J.D. Moyer

sci-fi writer, beat maker, self-experimenter

Quality Control: Getting the Work Done Despite Your High Standards

Over the last few years I’ve been compiling notes on good writing technique. My favorite authors have been generous with their advice, and I’ve been collecting it, analyzing it, and trying to apply it to my own work. How to build suspense, how to create relatable characters, how to construct a good sentence, a good scene, a good story.

Two problems …

Problem 1: Since I don’t yet know, deep down, how to intuitively do all these things, it’s hard sometimes to get started. I feel the weight of these standards, and sometimes it stops me dead in my tracks.

Solution 1: Plow ahead. Just start, even if I don’t feel ready.

Problem 2: Once I do get started and get some momentum, I generally forget about all the technique notes. My brain isn’t powerful enough to both write and think about the quality of writing at the same time.

Solution 2: Drafts. Write it down, then fix it. Rinse and repeat. Apply standards in waves. Get feedback from trusted readers and do something about it. Sheila Williams (editor of Asimov’s) just wrote me a nice rejection letter, pointing out that she enjoyed the story except for one unbelievable plot point. I told Kia about it. She said “I already told you that!” Doh.

Same applies to music production. To create something that can compete in the marketplace, not only does the work have to be inspired and original and exciting, but there can’t be anything wrong with it. The work, like a soccer team, is as strong as its weakest link (technique). The reader and/or listener might not be able to identify why they couldn’t relate to your flawed creation, but there will be a clear reason. For music: muddy production, random arrangements, no hook, no groove, poor performances. For fiction: cliched plot, sloppy prose, wooden characters, endless exposition, poor sentence construction. And a dozen other reasons, for each.

So that’s my process at the moment. I’ll be here, working hard, checking in to share my experiences.

Good luck with your projects!!


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  1. Andrew and Amber Reeder

    Awesome. Really enjoyed this.

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