Monday, September 18, 2006

Notes to Self

I don't write a lot about writing here, mostly because I'm hyper-aware that no two writers work in the same way, and for me to talk about my process seems likely to bore folks to death. But sometimes I find it helpful to read about those things--I like the interviews in Locus, for instance, because it's interesting to contrast my own work style with other peoples'. Once in a while I even find something helpful.

So, I'm posting some reminders here, as much for myself as for anyone else. (Also, I need to distract myself from baseball, because I am superstitious and dare not speak of it.) If you find them helpful or thought-provoking, great. If not, maybe, just maybe, there might be another writer somewhere who has a blog who talks about writing. Maybe one or two. IT'S POSSIBLE.

My reminders:

1. One Bad Writing Day Does Not Make You a Bad Writer.

I needed this one this weekend. Spent probably five hours on Friday scribbling on a chapter only to look at it afterwards and realize it was dren (that means crap) of the "Author-figuring-out-backstory-on-the-page-and-stuffing-in-tons-of-information-unimportant-to-the-story" variety. Spent all day Saturday convinced that I was a worthless hack destined to never write anything worthwhile. Played hours of online poker, considered the possibility of taking up gambling as a profession. Decided that I would need to take up wearing sunglasses inside and/or buy a jaunty hat for that to work. Bemoaned my inability to progress as a writer, considered abandoning the novel in progress, wondered what sinister conspiracy was behind every person who had ever said nice things about my fiction. Watched bad movies on cable. Sunday, went stir crazy, went to a noisy cafe, and wrote out a new version of the chapter that didn't suck. Now, perhaps I needed the day of angst, I'm not sure. (See #4, below.) At least I've brought it down to a day from 3-4 weeks. But man, am I a drama queen sometimes. In my head, at least.

2. Read What You're Writing.

More than once I've struggled with a short story for weeks, only to realize that for whatever reason I haven't been reading short stories. My novel concepts tend to seem messy and unfocused unless I'm reading novels. I get excited by the idea of working on YA or kids' stuff when I read YA or kids' novels, by comics when I'm reading Warren Ellis or Gail Simone, by movies and TV and radio when I'm binging on one or the other. I know that some people find that reading distracts from their own work, but I need it. I need to consume stories, and specifically I need stories of the sort that I'm working on. In part it's a structure thing--reading other people's short stories while I'm working on my own helps me internalize the ways in which short stories work. But it's also an inspiration thing; either I come away from a book or a story thinking how great it was and how much it makes me want to write, or I come away thinking how awful it was and how much it makes me want to write.

3. Fix It In Rewrite.

I don't usually have trouble remembering this, to be honest. But once in a while I have to stop and tell myself that it's OK to write down a crappy sentence in the first draft, to scribble down the not-right word, to leave the cliche there for the moment. Sometimes it's painful. If I make myself cringe I will write helpful notes like "ARRGH!" or "CRAP!!!!!" in the margins. If the passage needs more description (description is always the last thing I think about), I write in the international sign for Add Description: a circled plus sign. Two, if I need a lot. (This is why none of you will ever see my first drafts, ever . . . not that you would be able to read them anyway.) The main thing is to push on through and finish the draft, to get the sequence of events and interjections and conversations more or less set. It can always be prettied up later.

4. Don't Write All the Time.

I really, really, like to write. I know that not everyone does. But for the most part, despite the struggles, I'm most content when I am scribbling in yellow legal pads or trying to decipher said scribbles and type them into the computer. The problem is, if I take that pad out everywhere I go, I don't get much done. My brain needs to work things out for a while before I'm ready to work on most things. I need to remember to take walks and just watch and listen and relax (as much as that last is possible). I need to, um, socialize and travel and stuff. The thing about being an introvert is I convince myself that since socializing is hard, I don't need it. And while too little socializing is better for me than too much (trust me, I know whereof I speak), none at all is not so very good. Not for me and not for my writing. People are what I write about, and if I'm just writing about myself all the time it's going to get old.

OK, back to obsessing over Twins coverage work.

4 Comments:

Blogger David Moles said...

I really, really, like to write.

You suck, Schwartz.

12:19 AM  
Blogger Dave said...

Says the Campbell-nominated, Tiptree-shortlisted man. Guess I'll take it.

9:21 AM  
Blogger David Moles said...

Says the Campbell-nominated, Tiptree-shortlisted man...

...who hasn't finished a single story this year.

10:55 AM  
Blogger Dave said...

Gosh, let me think. You haven't undergone any significant life upheavals recently, have you? Say, a big move or something? Something that might disrupt your creative rhythms for a while?

Nah, that couldn't be it.

'sides, you've got three months before the year is out.

10:59 AM  

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