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Rebooting! Also, plotters vs. pantsers vs. me! Who’s gonna win?

Yesterday’s 30-minute session came to 1041 words. So, are you a writer? If you are, you’ll probably know exactly what I mean when I say there’s no way to win with these numbers. I mean, at over 2000 words/hour a rational person would say that’s just swell. On the other hand? Some people are supposedly reaching speeds of over 4000 words per hour. I’ve heard rumors of 7000. And since that 30 minutes was all I did, the total count for the day isn’t all that impressive.

Is it faster in every single measurable way than I’ve been managing, on average, for the last couple of years? Yes. By a lot. How does that matter? I need to DO ALL THE THINGS! RIGHT NOW!

Heh. The people making the high-word-count claims, at least the ones I’m familiar with, also say they are outlining in advance. Sometimes even going beyond that to include pre-writing “beats” for each chapter. The beats could be anything from simple sentences to descriptions of scenes, potentially including information about setting, character development, dialogue versus action, or whatever. They also do other pre-writing work on some or all of the above before getting to the actual writing of words intended to be read by other people. That’s…a lot of work, right? