Three Dirty Birds on the Philosophy of Writing

threedirtybirds-400|Master List|

Three Dirty Birds talking about James Scott Bell’s Revision and Self-Editing for Publication and his chapter on the Philosophy of Writing.

Kate: So much good in this chapter.

Ana: I was kind of so caught up in reading that I sort of forgot to take notes.

Zoe: I was reading this chapter while avoiding my own writing, so I really connected with it. (And then I went and wrote.) (Ana: There should be a Latin saying for that: I came, read, and wrote. Veni, legi, scribi?)

Kate: Lol, Ana. He really had some interesting ideas on how to approach editing. Kind of messed with my preconceived notions of how it should go. (I really don’t’ think I know how to edit, to be honest. Or revise, or whatever. The more I learn, the more I realize how little I do know.)

Zoe: Me too. I’ve come a long way from “Fixing the typos and making the sentences flow a little better,” but I’m probably still going to be learning how to edit for years to come.

Kate: I’m coming to the conclusion that it’s a lot like learning any subject or skill. You start with the more obvious, straightforward stuff, like making sentences flow and dealing with typos and word-choice, then move on to more demanding skills as the first ones become just a part of your workflow.

Zoe: I saw a tweet today that said something like “Revision and editing IS creative work,” and I think more and more I come to feel that way.

Ana: It totally is! At least, it is at my desk… I tell myself I’m /just going to fix minor things/ and bam, I’m rewriting again.

Kate: But, dear heaven, why did he have to bring up Proust? *shudders* I’m still scarred. I dropped that course. I may never read this chapter again.

Zoe: I was also tired when I was reading this, and the Proust anecdote spans two pages, and I got confused and had to scroll back up to verify that it wasn’t Marcel Marceau. I was disappointed! (Boy, it’s bad when you’d rather see a mime.)

Kate: Proust drove me crazy. I literally quit the course over having to read that book. Other than that, though, I really liked this chapter. That freeze–I think that’s an issue that perfectionists run into in their writing. I’ll get stuck, and I know I’m a perfectionist, simply because I can’t see exactly where I need to go next with this scene. I know where it has to get to, but I can’t find just the right way to get there. So, frozen, and not the kind with the funny snowman and the generic princess.

Zoe: I liked that he talked about causes of the freeze, because recognizing what the monster of the moment is can be much more useful than reading a bunch of tips to get around the symptoms.

Ana: That’s true. There’s a lot of reasons why people get blocked, and they don’t all require the same cure.

Kate: I can’t work past something I can’t diagnose. Wish I could.

Zoe: Sometimes naming the monster IS the cure.

Kate: It’s worked for me in the past. And still works for me, though I don’t always recognize it until I’ve figured out the solution. That naked feeling is a very good reason to have a pen name. My family and co-workers know I write, but I won’t give out my pen name because I get too self-conscious.

Ana: I still get that naked feeling sometimes, which is why I couldn’t replace my current alpha reader if she quit. It says ‘most trusted person’ in the job description.

Zoe: I am, thankfully, mostly immune to the naked feeling—and a good thing, too, because my mother in law is reading Suckers right now, which doesn’t bother me a bit, but every evening Mr. Rider brings up a new thing he imagines she’ll think. I just roll my eyes. “So what.”

Ana: I’m not completely immune, but at this point, I’m using it to my advantage. Kind of like a way to gauge whether a scene is working. If I’m not feeling at least a little exposed, there’s probably nothing deep in there. (And not every scene needs that, but some do.)

Kate: He had some good ideas for picking story ideas to work on. I really like the one about writing the back cover copy first, which is what I did for Kev ‘n Mo, and it helped a lot. I could tell right away where I hadn’t yet fleshed out the idea enough.

Ana: For me, picking an idea has never been so much of an issue. I know a lot of writers have a ton of ideas and first chapters written, but the only time I start a story is when I feel like I have to write it, and then it’s never been such a big problem to be committed. Maybe because I don’t get plot bunnies all the time. Less distraction. (Or because I’m too lazy to try out every idea I get. Entirely possible.)

Kate: Me, I have a backlog of about thirty story ideas that I really want to work on, but only so many brain cells to go around. So I do have to fiddle once I get to the point of being able to move on to a new idea, to see which one has the most structure already put together in the back of my mind.

Ana: I’d be horrible with that. I’d just write what I most felt like writing at the time.

Kate: Sometimes I do, but they aren’t always the ones that are ready to be written. I need to be able to plot out the backbone of it in my head, have several scenes ready to go, before I can start.

Zoe: No matter which one I pick to write, I will spend most of my time wishing I’d picked a different one. (This is also how I read.)

Ana: Right now you’re reminding me of the rabbit in Winnie the Pooh. But yeah, the honey moon phase only lasts so long…

Zoe: Fortunately it comes back near the end.

I like how he makes a good book seem so simple! Concept + Characters x Conflict = Novel. Done! *sigh*

Kate: Yeah. I wish it was that easy. And it is, but it isn’t. That darn Wall…

Ana: Walls were made to be broken. Or something.

Zoe: He offers a bunch of questions you can ask yourself at any point in the story, in this section, and I am totally going to take those over to my laptop later and cling to them like a piece of driftwood in the sea, in hopes that they can keep my middle afloat long enough for the Coast Guard to show up with my ending.

Ana: Good luck! I’ll be here eating chocolate.

Zoe: I’ll be doing that too.

Kate: Chocolate for everyone!

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