Writing Process

Hey folks. I know it has been a while since I last posted, so I thought I would post something hopefully kinda funny and a little informative.

If you’re just starting out like I am, then like me you may not have a ton of skills. Building new skills is a constant pursuit of mine. Well it is at least when I’m not procrastinating, fighting depression, or stuck deep in some mindless pursuit. I’m constantly trying to get myself into a consistent schedule. I’m starting to come around, but it is tough at times.

One of my original problems was thinking too much about what I was writing. Sometimes I know exactly what I want to write and the words just pour out of me. Other times I sort of know the gist of what I want to write about, but I don’t know how to get there. In those instances – which are far more common than I’d like – I worry and fret about what to write. I’ll often remove entire paragraphs or even pages of text because I decided to go another direction or it just didn’t “feel” right.

What I’ve come to discover however, was that I’m just doing this all wrong. The goal is simply to get the story out. As Ann Lamott says so eloquently in her book, Bird by Bird, “All first drafts are shit.” I’m probably paraphrasing because I don’t want to reach over the three feet it would take to pick up my copy of the book and find the actual entry, but I got the spirit of quote if not it exactly. That stuff that comes out of your fingers either by pen, pencil, keyboard, or maybe if you’re 10000 years old, a clay tablet, that stuff is all shit. You are going to have to re-write it. All of it. Maybe many, many times.

So why not just … get it out?

Get it out as quickly as possible. Just write whatever your stupid fingers tell you you want to write, and then later your sober, rational brain can read it and say “WTF was I trying to say here? Damn, you fingers write some real shit.” And then maybe you scratch that part out, or maybe you look at little more and go, “Oh wait, I was wrong. This is actually quite brilliant once you wash the shit off of it. I just need to re-write this part like … so …” and suddenly that part will be better than your first draft. As a side bonus, it will exist, which is what it will most likely NOT do if you fret about it unendingly.

For me the first draft is like pulling mud from a creek to try to make a dish or a pot. There’s a lot of mess and quite a bit of waste, but I’m new to this so I’m not going to kick myself in the ass anymore about it not being immediately perfect. I’m just going to do it. One day I may be able to do it without quite as much mess or waste, but it’s still mud. There’s no getting around that part. Hell even when I get my clay to the wheel, I still don’t know the exact shape of what I’m about to build, but I do have a good idea. Once the base shape is formed, I can modify that to my heart’s content. The fact remains that even at this step, it’s still really just mud, nicely shaped mud. There’s still more to do. So the process must be followed step by step in the proper order until one day someone is going to be eating out of the bowl or pot or whatever I made and they’ll never see, never even consider that at one point in time that thing they are eating from was once simple mud.

How freaking cool is that?

In my next post, I’ll provide some sample text from some sprints I’ve done recently. My average words per hour during the sprints was just over 2000. At the end of last NaNoWriMo, I wrote 15,000 words in about 4 hours over two days – so about 3750 words per hour. The difference in quality of my writing from 2000 to 3700 WPH is comical, but I DID get the story out with those 3750 words per hour. I probably would not have won NaNo 2018 had I wrote at 2000 WPH. Getting the story out is the most important, supreme number one, first bullet point thing period!!!!!11!11!11!!!!! (Was that emphasized enough?) 😀

No go forth and create something new.

© 2018, Joseph K Little. All rights reserved.

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The Revision Process for Book One – the Beginning

I mentioned this in a my post on finding out I had depression, but it’s a big deal so I’m going to restate it. I’ve finished my rough draft!!

WOO HOO!

I think I need to talk a little bit about how finishing my rough draft came to be before I start talking about how revision is going for me.

I STRUGGLED to finish my rough draft. I almost quit several times because I didn’t know where I was going on top of all of my natural insecurities. I’d started writing with a loose outline and quickly veered from it. Whenever I looked at where I was going versus where I planned to go, I decided that I liked my changes more than I liked the original loose outline, so I kept going. I got farther and farther into the weeds. I wasn’t exactly sure where I was going but turning back meant abandoning half or more what I had written, stuff I loved, and I wasn’t going to do that to myself. So I resolved that first I was going to finish. I was going to finish something, ANYTHING. Once I finished I would go back and fix everything, but I couldn’t change anything significant (which I always want to do) until I had finished the rough draft.

So I did what everyone told me to do but I fought the entire way. I stuck my ass in my chair, I put my hands on the keyboard, and I didn’t get up until two hours or 1000 words graced the pages.

As God as my witness, it was HARD.

Then one night, I’m working on this mystical element that I was using to connect the protagonist to her future mentor, and bam! There was the climax. Suddenly I was writing the final chapter. Where had it come from? Who the fuck cares? It worked, so I ramped up the tension, I dialed up the consequences, and I pushed my heroes to the limit forcing one to sacrifice something of him or herself for the other to prevent disaster.

When I finished I sat back and went, “wow”. I liked it. I liked it a LOT. But I knew the rough draft was broken in a dozen different places. I have really cool scenes that I know just aren’t going to make it to the final product. I cut an entire subplot. I have problems and characters introduced much later in the manuscript that I know need to be foreshadowed or introduced much earlier. I have issues with continuity. Finally I have no real external conflict, and while that might work for some stories, I think mine really needs a solid external conflict of some sort.

So I took a week off before revising.

Then a week turned into two, which turned into a month.

During the month I pitched around several ideas about what I might do to give my story some external conflict that paralleled or at least co-operated with my protagonist’s internal conflicts. I finally hit on a couple of different things I could do. One of those ideas was an externalization of her literally internal fears and desires. I asked my psychiatrist about this because it felt like something someone would read and yell about how I didn’t understand the ego and id or some such, but she thought it was a neat idea and was interested in reading it when completed. My writing coach was really excited about it too.

But I was scared.

Yes. I was scared. This was revision time. I had come to the conclusion that “the Rough Draft is Shit” (see Anne Lamontt‘s Bird by Bird). But revisions? Revisions are supposed to be better, and I didn’t know I had it in me.

Finally, after letting way too much time go by without writing, I decided to test out my ideas. I found the single most deplorable, sickest, and potentially reader-alienating scene in my book about a ghoul, and I rewrote that scene with all relevant changes in mind. The rewrite was about 6000 words, and I kind of loved it. But I’m a little bit of a sick puppy so I figured I would reach out to a few friends and family to see if they would give me some feedback.

Almost everyone loved it.* I mean of course they would, they’re friends and family, but those that loved it, really loved it. They wanted to read the whole thing right then, but I didn’t have the whole thing. I just had that one scene. But their wanting to read more makes me want to write more. So that’s what I’ve started to do.

This week I’m nearing 21k words revised. Almost 14k revised this week alone. I’ve been putting off blog posts because I’ve been writing, which is nice, but my idea for this blog was to always leave you folks in the loop on the off chance that one day, someone would be looking for some inspiration, stumble upon this site, and find out that they are not alone. This shit is hard, but if you do it, you’ll reap vast rewards even if you never sell a single copy. This is the most fulfilled I have felt in a long time – although that could be the drugs talking. Whatever. I’ll take it.

If you’ll excuse me, I need to do some more writing tonight. I need another 2.2k to hit my weekly target. My deadline for Revision 1 being done is Sept 30, 2017 which of this writing is 49 days away.

I’ll try to keep you posted.

Now go forth and create something new.

* The only person not to love it didn’t expect and adult horror novel. They were expecting a YA chapter. I felt bad.

© 2017, Joseph K Little. All rights reserved.

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