Internal Editors–Learn Your Place!

Edward_Collier's_painting_'Newspapers,_Letters_and_Writing_Implements_on_a_Wooden_Board'I think one of the trickier aspects of writing is learning how to put your internal editor in his or her place.  Putting things in places is not a popular concept in our culture, but it better become one in this (coming) age of self-employment.  Not just the quality of your work is at stake– but the presence of it at all.  Ironically, what this really means is to learn when to use discipline and when to leave off.

Being creative is all about following your internal sense of fun– at least as far as other people can still enjoy the journey with you.  THEN, you haul out your little tinpot dictator and have him or her tear apart your work–Woah!  You wish it was that simple.  This path often leads to disaster.

The trickiest thing is to know what is the tree, and what is the branch, and what is a weed to be eradicated. Your internal editor cannot write stories, your internal editor can only have a sense of story.  So don’t give your editor total creative control, because your stories will seem forced. But you can’t always let your internal creative type have complete control either… or you get some really uncomfortable stuff that might mar an otherwise excellent career.

Heinlein comes to mind– and while some people love him for it, I generally have to ignore chunks of his writing and swathes of his work.  I mean, if pr0n is what you want to write, I can’t stop you.  Just keep in mind that some concepts aren’t used for a reason, and that those can come back to bite you hard.  You know, like suggesting that incest could be a good thing.  Ignoring certain boundaries of tradition– without asking yourself why they are there in the first place, can be a lot trickier than you’d expect, even now.

Ironically– you can ask why they are there– and explore it thoroughly. Just be warned that people will still suggest that you are trying to break society.  In this day and age it might make you a hero– but I promise you, in the age to come, (we are due for a reset, provided the hour of the thief has not arrived for good) that will not be so.

Because if you really want to do this for a living, you have to think about other people.  But if you want a good story, you have to think not only about what makes a good story, but what people want.  Fortunately, that’s not difficult, if you know what you have in common with your fellow man.

And unless you believe that every human being is as unique and unrepeatable as an angel– you have a place to start with what you want.  Snowflakes are all frozen water in a latticework with certain mathematical properties. Based on that, you can even write fiction that would appeal to the average snowflake– or a certain, hopefully significant subset of snowflakes– without bleaching out your work to a pale imitation of the latest blockbuster.  Worry about this in your editing phase, but try to maintain the work’s integrity, or you will just have a mess.

I know this seems to contradict what I just said– keeping in mind that the reason why we don’t mix a lot more sex into the conventional story is that much of that stuff is not ONLY private, but very individual– and it has to be what you sort your work by.  I find this limiting, so I tend not to dwell on what makes my characters tingle.

Trust me, Romance is different. Honest! Tingles and LOVE are only tangentially related. If you don’t know this… I don’t know how to help you. Like many things, it could be solved by reading ancient Greek philosophy, which is a lot less boring than it sounds.

Besides, focusing only on tingles makes for pallid stories– as evidenced by 40+ years of blue movies.  You can make an experience, but not a story that way. Again, this strongly affects how you do your marketing. HINT: if you want to do this, you should probably read a different blog for advice in this direction.

So you use your creative type to make the most beautiful armature you can imagine, then massage out a sculpture with your editor. But use a light touch, unless you are going for German Expressionism. 😉 The only way to keep yourself honest is to have a good test reader– or test readers. I am fortunate in that I’m developing leads in that direction. It takes a while, and you should be busy perfecting your craft while you search.

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