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working writer wending her way through the labyrinth that is self-publishing

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Creative vs. critical voice

I’ve been reading Dean Wesley Smith’s article entitled: Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing (http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?p=4477) and it’s making me think about creative versus critical voice. What Dean says is that we should always write in creative voice even when editing.  Furthermore, he doesn’t believe in the editing we all think we have to do—draft after draft after draft all in the name of improvement.  I’m puzzling over this because of how many drafts I’ve done on my trilogy and what I’ve accomplished—for one thing I know that I did not stay in creative voice.

My husband says the first draft of The Moonstone was the best. It meandered all over, with lots of description with no hook at the beginning. I changed it because I wanted to have an agent pick it up—and so I had a hook in the first line. It didn’t go over the requisite 65,000 words. The first pages moved rapidly into the plot line. Did an agent pick it up? No. But by then I was on my way to cutting and slashing, taking out descriptive passages that “didn’t further the narrative” and making sure that the plot moved forward at all costs.

Dean writes his first draft, corrects for mistakes and typos and so on and then hands it to his reader—of course he’s a professional, having written numerous books. We can’t all do that, especially as debut authors, can we? And what about staying in creative voice? I’m not sure I understand how to do so since my internal editor is  strong and opinionated. Clues need to be noticed when we’ve left creative voice, I suppose—I ran some changes by my husband recently—I took out articles, ‘the’ specifically, since I had two of them in a sentence. When I read the sentence with and without ‘the’, the one with flowed better. Maybe that’s a way to decipher the code for creative or critical—reading aloud…

One thing I can say is, if I feel energy behind what I’m writing then I should keep going. If not, wait until the muse is there again, whispering in my ear.

What do you think about creative versus critical voice? Do you know when you’re in one or the other? How many drafts do you do?


  1. I do one draft, editing chapter by chapter as I submit them to an online worshop- the OWWSFF work. Then I submit the fairly polished whole novel to my online crit group. Then I submit to agents after following any further suggestions/nits etc. Finally, a year later, maybe, I'll reread it through a stranger's eyes and make a final edit, because quite often ideas, daydreams, new possibilities surface. After that. Nothing. There's nothing worse or more futile than obsesssing when there are other things to do.

  2. I like the idea of online groups...but don't think I could wait a year for final edits! although what I'm working on now has been over 3 years in process...it's good to have a concrete plan like yours...thanks for your comment. What is OWWSFF? (never been good with acronyms)

  3. I'm glad that link was of interest to you. I found it very encouraging. I think reading aloud is a great practice, I often read my writing aloud as I'm working on it. You speak of energy. I think to me that is what I experience as luminosity. Some passages seem to emit light, and that is what I want my writing to do. I'm finishing my first novel without any real hope of a publisher. Recently my husband asked me about my story arc and I just laughed. The plot is a mess, there are all kinds of loose ends, lots of events that don't really seem to add anything, but they were fun to write and I think would be fun to read. Does Thomas Pynchon think he has to have a neat, constantly advancing plot? Not that I think I come anywhere close to him, but he proves to me that some of the ideas people have about what makes writing good just aren't universal laws.

  4. Luminosity--great word--I also found the article encouraging...I'm self-publishing after hitting the brick wall so now I'm not so worried about all the "rules". It's all so subjective--and if you enjoy writing it and it has what you call luminosity I say keep going! Maybe when you stop for breath have a trusted reader read it...

  5. Hi, friend: You have been doing just what I've been doing and am still doing--find glitches and polishing, to which I've added a very slow learning curve on zipping an HTML onto Kindle. After two months of obsessive computer punching, I finally said that whatever it out there, well, that's it--we'll see how long I can stand the withdrawal. Good luck to you. I think you are wise to be using outside help. Next time I will and perhaps return a little sanity to my days. See you soon!