Monday, February 16, 2009

Writer Rituals

I like hanging out with other writers. We usually begin by complaining about those things we CAN’T control—the price of necessities such as paper, ink, and food; the state of the publishing business; bad reviews or, worse, no reviews; rejection; spouses who expect that we actually make a living; and agents and editors who don’t put us at the center of their universe.
After we’ve worn that out, sometimes we discuss craft.
I like to ask my colleagues about their writing process, especially in those areas where we disagree (writer throw-down, anyone?)
I ask questions such as: Do you write in the early morning or the dead of night? Does your muse live at home, in a dedicated studio, at the beach, or at the local coffee shop? Do you write to music or demand silence? With or without chocolate? On the computer or in longhand on handmade paper? Mac or PC? Times New Roman or Courier?
Do you seek critique from others, or does early feedback kill your creative spirit? Do you like to travel in a pack or seek isolation?
Do you do extensive outlining and preparation before you sit down to write, or do you just launch, assuming it will somehow work out? Once you begin to write, do you write headlong, barely pausing to eat or sleep, or do you write for two hours and quit for the day? Is your daily word count 250? 500? 1000? 2000? Do you measure your progress in pages? Words? Time? Pounds of cashews?
When you revise, do you edit their original draft, or rewrite the thing entirely from the first paragraph? (that notion gives me the shivery-shudders, but that’s just me). Do you write the entire piece, and then revise? Or revise as you go?
Do you look forward to sitting down in front of your computer—hand-stitched journal—audio recorder—private stenographer—to write, or is it actually painful? Do you have to be “in the mood” or do you create your mood by forcing the issue, by sitting down and getting your hand moving?
Ask a few dozen successful writers the answers to these questions, and you’ll get many different answers. There is no one right way to write, and very few unbreakable rules. The wisdom of other writers can be helpful to you—but writing by its nature is a solitary endeavor. Each person has to find her own best method, and her own true path.


Barbara Martin said...

All of the questions put forth evoke different feelings in me; but the one about rewriting from the first paragraph after the first draft is indeed chilling. It would have to be an awful first draft to do that.

I tend to begin to revise once I have three-quarters of the first draft done, which tends to produce more polished work at the beginning and rough parts to rub at the end. As for ending I never know what they will be until I get there.

Jake Scholl said...

When I write somthing, the process is always different. Sometimes I outline, others I do some stream of consciousness writing then write.
I always edit at the end, of each draft.

CMShields said...

There's a book I'm writing for publish--I got the idea a few years ago while on the ride home from somewhere with my mom. I was thinking of how to dramatically start a book and WHOOSH! here comes this idea. I FINISHED it during the summer. I was so proud of it, thought it was the best writing in the world.
Then I went back and read it again sometime near the end of last year. I barely made it past the third chapter. It was awful. But I still loved the caricatures, and it was a good idea.
So I started to rewrite it from the beginning. I'm just got to chapter 36, page 101. And I barely recognise the story. Practically the only things that didn't change were the caricature's names and the VERY BASIC PLOT--defeat the bad guy.
It's hard word, but it's worth it. And knowing that I've finished it once makes it easier to finish it again, although writer's block still comes after certain chapters.

CMShields said...
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