Your Inner Editor and NaNo - Sarah Vu - 2020-10-24

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In attendance

  • Sam McAdams
  • Sarah Vu
  • Connie Sun
  • Katie Lazicki
  • Barbara Lipkin
  • Jenny Johnson
  • Jennifer auer
  • Stephane Lafrance
  • Errol McClendon
  • H
  • Julie Rule
  • Daniel

Your Inner Editor and NaNo - Sarah Vu

  • Think differently about the way you write.
  • Reach the 50,000 word
  • Finish your novel and story
    • but if you get stuck, your effort could wither on the vine
  • Don't think of it as a finished product; it is a journey and an experience
  • Your novel has stages to go through
  • Change the way you think of your novel and goals

Saving Face

  • Face = exists across all cultures (pride, honor, self-esteem, self-awareness)
  • Fundamental to being human
  • You have a view of yourself; you want to be independent, competent, strong, respected; and you want others to like you--you want to be popular.
  • A good business person respects the other person's face.
  • E.g., the concept of face is very important to the Chinese; you want to give them an out to save face. You don't want to make the other person feel bad.
  • If the deal falls through, you don't point your finger at anyone. Then you're more likely to work with a company if that company didn't blame you for it.
  • You want the customer to trust you and like you even as you want to be the one in control--you don't want to push them away to achieve that status.

"Me" vs "We"

  • For people to like us, we have to do things we don't want to do (you give up control to be popular)
  • We want to be in control and might have to say no (you have to give up being popular)
  • These things are in conflict.

What about writing?

  • Think of your face as your internal editor. It is trying to save you face and doesn't want you to write poorly.
  • This can be stifling.
  • Mentally, you need to distance yourself from your inner editor.
  • Don't think of it as part of you.
  • Put some space between you and it, just as you would do with your business partner.
  • Drive a bit of a wedge between your inner editor and what you want to do with this story.

Stretch your wings

  • Inner Editor wants your story to be perfect, the best thing written
  • But your story can't grow like that. As you write it, you have to make mistakes and fail to fly some times.
  • Don't set your expectations too high.
  • Can't always find the perfect turn of phrase. If you have high expectations going in, there is no way you will meet those.
  • Experienced, successful authors are super critical of their own works (their inner editor tells them); but they were willing to give their story the benefit of the doubt and so their story survived to be released.

Learn to fly

  • Your inner editor is trying to save you face but sometimes it helps you too much.
  • Your first draft is supposed to be messy--that's fine.
  • This is the process of the first draft--to get you through these points.
  • When editing, you can see where you made your mistakes and change things. But you wouldn't know you needed to make that change if you hadn't been willing to make that mistake.

Business arrangement

  • Your editor gets 11 months out of the year; November is the one month without it, when you can let your creative juices flow and not let the inner editor interrupt you.
  • Embrace the writing process, don't delete anything, even if your inner editor says it won't work.

Still not convinced?

  • First draft is not expected to be perfect
  • Final drafts are usually very different.
  • Editors/agents don't expect the first draft to be perfect.
  • Stories undergo changes, they don't jump fully formed from your mind.
  • It's fine to make changes
  • Harry Potter started off as a horror book; J K Rowling changed it from her original plan. The Editor came back and said it was too dark for the market she wanted to get (younger audience). This feedback helped her change it.

Writing Exercises

Ex #1: Nonsense, my Dear Watson

  • Turn off your inner editor, write nonsense, be bad on purpose
  • Find 4-5 things in your line of sight and write the first connection between these objectives.
  • Give inanimate objects animacy
    • 'Toy Story' - fly-on-the-wall
  • Invent words and sound effects
  • Narrate your own frustrations
  • Dusty books on a book shelf
    • Dusty, a tall Mead notebook, spiral bound with a stiff, plastic cover, yawned and stretched a bit. He sneezed. Not having been touched for well over a decade, he was still in a better position than his neighboring blank notebooks. At least he was on the end facing the desk and could see his erstwhile writer every day.
    • Shorty, a thicker and wider notebook bound with still shiny copper wire, jostled Dusty. "Is he looking our way? Did he ever find that fountain pen of his?"
  • 40, 50, 74, 80, high 80s
  • Practice helps, incentivizes you to go forward
  • Connie drew the objects around her (she is an artist) and found a story behind each object. Tea mug, hair clip, ear piece that she can't use anymore (because she changed her phone)--each one has a story (wasn't expecting that).

Like a caterpillar

  • Your story goes through stages (your inner editor wants it to go from egg to butterfly). Throw things at the wall; if anything sticks, keep it.

Exercise #2: No Going Back

  • Write without using the backspace key
  • Focus on writing fast, not good; write your scenario quickly.
  • Jack and Jill see a hot air balloon

"Run!" Jack shouted. "We have to catch that balloon!" Jill glanced down at the bucket they carried between them. As she hurried to try to match Jack's irregular strides, the silvery contents of the bucket sloshed dangerously. The quick-mithril was thicker and heavier than most liquids, but it was still a liquid, however slow moving it was. "Careful!" Jill hissed. Jack only glanced back once at her, but she knew his thought. If they missed this hot air balloon, they were finished.

82 words

Techniques to try

  • Keep writing while thinking
  • Repeat words that are misspelled until you get them right
  • Repeat the whole sentence till you get the words close to right
  • String multiple adjectives/adverbs together if you can't think of the right ones
  • These help you find the right words without interrupting your flow to check a dictionary. You don't want to break your flow, interrupt your creative process
  • It also helps you be less emotionally attached to the words on the page.

