Why Writers Need a Split Personality

I’m finishing up reviewing the galleys for Veiled Mirror this week.  This is my first experience with having one of my novels published.  I’ve reviewed the “to be published” copy for my short stories, but this is a much, much bigger job.  Going over the edits and the galleys are very detail oriented jobs.  As much as you try to turn in the very best manuscript you can when you submit (and thus go over it many times) the final work done for the publisher is even more nerve-wracking.  This is it.  Your last chance to get it right.

And it’s completely different from the work of composing the story in the first place.

Whether a fiction writer’s technique is to plot everything before writing the first word, or to begin with nothing more than the barest glimpse of a character or situation, the process of forcing a gestalt of emotion into the linear medium of words is a challenge.  It’s rather like sculpting.  You start with “what if?”  You chat with imaginary people, you watch them solve their problems, pose new ones, then change their childhood traumas and start all over again.  You create an approximation of what you want to say and then add or pare away until the story, the right story, is revealed.

Two very different skill sets.  Two different parts of the brain dancing with one another.  Or fighting.  Because you don’t want the wrong one popping up when the other is supposed to be in charge.  That’s probably one of the biggest struggles an author of fiction faces:  wrestling the Editor or the Creator into a straight-jacket when it’s not their turn to play.

Detail thinking, and global thinking.  The Editor and the Creator.  Sometimes they fight like five-year-olds in the back seat.  It’s my turn!  No, it’s mine!  Don’t touch that!  I will if I want to!

How do writers get these two to behave?  I know some authors who write their first drafts rough and fast so they can get it all out before their internal Editors can interfere.  That idea appeals to me, but I’ve never worked that way.  So far, I’ve written using rolling edits.  I let my Creator do her thing, then the next day I read what I wrote the day before to get up to speed, doing light edits as I go.  Once the “first” draft is finished the Editor begins more extensive revisions.  It’s harder to silence the Editor when she isn’t needed working this way, but so far it seems to be working for me.

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