drcpunk (drcpunk) wrote,
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Panel Write Up From Boskone

This is a straightforward transcription of my notes. I also have notes on "The Evil Temptress", "The Destruction of Hope", and a few notes on the last half of the Roger Zelazny panel. I haven't yet written up my notes on the "First Aid For Fen" hands on discussion.



15 February 2009, 10 am

How Not To Edit Yourself

Eleanor Wood
Patrick Nielsen Hayden
David Hartwell
Josepha Sherman (Moderator of Record)
Michael Burstein (Moderator of Fact)

MB: There are two types of panels:

-- The ones where you encourage folks to say things
-- The ones where you encourage folks to let others say things

But, here, we have the Right Sort of Panelists:

-- Interesting things to say
-- Polite

EW: Role of Agent

JS: Fantasy Writer, Folklorist, Editor

PNH: SF / F Tor / Fan

DGH: Oldest practicing book editor in SF now that Ellen Asher has retired. New York Review of Science Fiction -- Judith Moffat esasy -- chronicling all the mistakes you can make with self publishing -- very smart person chronicling very stupid mistake.

[NB: I've read this. It is a very good article.]

MB: Author of SF.

_Should_ you edit yourself?

PNH: _First_ correct all the mistakes you made. Absolutely basic. First read it, and then go back and fix the mistakes before you show it.

EW: Be your own harshest critic.

[Me: Caveat there -- some people are actually too hard on themselves and, as a consequence, don't get anything published.]

Cut brutally.

JS: Amazing how many queries say "I've written a fictional story." Fix yes -- but after a point, you can't see them any more.

PNH: No one size fits all advice. He also teaches workshops and can say, until blue in the face -- but the ones who liste are the ones who need to loosen up -- paralyzed -- vs those needing the advice, in one ear and out the other.

MB / PNH: _While_ writing, tell Inner Editor to shut up. Self edit as you can afterwards.

MB: _How_ do you tell your Inner Editor to shut up?

PNH: Unfortunately, traditionally, alcohol does get inner censor to shut up. Edmund Wilson, sober in general, used this. Rediscovered by every generation of writers.

DGH: Musicians know about this, too.

PNH: Unfortunately, creativity part of brain is also the part that comes up with all of the reasons one's writing sucks.

JS: Go out. See other people. Take a break.

PNH: Don't make any particular advice a part of your routine. Don't make _anything_ part of your routine.

DGH: Early Clarion advice -- Joanna Russ.

PNH: Joanna Russ, when she broke her back, just reconfigured space -- didn't interrupt her writing.

MB: Frederick Pohl -- do whatever works to write -- even if your magic pencil -- but MB sees how it can become something of a crutch.

DGH: One needs to distinguish between a habit and a discipline.

EW: David Eddings writes longhand, and for him it works.

DGH: Believes discipline in writing longhand results in more disciplined prose. Not the _only_ way to do it. A way _some_ good writers do it.

JS: My novel in computer, but has notebooks and writes in it when scene arrives.

MB: Loves computer, does edit. But, when I do write longhand, I do edit as I go -- better editor of work.

DGH: You're getting a better draft.

PNH: Writing longhand hurts him. But recalls fanzines -- selecting stencil -- transcribing someone's writing onto it. Stencil -- painstakingly fastidious. Interesting discipline. Anything feeling too tedious to transcribe -- a sign it can and should be cut -- us of others (?) "Is this amusing enough to transcribe to mimeograph?"

MB: So: Point One: Turn off Inner Editor while writing. Point Two: Find a way to give yourself a way to go over it again.

PNH: Borrowed access to techy machines.

JS: Wonderful smell of mimeograph machines.

MB: In house editor -- wife is an actual editor. Good type of person = ?

PNH: Something to be said for life partner who's an editor.

DGH: If you don't have one willing and able to say something other than "that's nice, dear", always the job of a life companion -- a writer or two -- not necessarily the _same_ sort of writing -- if you war willing to read theirs, they are often willing to read yours. Beta readers.

PNH: He and wife can write in each other's style.

DGH and wife too -- blogs paragraphs in her style, in her blog.

PNH: One of his intros in TNH's

MB: Role of Agent in editing a writer's work?

EW: Varies a lot. Most recall they have different tastes and viewpoints -- one likes the plot, not the characters; another vice versa -- she doesn't do heavy editing, but _will_ say if X is not saleable.

PNH: Some writers do not want hand holding -- but in editing, warrior of the publishing industry to fight for them, vs editorial partnerships.

DGH: Last 25 years, too, many editors not editing. Young editors taught that they were rewarded for acquisition, not for touching up the text. They are unaware anyone would ever _expect_ them do do this.

PNH: Some authors expect / demand this. Some turn in perfect manuscripts.

JS: S. M. Stirling's manuscripts come in _clean_.

PNH: Sometimes the smart editorial thing to do is to leave them alone.

DGH: Some agents filling in for editors who don't edit.

MB: Basically by becoming an editor?

DGH: Basically by becoming a _first_ editor. It might go to someone who'll actually edit.

