get out of the way. ~ Ray Bradbury
After a similar experience with critique of her book, Butterfly Hollow, I remember my dear friend, the author, Maria Cisneros-Toth telling me once, ‘I began to read aloud starting at chapter one. Horrified, I stopped. My character’s voice was gone. I panicked, jumped up and went straight to my computer and began dropping in those parts that I had been told to delete. They were still fresh in my mind, thank goodness. And from there I fleshed out the story. I remembered my counselor’s words and I still live by them even in my writing…sift and choose your information.’
This is what I’ve learned about critique, we’re all different. So the job falls on us to sort out which things are the most important to our stories. Which elements are the lynch-pins to the way everything else in the piece works? It’s up to us to really inhabit our work to the extent that we can answer these questions faithfully.
Only we can know what we absolutely must retain and safeguard for the prose to retain integrity.
“Magic is believing in yourself, if you can do that, you can make anything happen” – Goethe
It’s taken me a long time to figure out how to use critique to my best advantage. Maria would always say to me that she only ever cut from her writing what she really felt in her gut needed to go. I confess that I continued to slavishly adhere to every critique suggestion without questioning them.
I realized through video-editing however, that I would continue to do so at my peril…Yes, we’re learning constantly about the rules of the craft. Then, I believe, it’s vital we decide which rules we need to break sometimes: when do we need to exercise our right to use ‘was’, when do we need to employ gerunds, when do we need to tell instead of show, what do we really need to cut, what do we keep? When does our story need a spot of exposition?
The best, most reliable rule of thumb is to ask, what does our gut say? If we take every single critique as law, even when we don’t agree with it, then we may end up with a piece that’s not authentic. On this writer’s journey, I’m gradually teaching myself how to only take on board that critique which in my gut feels right.
You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way – it does not exist. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche
The wonderful thing is I’m learning about my own writing style through this process, and I’m learning to use my discretion. So when I get critique back, I’m more able to choose which advice to use and which to leave. All thanks to the efficient tool of video-editing. I don’t know if it’ll work for everyone the same way, I can only speak from my own efforts and share my results. Hope it helps.
What about you? Do you read your work aloud? How do you protect your voice and vision in your work?
Keep on creating…
Yvette K. Carol
Subscribe to my Newsletter: http://www.yvettecarol.com
“Now let’s write our brains out passionately and with minimal reference to grids and rules. Let’s write from a love of the art and the heart of fiction.” ~ PJ Reece