Never Think That About Any Story…
Or novel, for that matter. They are just stories.
And telling stories is fun, right up to the moment that you make a story or novel important. That’s like taking a pin to a ballon. All the fun of writing just vanishes almost instantly in a pop.
What actually happens is by making something important, you allow the critical voice to take over. You know that voice that lives in the front of your brain and thinks it knows everything.
It shoves the creative, smart voice to the back and takes over.
Writing out of critical voice is a struggle at best, and usually critical voice will stop any writing cold. After all, the story is important, so better you not finish something than do something that doesn’t live up to the “important” thinking.
Critical voice wins.
Critical voice causes stories to bog down in the middle and get boring. Critical voice causes writers to rewrite and touch up and fix things when all that does is make a story worse.
Professional writers, for the most part, have cleared this problem out and don’t much think about. But we all get caught by “important” at times. I did last year on a story, actually. Took me a couple days to get past it and figure it out what had happened. When I figured it out, I laughed at myself and made the story not important and finished it in a hour or two.
The anthology workshop happening here in February is full of professional writers. And many of them have listened to me over the years and in just about every workshop talk about how deadly it is to make a story important.
So with the 5th story assignment, I got a chance to make the story important. I mean stupidly, blown-out-of-shape important.
I wanted to see how many of the professional writers would realize what I had done and just get by it and have fun with the story.
Well, on normal story assignments, over half of the stories are turned in the week before and another quarter are early on the last day. There are always a few who push right up to the midnight deadline. But only a few.
So what happened this time? I could get 45 stories or so maximum.
By Saturday night I only had 12 stories turned in. Oh, oh… “Important” story was winning.
By 9 pm tonight, just three hours to go, I had about half.
I happened to be on the phone with the editor of the project at that point, a long time writer and editor, and he just laughed. And said I was evil.
But as Kris said when I suggested making the story “important” to see what happens, “It’s a workshop and all the writers are taking it to learn, right?”
As usual, she was right.
41 stories came in by midnight, which is a good number.
14 in the last ten minutes.
By the way, besides realizing you are making a story important, another of the cures of getting past “important” story problem is having a looming deadline. That makes you write and not care about important anymore. Seems like a ton of writers did just that. (grin)
And I will wager, knowing these pros, that a lot of them figured out what I had done as they got to writing late, wondering why it was hard to start, took a little time to clear out “important” and got the story done.
Now I am sure that every writer who turned their story in with only an hour or so to spare has a valid and rational reason. (Dog ate my computer and so on…(grin).) Writers always do.
But every couple of hours today Kris would ask me what the total in was. And then she would shake her head and laugh.
So extreme caution, folks, when a story becomes “important” for any reason, you have to realize that, brush it off, and go play.
Someone said to me the other day, “If I’m not having fun with my writing, I’m doing something wrong.”
Important stories are never fun. But in the reality of publishing, no story or novel is ever really important.
It’s just another story.