Sunday, October 08, 2006

 

Creative/Critical

That Jane Espenson, she's one smart cookie. I've been directing new writers to her blog for a while now, since her advice on writing spec scripts for television often contains nuggets of wisdom applicable to writing prose as well (and comics, and film, and anything else). In her most recent post is one such gem.
"I think sometimes we read our own material with the part of the brain that wrote it, when we should turn on the evaluation part. Don't collaborate with your creative mind's desire that the reader approach the script all blank, trusting and without any interest in anticipating where the story is going. Read with your crafty, suspicious, 'televisionwithoutpity.com' critical viewer brain instead. If you fool IT, then you've got something."
This is something that I didn't learn until I'd been writing for a while. Something that seems brilliant when you're writing can, when viewed from a slightly different angle, turn out to be hackneyed and cliche, at best, and downright stupid, at worst.

In my own process, I've built in cycles of self-evaluation just as Jane describes; my process is somewhat idiosyncratic, though, in that I do all of the "creative" work of plotting in the outline phase, so by the time I sit down to actually write the plot has been through any number of these evaluation cycles. In fact, I'm in the middle of one such cycle with End of the Century, breaking down and rebuilding one of the novel's central conceits, since on reevaluating it last week I decided it really didn't work as well as I'd originally thought it would. The voice I hear in my head in this kind of evaluation is that of a tough reader, or a particularly harsh critic. I try to anticipate the worst objections anyone could have to the story as it stands, and then account for them. I don't always catch them (as tough readers and harsh critics are always quick to point out, when they read the finished work), but the fact that I've caught some of them, at least, results in a stronger plot, and hopefully a better novel.

And, apropos of very little, here's a picture of Allison and me hobnobbing with TV people at the Hugos reception at the 2006 WorldCon. From left to right, that's BSG writer Anne Cofell Saunders and her date, Jane Espenson, me, Allison, Caroline Symcox and her husband Paul Cornell, the Hugo-nominated Doctor Who writer and international man of mystery.


Comments:
Do you know if Paul is going to be at WFC this year? It would be good to see him again.
 
I don't think so. If I recall correctly, WorldCon was going to be their one US convention this year. I seem to recall him leaving the question of WFC 07 open for discussion, but that could just be wishful thinking on my part.
 
It's very kind of you to miss me. When is WFC this year? I'm kind of addicted to cons now, when I should be working.
 
First weekend in November this time out, Paul. November 2-5, I believe.
 
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