Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Working Method

Right now, I hate my working method.

That's because I'm in the least interesting part of it. The entire method goes like this: Write a first draft, which I do like a superstitious man running past a graveyard at night: Go really fast and don't look back. Second, print out the ms. and rewrite on the paper copy. This involves not only changing sentences but also scribbling new paragraphs on the back of sheets (SEE OVER) and entire new scenes on yellow legal pads, which then get inserted or taped in place. There is much crossing out and keeping of notes (for the first time) so that characters keep the same names, eye color, and diction throughout the ms. The third step is typing all this mess into the computer. Step four is a repeat of steps two and three, but on a less drastic scale, and step five is a clean-up edit.

I am now on step 3 of my YA fantasy. It's tedious and fiddly ("Change 'black eyes' to 'dark eyes' -- she hasn't been in a fight!") when it's not tedious and long (entire scenes typed in with one finger). This is the part where I always wish I had a secretary, but I don't, and anyway I doubt a secretary could read the writing jammed into margins and around the back. This typing-in has been going on for several days now, and will go on for several more, and as a measure of how boring it is: I welcome stopping to scrub the bathroom.

This seems to be the only way I can work. I never want to stop during a first draft; I enjoy rewriting on paper; I can't seem to edit on screen. So this is it. Once I'm on to draft three, I'll be fine, but in the meantime, I am not a happy author.

Other writers work in other ways. I envy them sometimes.

8 comments:

Tim of Angle said...

Dragon Naturally Speaking or Via Voce.
They were intended by God for your writing methodology.

bluesman miike Lindner said...

That's why writing lyrics is so much easier, Nancy. Speaking just for myself, I sit in the living room, listening to Bach harpsichord concertos and counting my toes. When The Muse, in Her Kindness, deigns to pay a visit, I am all attention. And my pen and paper are right there to hear Her. Never ignore Her! She might feel slighted, unappreciated. And She might not come again.

tycho said...

I haven't actually used it (I edit reasonably well on screen, or in hybrid method, and I type with all fingers) but my current laptop (which I got used for a song, basically) is a tablet pc. Which is mostly overrated (good for reading PDFs and what not,) but the PDF annotating tool is pretty nifty. Not so much in that it lets you write on the screen as I can do that better with pen and paper, but more that it lets you have "layers of annotations" which might let you avoid taping papers together, and the "(see over)'s"

I'm not sure if this is actually helpful, but it's what sprung to mind.

annie said...

This is totally how I do it. Always have and likely always will. I guess there has to be some work to the craft or everyone would want to do it.

aredshaw said...

Thank you so much for this blog. I am not a serious writer, but write seriously once a year for National Novel Writing Month. Having written two novels for that event has given me an appreciation for the craft of writing.

I read mostly science fiction and write the same. I have learned a lot about the real-life ins-and-outs of the writing life through your blog. Thank you for the insight.

Mike Flynn said...

I go in fits and starts. I usually rewrite a scene before going on to the next. So: Draft Scene 1. Next day: rewrite 1, draft Scene 2. Rewrite 2, draft Scene 3. And so on. Now and then, Return to Start and read through. If there is something I can't look up right away, I insert a note like this <<< Check eye color >>>. Then, when I search for <<< I pick up all these notes.

Pebble Texture said...

I used to love Step 3. That was when my handwritten mess of crossed-out sentences, margin notes, pasted-with-glue paragraph additions, etc. got transformed into clean, professional-looking typewritten text. Or at least, it was professional-looking if you could ignore the eraser marks and lumps of congealed Wite-Out.

These days I might start with several sheets of handwritten notes and diagrams, but the actual composing gets done in a word processor. When the work is cooking, composing with a word processor is like shaping clay. I just couldn't willingly go back to handwriting.

I do notice, though, that Microsoft Word is unwieldy for composing longer, more complex documents. It's too awkward and distracting to scroll through tens or scores of pages while composing, and that flowing sense of shaping clay gets lost. It could be that a handwritten manuscript would be easier to work with when the document gets longer than a certain page count. I should look into other word processing programs, too.

SLK said...

I found your site through darkroastedblend.com and was delighted to discover that you're a fellow Western New Yorker! As a painter I definitely understand how a sudden willingness to do household chores illuminates an UNwillingness to work. :) Whenever I find myself eager to do the dishes, then I know for certain that I'm procrastinating when I should be painting.

Happy to have found your blog, I look forward to reading your posts in the future. -Stacey