15 February 2009, 10 am
How Not To Edit Yourself
Patrick Nielsen Hayden
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
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.]
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.