Embrace change

  • Your ideas are good--you can save them for later
  • Write notes to your future self to note where to come back for editing
  • Give yourself the freedom to take chances, make mistakes, get messy. You can clean up later.
  • It is hard to train your brain to avoid fixing your mistakes.
  • Difficult to avoid making corrections as you type.
  • Did anyone hand write the exercise? Some did on the first. Most were on google docs.

Exercise #3: Stream of Consciousness

  • Imagine you have writer's block and you don't know
    • how to get your characters from this scene to the next
    • how to end the scene
    • how your characters got here in the first place
  • Break the fourth wall, Write to yourself
  • Write your frustrations
  • Remind yourself where you want to go
  • Rehash or summarize how you got here, remind yourself of important plot points
  • Try to explain to a 3rd party what your issues are with the scene

Jill froze everything. Jack stopped mid-stride and hung there in the air. The red balloon advanced no further.

Jill looked around until she found me looking at her and Jack. "Okay, Mr. high and mighty writer. You got us here. What are you going to do with us, hmm?" She put her hands on her hips, letting go of the pail of quick-mithril, which was mid-slosh.

I looked at my keyboard, abashed. "Truth be told, Jill, I have no idea. Er... this isn't really a story, it's just a writing exercise."

Why is this in the draft?

  • It helps you work through your frustrations, leaves notes for your future self, helps you identify where you have problems.
  • It is part of your novel (but it shows your work). Your thoughts are part of your novel.
  • You will take it out in editing, but why not get credit for it in NaNo?
  • Deb: It gives you approval to write whatever--it's not directly in your novel, so it is helpful--thanks.
  • Jennifer: To keep my flow, I will just write; and if I need a name, I just put it in parentheses.
  • Scene summarizing is a bit different from stream of consciousness; you know what you want to write. Stream of consciousness is more thinking through the problem.

Personal experiences

  • Won 8 times out of 10 or so
  • I use #3 the most--writing ("Authors note to self") -- visual cue for stream of conciousness writing
  • Other two are general techniques
    • no going back -- when I'm thinking fast and want to get my ideas down before I forget them.
    • nonsense writing -- used the least but helps with writer's block, helps keep momentum
  • Katie: No backspacing and stream of consciousness work well together.
  • Sarah: Not backspacing is tough but I encourage people to try this.

Motivational qoute

Thoughts and Questions

  • Stephane: Looks like a good way of doing a first draft, not only in November but throughout the year. My own experience: if I have a thought of something at work, I tend to say it aloud (to spawn new ideas). Writing everything that comes to mind towards the story, once you're done with it, there may be silly things, but they will spawn ideas towards the end goal. And they will inspire.
  • Sarah: Any time you're doing a first draft, give yourself the space to make mistakes in your first draft. Doesn't have to be perfect. And it is easy to change afterwards because I didn't spend a lot of effort making it in the first place.
  • Deb: Will try the coke can one (pick an object and start writing). It's like building a muscle.
  • Sarah: I call it Nonsense, My Dear Watson--it's like opening the flood gates.
  • Tim: It's like brainstorming, not killing the silly ideas up front so they live long enough to inspire the really good ideas.
  • Jennifer: If you look at the exercises, the numbers were going up. So it is good to warm up your writing to free your mind
  • Sarah: And as long as you count those towards your NaNo word count, that's fine.
  • Sam: Have used the improv technique--put five jokes in where I want to have a joke (to test which works the best). Song writers will sometimes put in silly words (su su sudio).
  • Connie: This presentation resonates a lot with me. The way I've been framing my project is around fear--there is part of the inhibition, fear of failing, fear of something being bad. Like sometimes when you're stuck. I have it now posted on my wall--what would you write if you're not afraid. Mary Carne (sp?) -- the Art of Memoir. Confront the fear you might face as you start to write (losing face, etc).
  • Sarah: Fear and anxiety might be big in the writing community and can hold you back in your writing. You want to present yourself as a good author. But you have to change your mindset: bad writing leads to the good story. Accept the imperfections themselves.
  • Stephane: There is the influence, especially with the fledgling writers. You see writers in front of their typewriters in movies--they write their thing, crumple up the page and throw it away. Subconsciously, we are influenced by that process of writing (to write the proper words from the get-go). This presentation is the complete opposite. This is where the writer's block comes from. You are censoring 99% of your thoughts (which blocks you--no other thought is "good" enough). You just have to give yourself permission to just write anything. And that is where the genius will come out.
  • Sarah: We have workshops on how to be a better writer, incorporate more senses in your writing. But if you focus on that in your first draft, you won't finish your first draft. The first draft gives you freedom to write the bad part.
  • Stephane: Maybe we can do that in the future with workshops, and we present something to make the story better, to emphasize this is phase 2 after you've written your first draft. Make it clear that it is not a first draft exercise.
  • Tim: Like drawing on scratch paper (very freeing compared to drawin).
  • Connie: Nothing wrong with drawing on scratch paper.
    • After NaNo, there is a great cartoonist Lynda Barry who is a creativity guru who teaches at University of Wisconsin (Graduate students who are paired up with 4 year olds). Recommend you to tear down those inhibitions when it comes to drawing and writing (using similar parts of your brain).
  • Tim: Would you be willing to give a workshop on creativity in February?
  • Connie: I'm a little shy but I like being a student. So I won't say no.
  • Deb: I missed you guys! Glad I was able to watch this.
  • Stephane: You could also create a Path within the Journey. The same way there is a Shakespeare Path and a Writing in the pub Path
  • Jenny: The Journey is all of us meeting year-round. We do workshops on different adjacent topics.
  • Deb: You'll never find a more supportive group.
  • Connie: Listened to the workshop from Jenny from last week--thanks, it was very helpful. Just signed up for the Journey. :-)