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Lakeshore
An author of no particular popularity

Jay Lake
Date: 2007-04-04 21:26
Subject: More on getting better
Security: Public
Tags:process, writing
In the comments thread to my recent post on getting better, iamrazorwing asks:

"There are so many little trips and triggers which are largely invisible to a casual perusal, and we file them out of our prose over time without ever quite realizing they are there."

How, exactly? By writing more? By being more conscientious while you're writing? By getting consistently valuable feedback?

I know that I don't make the same mistakes I did when I first started writing, but now I'm making brand new ones. I can only hope that's natural.


My answer:

"How, exactly? By writing more? By being more conscientious while you're writing? By getting consistently valuable feedback?"

Really, all of the above. Writing more is the key, at least as far as I'm concerned. There's a threshold that happens when you've been writing seriously a while, at the pro level, with good workshop(s) in your life, where you pass from unconscious competence to conscious competence. I'm on that transition now -- call it semiconscious competence. I used to need to beaten over the head to see my mistakes, because I thought all my stuff was fabulous. Of course, none of it sold back then... These days I'm able to identify errors-of-craft and development issues for myself, then work through them gradually, usually through a process of conscious education, followed by conscious practice, followed by internalization (read: ignoring the whole thing for a while), until the change emerges in my writing.

"I know that I don't make the same mistakes I did when I first started writing, but now I'm making brand new ones. I can only hope that's natural."

Extremely natural. It's a sign of development. In a slightly different context, I have a friend who talks about "trading up to a better class of problems." Ie, too many book deadlines as a problem, vs. not having sold anything. Ideally you're trading up to a better class of mistakes.


As bram452 recently pointed out, if you're being published, you're already in a top fraction.

Hell, even being mediocre at a commercial level is incredibly difficult and a whole lot of work. Excellence? An aspiration, not a destination.
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juliabk
User: juliabk
Date: 2007-04-05 04:45 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Shoot, *finishing* stories puts a writer in the top 10%, or so I've been told by editors and agents.
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