Thoughts on Process, August 2015

One of the things that I’ve struggled wiith since finishing my MFA program back in January has been production. Wait, let me roll that back. Not so much the production of ideas, but examining the idea of maximizing production during the brief moments of time that I get on an average weekday (the only writing time I can guarantee, with any regularity).

It’s actually a thing that I’ve been considering for some time, since my chief goal (being a consistantly publishing writer) demands output, but I knew my available writing time would be scarce for a few years once hint of the twins surfaced in 2013. Many of the consistantly producing writers that I read/heard about their process were doing two things: knowing (roughly) what their endings are, and do some kind of outlining.

Disclaimer: as I worked througgh my thesis, I did have the rogh idea of the ending (“showdown must happen!”) but no idea how that was going to happen, nor the road to that showdown. Basically, I had my beginning before I started the program, and new the rough ending, but otherwise pantsed the middle. Longhand, then typed it up.

And, knowing how long it took me to write that novel, I knew I needed to rethink my approach.

So, graduation back in January, and despite having ideas that wanted to be written, I was still trying to wrap my head around figuring out what might work for me. Dragon, and it’s “transcripton” process (record a file elsewhere, then letting the software handle the conversion to text, instead of being connected to the computer and talking real-time), was a crapshoot with the equipment, pacing and how I was generating the raw audio. For a 20 minute recording a year ago, about 4 pages of text, I spent more time correcting the text before I could edit it that it turned me off for months to the idea, despite knowing the potential.

But the “Outlining the Mary Way” episode of Writing Excuses kept naggging me. It’s one I’ve frequently relistened to, printed out Mary Robinettte Kowal’s supporting blog posts, and while it made sens at the time, something still wasn’t firing. (Honestly, I think it was still haviing thesis on the brain at the time, and even though I was thinking of other projects, I had grad school stuff that was nagging my focus.)

I read a few self-pubbed craft ebooks the first part of the year, of the “Mega Word Count in a Short Time” variety, and they supported the “outline/know what you want to wrrite before you sit down to write” concept. One of them also advocated dictation. I had also read comments from Kevin J Anderson, about how he developed his dictation process, that when he started it was more about recording his brainstorming sessions instead of trying to spit full prose scenes.

Connections were happening, and I was starting to figure out an approach.

Then, a group of alumni from the grad program got together to continue the crit partner process (read: acccountability), and I jumped at the chance to test said approach.

So, for right now, here’s what things look like:

Portable dictation, hashing out the story arc, exploring the “what ifs” and “elsing the story.” Then, doing it again, embelishing and expanding, looking for scenic beats, etc. 

For s&g’s, I decided to install the Dragon iPad app, to see if it’s performance was any better than the regular version. (The app is free, performance was meh. Network connection needed, and it can only process about a minute at a time.)

Then, I decided to combine them – and that was today’s experiment: record my blathering, but concurrently talk into the Dragon app to get something onto a page to edit (or, a more fleshed guide for frantic typing), later.

In about 45 minutes, working from a rough beat outline, I generated what I’m calling an ugly 3000 words (about 4.25 single spaced pages). That’s expanding a rough 1/2 page, 4 paragraph plan for the first 4 chapters. I call it ugly” because it’s mostly surface level plot stuff, telling things, etc, not going deep into paintingg the pictures and emotions.

But it’s a start, and I can mold from there.

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