PNH: Some agents are former editors.

DGH: Some people do their own jobs; some do other jobs. Some books are _not_ edited. No one sets out to publish a bad book.

PNH: Numbers of books published -- statistically, sooner or later, a publishing disaster will happen.

MB: _Became_ an editor.

JS: Frightening, isn't it?

MB: Editor of science text -- thought it was just saying "more of this here" -- so much more to it

JS: Edited Encyclopedia of Storytelling. Never again an encyclopedia! Money is good, but not worth it. Also reviewed photo selection.

Nomi Burstein: Need another _human being_ -- not MS computer -- because your brain fills in what you know is there. Would prefer more folks spell check.

PNH: That requires they _read_ their own book.

MB: _Do_ run spell checker -- but consider proofing for spelling _before_ you run it -- teaches you.

PNH: Lots of good writers -- lots of people -- simply cannot spell. E.g., Chip Delaney.

DGH: Excellent grammar, though.

PNH: Not a big deal, bad spelling -- wants writers focusing on other stuff.

EW: But recall 50+ submissions a day for editor.

MB: Nod -- Even Chip Delaney had others review his work for spelling before submission. You're Not Chip Delaney -- remove this barrier to entry.

Aud: The need for _time_ before proofreading and editing one's own work. AutoCrit -- online program he likes, c. $50 for flat service.

PNH: Knows lots of working writers where there is a stage, right after, where the work is radioactive. They can see nothing good in it. They must let it sit for a week. Several half lives.

MB: How _long_?

PNH: Some get into _endless_ revision cycles.

JS: Little thing called deadline which keeps folks from sitting on stuff too long.

Aud: Blind (?) Read It Aloud!

DGH: That's really good advice.

JS: _Especially_ dialogue.

PNH: Interesting. I tend to read in blocks of text.

JS: I do recording for the blind -- have to stop when I start talking back to the author -- "no, that's wrong!"

PNH: Kindle 2 will read aloud.

DGH: A whole level of editing you just can't _do_ for yourself. E.g., _good_ author who chose the wrong point of view.

MB: But she's looking forward to it, right?

DGH: After ten days, she was able to talk to me again. I don't have to do this _often_. _Those Who Can_, Kate Wilhelm's chapter on point of view.

PNH: Happened at halfway point to John Scalzi.

MB: If you are having trouble with one thing, set it aside and write something else.

Aud: Read aloud three times. Once for copy editing. Twice for proofing.

Aud: How do you _not_ edit yourself?

MB: Drugs and alcohol. Weren't you paying attention?

PNH: Clarify? How do you get words on paper?

Aud: [illeg] in creative writing, and killed ability to write.

MB: Former student -- give yourself _immediate_ deadline, e.g., 30 minutes and timer. 2 pages.

PNH: Good [illeg]. Also, pretend you've decided you can't write it, but for some reason, it is necessary to describe the book you were going to write -- to a sympathetic friend -- in considerable detail.

DGH: Wear a mask. It works better than you think. Performance / public speaking pretend to be someone else.

Aud: Chip Delaney?

MB: Or say you're writing a book about a writer, describing the book that writer is writing.

Aud: Give yourself something to _re_write -- but how do you know _when_ the cake is done?

DGH: Very sf anser: find a story which is pretty good, but writer screwed up, yet published -- and write it better.

PNH: We Who Are About To... Joanna Russ's response to MZB's Darkover Landfall. How 15 - 17 year olds do it and get published.

DGH: One of sf's strength's. _Dialogue_.

Alt: Just write it and send it out -- Heinlein.

MB: Give yourself _draft_ deadline -- after X number of drafts -- 1 or 2.

PNH: An excercise of imagination -- same muscles of creativity in play -- as if you're X type of writer.

Aud ref cite for NYRSF article -- is it online?

DGH: Almost. We have electronic copies.

PNH: Delivered to your door by a dray of horses.

Aud: Na No Wri Mo

PNH: Yah, writer grows, et cetera. Just an anchor point to keep you working. Not necessary critiques. Also downsides to work story process -- overworkshopped.

MS: TNH -- "Workshop Freezer Burn". Certain types of criticism are _easy_ to make in a workshop when you can't think of anything else to say. E.g., X character, I wanted to know more about his backstory.

DGH / PNH: The workshop is the reason that a short story is now 10,000 words, rather than 4,000 words.

JS: Beware Envious Writers who don't want you to succeed.

PNH / DGH: Will never be to your work as a reader. Heinlein _did_ edit himself.

EW: Heinlein got some _awful_ advice at Scribners -- who didn't know "attitude" from "altititude".

PNH: Some folks took stuff he said overly literally.

MB: Some advice works better for a pro than for a starting author. What's the most important piece of advice?

EW: Enjoy what you wrote.

JS: Have the hide of a rhinoceros and the heart of a poet.

DGH: Decide not to do it. Get a good editor to do it.

PNH: Double vision: author / reader.

MB: If you have imagination enough to be a writer, you should have imagination enough to be an editor.
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