26 June 2007

REPOST 5/25/05 How do you do it?

How do you do it? How do you write? Longhand or on the computer? What time of day? How long per day? How many words per month? I've never really understood why authors ask each other these questions. Why?

Okay...let's look at it. Why does it matter how I write? No, give me a compelling reason why it matters. I'm serious. .... You can't, can you? And, you shouldn't be able to.

There is a vast difference between studying the intricacies of the final story on paper and studying how I get those words there in the first place. There is a vast difference in asking my opinion for what to look for in an edit...or even edit tools that help you find errors and asking how I personally edit (on the computer or with red pen on printouts).

What is the difference? One is a tangible thing that can be used by many people. The other is internal to the individual author and is unlikely to be able to be copied or adopted by another en totum.

Truth time! How the words flow for me will not match how they flow for you or for Nora Roberts or for Stephen King. Each of us have our own brain functionality, home life, experiences, etc. For some people, the words flow in a noisy room with children playing at their feet and pen and paper on their laps. For others, those words flow on the train to work, in the coffee shop with an Alphasmart, or when everyone is asleep and the house is quiet. Some people cannot see their errors and need to hear them with ReadPlease. Some need crit parteners, and some find crit partners annoying. Whatever your brain demands of you to get the words on paper and edited, however the words flow without driving you crazy, you need to do it.

This is one of the reasons I hold writing classes and writing craft books in low esteem. That probably sounds strange, considering the fact that I teach classes, but it's really not. Many writing classes or craft books try to give you a template for writing a book. You do your story arc, outline, write this way... Bull! Not everyone, as I stated, can think that way. Such endeavors are only guaranteed to drive a pantser author absolutely bonkers.

There is no template for writing a book. There are no rules for how the words flow for you. They come how they come, and a smart author follows them...THEN hones whatever they have on paper in a manner that won't drive him/her crazy.

Writing is TYPICALLY a solitary art, though there are those who write as part of a couple or group. That is how their minds work, so they go for it. Writing is a solitary art, BECAUSE it is highly unlikely that two minds will be able to work so closely in synch as to allow the authors to follow the same regimen. Even Rodgers and Hammerstein worked separately and only came together at crunch time.

In addition to driving yourself crazy trying to do something that isn't natural for you, comparing yourself to other authors has another down side. Prolific authors often intimidate authors who aren't. It's not that they mean to do it, and the ironic thing is that the prolific authors usually understand something that the slower authors don't.

Quantity and quality have not even a passing resemblance, though some people will try to tell you that they are inversely correlated. Some people write quickly and well, some quickly and badly, some slowly and well...and some poor soul out there with the dream but not the talent or drive will write slowly, carefully and badly all in one fell swoop. How the words flow for you is the only thing of importance. Trying to force yourself to match someone else's output will only make you crazy. Okay...it will make your quality suffer, because ANYTHING you do that forces the words to come a different way than they are intended to is going to change your quality.

I should pause here to say that SOMETIMES enforcing artificial framework on yourself is a good thing. Some people just want to put pen to paper then get frustrated when the story doesn't come together. For them, they are not actually born pantsers, but they don't know how to be a plotter. Teaching craft does have merit AS LONG AS the teacher or book takes into account natural inclinations as well. The ones that don't are the ones that make me leery.

So...where does that leave us? The words flow for you how they flow for you. If you write quickly with pen and paper in a noisy room, you're happy doing it, the words are flowing, and what you're coming up with isn't absolute crap, DO IT! But, don't try to adopt someone else's style or compare your daily output to theirs. That way lies madness.

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