Archive for July 17th, 2012

Continuing the Thought: Writing Process

I mentioned last post about my reaction to Wendig’s post. One of the things that post got me thinking about was Neil Gaiman’s process as an example of something I’ve learned from.  I may have mentioned it here before (but it’s ben so long ago I’ve forgotten if I have), but Gaiman suggests here and here part of his process.

The second link is one I’ve only recently found (while searching for the first). The relevant take-away there is:

…Novels I write in longhand. For novels, I like the whole first and second draft feeling, and the act of making paper dirty… Working in fountain pen is good because it slows me down just enough to keep my handwriting legible.

He also mentions using two pens – with different inks – to track each day (when writing in a journal).

Which leads to the first link. I had gotten into a funk where attempts at writing while staring at a computer screen wasn’t working for me (something that’s reared it’s head recently that I can only describe as “editor at work”). Somewhere around the time I saw the post above, I was looking for something… something to get me out of my head and rekindle the joy of writing that was there but just wasn’t finding its way out of my head.

Along came Neil with his fountain pens.

So I tried it. And it started working. I could scribble my way down the page and still have enough flexibilty to scribble notes in the margin as I went  (“add this” or “look this up”). I can scratch out a line quicker than I can click and drag to highlight and delete. There was some psychological tipping point of actually seeing physical pages stacking up as I went, not just a counter at the bottom of a screen. By going longhand, I found myself less focused on how it looked and more on getting words down.

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More Penmonkey…

I’ve shared Penmonky wisdom before… for those just tuning in, hop over the Chuck Wendig’s site to drink from the source. This is no different, some things that I’ve heard before but it’s only recently starting to sink in.

Lesson for life:  You must be ready to receive the information and advice from others before you actually hear it.

As in life, so with writing… at least in my case. I am an info junkie – if you’re familiar with the “True Colors” test, I ping Green (with a score of 17). That suggests I’m analytical (sometimes to a fault). In jobs, it means I look for systems to build a process, then look for ways to improve that process.  With regards to writing, however, it means I have read a lot of reference or “How To” books looking for a system. An elusive quest, pure myth quest, since each project grows differently, and a general process can only grow from doing the work. But even knowing that doesn’t stop me from still looking.

One of the areas I enjoy looking into are other writer’s approaches. On the one hand, it gives a wide array of options to experiment with while still figuring out what works for me. On the other hand, seeing how so many different writers do things helps to destroy the myth of “you must do things this way if you want to be a writer” (the reverse of this is validation – that approach you’re considering? Yes, probably a very viable one.)   (Only exception, “To be a writer, you must write.” Can’t really get around that one.)

Which gets me here, and this is turning out to be a little more than the straight Penmonkey post I started out writing… Hmm…

What started this post was Wendig’s entry here: I’m at the point where I am working on a project, novel length, and must finish* (the sooner the better). Recently converting to the “Plotter/Outliner” ethic, I’m still trying to figure out how deep of an outline – how thorough in my advanced, pre-writing plotting – I want to go. In his post, Wendig mentions part of his process as:

I figure out my major story turns, broken out into acts.

Then I start jotting down plot beats — this happens, then this happen, then that, then this. Maria dies. The unicorn ascends to the Aluminum Throne. John steals the Camero. The end. How many of these beats I outline isn’t preset; I just keep going until the thing is done. The beats are generally large and sequence-shaped rather than small and scene-flavored. The key thing is to make sure I hit all my tentpoles — meaning, those plot events that are needed for the story to stand up and not collapse upon itself.

I think this is kind of where I’ve finally stumbled, at least for now, for this project.

Something else he mentions: “I often outline a number of novels far ahead of the writing” is something I’ve been struggling with as well. Lot’s of things I want to develop/write, and I know outlining (way) in advance will help with jumping to the next project after finishing one. So, validation for me that I can thwack the inner critic with.

The rest of the post is good stuff as well, but I’m just not there yet. Not quite in the right mental position for it to make my mental writing-centric tuning fork hum.

*Requirement for the MFA… consider it the uber-deadline, where I personally would like to have a draft done long before getting anywhere near having to defend it.

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