Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Yesterday, Elana did a snazzy post about it takes practice. Go on, read the post, and then hop back here.

The whole concept, whether playing the piano, painting, gymnastics, writing, or whatever, is that, well . . . it takes practice. The brilliant writing that we all do, that we are all capable of doing, doesn't just happen.

We hone our craft . . . constantly.

We write, write, write . . . write, and keep on writing.

Sometimes, we write doody. We have to move past the doody and keep on writing. We also have to remember that doody is a useful part of life. I mean, what is fertilizer, after all, except a big pile of doody that makes plants flourish and show their brilliance! So, writing doody is just a reminder of how much better we can write.

In my comment to Elana I wrote something to the effect . . . every novel is a practic novel, but some of those novels become a performance at symphony hall (or something to that effect - sorry, forget to copy/paste that lovely comment - whoops!!).

Some of the novels are just doody.

And still other novels are . . . well something I must keep practicing at until they are ready for performance at Symphony Hall . . . or should I say . . . Publishers Hall!!!

I have learned that distance (yes, it took me a bit, but I'm getting to the point/title of this post) is the greatest tool a writer (perhaps any artist) can possess, well, that and a heck of a lot of patience.

Still, distance is key to writing. Sometimes, we have to set our practice materials aside and move on to something else, so that we can look at the stuff we set aside with better clarity.

I wrote what I thought was a great novel. It was good, not great. I've recently begun relooking at the project with more clarity. I know that it is not working in its current format. I also know it's not a big pile of doody. It needs a bit more practicing. Heck, it needs a lot more practicing.

So, when you've written something that you think is brilliant - well, send it off to the crit group, step away from it, and look at it a month or so later. It might not be brilliant, it's probably not doody, and with a little bit more practice, it might be Publisher Hall worthy at some future date.

Give yourself the distance from your writing so that you truly can look at it with a sense of clarity. Examine the structure of the novel. Is everything working? What's not working? How can you, in the words of Timm Gunn from Project Runway . . . make it work???



Piedmont Writer said...

I love doody. I've re-read things I wrote a hundred years ago and scream from the heart, "this is SOOO doody". I agree with you 100%.This is, what I believe makes us better writers. Seeing our past and our pain and our frustration so we can take it all and either, chuck it, or work it to make it playable at the symphony.

Just one question, can you do that with a query letter? lol

Robyn Campbell said...

Scott my pal, great post as usual. I agree that sending your work off to a crit group is a great thing. But...and you knew there would be one right? :)

I can't put distance between me and my story. Impossible, for me at least. If I try and detach myself from my story I find I think about it all the more. So I want Beth and betas to read it and offer me their honest opinion that my writing is, well brilliant (kidding). But I think about it, wonder about it, read it even when it's being reviewed. Now I don't work on it at this time, I work on other things. But I am reflecting on my story at this time.

So it's pretty well hopeless to try and distance myself from the words I have written.

Ah, the joys of arguing with my friend Scott. :) What say you?

BTW, thanks for your help yesterday and the next time it happens, I will definitely email you. :)

Scott said...

Piedmont Writer - I keep my 'doody' in a box in the closet. Every now and then I pull the box out and reread my first efforts at writing. Perspective. It's all about perspective! I'm not sure about the query letter. I have a hard enough time with that as it is!!

Robyn - you, argue with me?? I'm shocked!! : ) I wouldn't expect anything less of you, my friend. What works for me, might not work for you . . . though you do realize I'm always right! Ha! I seriously think that, given enough space, you can create the necessary distance. Yes, I know my characters inside/out, the plot and all that jazz . . . but a month or so away gives me an added dose of clarity to see past the inevitable missteps a writer makes.

We are not perfect! We make mistakes. We need to be able, at least in my opinion, to see those mistakes. : )


Anonymous said...

Yes, I agree that distance is important, essential really. I always have more than one project going and am becoming better at switching when I need distance from one of my WIPs.

Robyn Campbell said...

Uh, you're always right unless I'm there. Ahahahahahahahaha!

But you never really distance yourself do you? I do get what you are saying. But aren't you thinking about it? Wondering what betas might be thinking while it is put away or sent to them.

So you haven't really distanced yourself from it. Because you're pondering these things. And that isn't bad. It shows you care about the story. It's like this. I want a new horse. I can't stop thinking about that horse. Even though I might try, I cannot. Even though I can't really afford to feed or buy yet another horse. I care about horses. I care about my story and I'm thinking of ways to make it even better while it is out to betas. I'm not distanced from it completely. No. I'm still thinking on it. :)

Scott said...

Paul - thanks for stopping by. I normally have various projects in the background ready to work on so I can create distance between one project and the next.

Robyn - there's distance and distance. When I'm writing a new project I'm immersed totally in it, know it forward and back. When I step away for a few weeks, maybe a month - there is distance. It's not that I'm no longer familiar with the characters/story, more that I've stepped far enough away to view the characters/story in a more objective manner. : )

And, if I've immersed myself in the editing phase of another project, I'm really not thinking that much about the project patiently awaiting my attention.

Oh, and I won the MultiTasker of the Year award, which makes working on different projects that much easier! Ha! Ha! Ha!


p.s. you just think you're right, but that's just a delusion, because you really know I'm right! : )

Robyn Campbell said...


You know I had to do that right? :)