First off? Some of you like to talk to me by hitting “reply” to my emailed posts. Which is very cool. I like it a bunch.
However, if you’re using one of Microsoft’s email services, they don’t like my email server. Which means I can’t send a response via that method. This is an annoying thing caused by three other things: 1) Microsoft’s policies, 2) Rackspace’s policies, since I host my email server with them, and 3) my policy of using only my own server for email. So if you want a response…please include some other form of contact information? I hate leaving folks thinking I’m ignoring them. But I’m pretty hard-nosed about the “using only my own server” thing. Reasons are in the privacy book. I’m barely willing to use email at all, actually.
A funny thing happened with the privacy book’s print-version proof! I got it in the mail a day early. Which was neat, ’cause all previous orders from CreateSpace had come in late. But…it came with the wrong cover. The exterior is for a novel called Burnt Devotion by Rebecca Ethington. My first thought? “Cool! The book’s all incognito!”
But I do hope it was an isolated event. Sort of. Maybe. It’d definitely be funnier if it happened every time, for all buyers. Meanwhile…hey, Rebecca? If you see this post? I like your cover.
Moving on. I wrote a while back about a writing process that involved getting up and starting to write fiction pretty much immediately. I used a timer set for 25 minutes, and would write nonstop without editing. Sometimes I’d even use a device/font combination that rendered my typing completely unreadable. I’d take a 5-minute break, then do it again. With four sessions in roughly two hours, I’d get something close to 3000 words.
I’ve tried something very similar with dictation. I use shorter time periods, and produce more words. However, cleaning up the text afterward is a major chore. And I’m not very comfortable with dictation when other people can hear what I’m saying. I don’t mind screwing up, but I like that to happen in private!
Meanwhile? The privacy book was nonfiction. It turned out I could work on it out in the living room, while surrounded/interrupted by family. I had two monitors set up, with one for the text I was writing and the other for online research. In contrast with my fiction-writing process, I had very little trouble getting into a “flow state.” I could just, you know, deal with things as they came up and keep going. No trouble at all.
Now…I think that just means I’m better at creating nonfiction than I am at fiction. Not necessarily that the nonfiction turns out to be better than the fiction, but just that creating nonfiction is easier. Why would that be? Well, maybe years and years of software development? In rooms often filled with (at best) cubicles? I wrote a lot of code. I also wrote a lot of email and documentation. Whereas, with fiction…I’ve only ever managed it, reliably, in a room by myself. First thing in the morning. Before even email, though not before coffee.
So. Lately I’ve been reading a lot of things on Dean Wesley Smith’s website. He is very much against the idea of creating a first draft that is allowed to suck. Instead he uses a process he calls “cycling”–which means he writes some words, maybe 500 or so, and feels a bit stuck, so he goes back and edits them. Then he produces another batch of words. And so on. When he’s done, he’s done–with a fairly clean first draft.
To me, that sounds like a great idea. And I think I’m moving in that direction with my fiction. But you know what? I think Dean underestimates the power of his own brain. I think his process is wonderful, and I also think he’s completely wrong when he criticizes the crappy-first-draft approach.
My theory: Dean has learned to achieve a flow state almost automatically while writing fiction. For those of us who haven’t, the (literally?) unreadable first draft has some value. Does that mean we’ll always need the must-keep-writing-no-matter-what approach? Maybe. But maybe not. Maybe we’ll learn to do what he does, over time. I feel myself moving in that direction. I’m not there yet.
Maybe some people need outlines before they feel comfortable writing fiction, for the same reason? They’re a confidence-booster? That doesn’t work for me, at all. I get immediately bored if I try to either create an outline or write to one. But maybe. For some people.
Fundamentally, processes that result in books that actually get written and published are probably good things, and processes that lead to work that gets hung up are probably not good things. In the software world, we “ship” or we go broke. Or both. But shipping is important. I think the same is true for writers. Though, if you really prefer to write and rewrite and strive for perfection? With the same work, potentially forever? Well, okay. Some folks like gardening, too, and sometimes in their backyards where very few if any other people ever see the results. Nothing wrong with that. For me, it’s not like that. I probably wouldn’t write much, if at all, if I didn’t think people would read it.
Is this earth-shaking? Probably not. I’ve just been thinking about it a lot, and I wanted to put it out there. So I have.