Letter From The Editor - Issue 68 - April 2019

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  Writing Advice by Mette Ivie Harrison
June 2018

The Chorus

If you’re anything like me or like just about every writer I’ve ever talked to, you have a chorus of mean voices in your head. They say things like this:

  1. This is hack work.

  2. You’re a terrible writer.

  3. You’ve overworked this and ruined it.

  4. You should delete all copies of everything you’ve ever written.

  5. Have you considered becoming a plumber, because that’s how most people who have this much shit in their heads deal with it?

  6. You’ve never had an original idea in your life.

  7. No one will ever read this without being paid.

  8. This proves you are a terrible person with a small, petty mind.

  9. None of this makes any sense. Start over.

  10. Friends don’t let friends publish stuff like this. Where are my friends?

  11. Take the garbage out! This stinks!

  12. No one talks like that.

  13. You’re really going to spend a paragraph talking about that?

  14. This character has no redeeming qualities.

  15. Did you ever learn how to spell?

  16. You took out all the parts you should have left in and left in all the parts you should have taken out.

  17. This plot is hackneyed dreck.

  18. The ending is obvious from the very first page.

Sometimes it can help to write down the gist of each of these voices and then when they start to get really loud, welcome them in to the room. I know that sounds crazy and counter-intuitive. Most people try to push the voices out and that can work sometimes. But I find that nodding to each of them, acknowledging them, and saying hello works better for me.

These voices are, of course, another part of me. They’re the scared part, the part that has been hurt before, the part that is cautious and warning me about the future. And there’s no reason to be afraid of these voices. They’re not bad. They’re just—there. So wave hello and welcome them to your life. They’re actually going to help you write this book. Because your characters are going to have these voices too, if they’re sane and doing anything that has any value, which I hope that they are.

And more than that, these voices are going to help you deal with critics. Your critics are all going to say the same things that these voices told you. And when they do, instead of them hurting you, just nod and wave and welcome them into the room. You know that there is a dark side to your work. You know that in order to do what you did there, you also had to live with that there.

You can try to answer these voices with some positive thoughts like these:

  1. You got this awesome book review or, Your writers group loved this!

  2. I’m doing something different and new. It’s in process.

  3. I’m good at dialog and inner monolog. I’m the queen of plot twists!

  4. It only matters what the people who like books like mine say.

  5. There are good parts here. I just have to remember them.

  6. This one sentence is perfect and I love it!

  7. I won that award in college. I must have some talent!

  8. My family believes in me. I can do this!

  9. I enjoy writing and that’s what matters.

  10. Harry Potter was rejected by more than twenty publishers.

  11. Jane Austen was universally panned by reviewers in her day.

  12. I’m going to be on the NYT bestseller list someday!

My imagination means that I can just as easily imagine good things as bad things happening to me. If necessary, I can make them into a story with me as the star. Ever written a novel with an obscure writer who becomes successful despite all odds? Well, that’s what you need to write about yourself.

Read more by Mette Ivie Harrison

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