G J Rutherford

Writer, Caregiver & Ever So Free With His Old Man Advice.

Month: August, 2014

Stocktaking, Patching and Head Scratching.

I never thought there would be a downside to momentum, but there is one for me. As I’ve said previously, I don’t plan, can’t plan, so each day is an application of imagination accompanied by, hopefully, a chorus of creative hallelujahs. Now, I’ve been doing well of recent, knuckling down and writing a sequel. – BUT I’ve introduced one or two continuities, and since a seat-of-the-pants writer relies on words just written, such things tend to magnify with time.


So, forty thousand words in ‘Harvester II’, I’m reading back through, ironing and refining the lumps and creases. – No doubt it’ll need doing again in another 40,000 words, and then again. – I guess without the benefit of a plan, ‘stocktaking’ could be considered setting waypoints – tethers, marking the maximum distance you need to retreat should all go awry.


As a ‘pantser’ I’ve not a pile of notes on characters in advance, and have to learn about them through their interactions with others, and reactions to situations. – Much of this will then need to be fed back through to earlier chapters, introducing mannerisms, honing dialogue and generally making the character a little more robust. – All this is done whilst generating a plot as I write. – Sometimes it can be too much to do everything at once, and so I’ll scratch out a few points, knowing they’re little more than place-markers and will be edited / expanded at a later date.


BUT, and this follows on from my last blog post, I’d struggle to maintain consistently good prose IF I didn’t have those around me who are prepared to read through, and point out any potential issues. (I’ve long since recognised I’ll never be one of those who can write in total isolation.)


I think the upshot is that life would be so much easier if I could plan, but I doubt my words would be as valuable. – I envy those with the innate ability to distil creativity into a week or two, collating all that is necessary for a complete novel.


For me, ideas just won’t resolve so quickly, so stocktaking, patching and head-scratching it is…


How did they fit all that awesome in you?

Praise. We love it and, when well earned, nothing can feel quite so good…


…And for many it feels just as good when it has not been earned. And nothing can be quite so dangerous to a writer. – Praise can be a sea of morasses for a writer to wallow in, with no incentive to improve. An addiction. We become so conditioned to receiving it that criticism becomes anathema, and those offering the criticism will often be lambasted by the sycophants we’ve surrounded ourselves with, reinforcing our delusions. If you feel uncomfortable right now, you’ve even more reason to read on. If you’ve never received harsh criticism, I beg you to read on…


Those holding us back from becoming a successful author are often the ones closest to us. Lovers and spouses, best friends and parents. You need to cut them adrift before they run out of superlatives. – Seek out those who would growl and snarl at you – the ones who will pour red ink on your manuscript and say ‘not good enough but if you were to…


We learn from our mistakes. It’s a well-worn cliché, but nothing suits better. – Critiques drive us to better prose, raising the bar and pushing us towards success.  You need toxic well-armed beta readers who will be honest with you. – Don’t know how to find them? – Blog an opening chapter, and post a link on Twitter. – Ask for criticism. Ask for honesty.


And brace yourself. Discovering you’re not as good as your sycophants would have you believe is harsh, but the most important step to success. Acceptance you can get better is a cathartic moment for many writers. – It takes damned years of improving before the majority of us can write something that doesn’t boil the eyeballs –  and I don’t mean just writing, I mean years of getting better after the years of ‘just writing’.


Yeh, there are the amazingly gifted who just churn our awesome prose from the outset, and we’d all believe we’re that person. I thought I was once… I’m not, but I’m getting better.


So post your words, and ask your followers on Twitter to ask how it could be made better. – Ignore those who tell you it’s perfect. – They are the ones who stand between you and writing great prose.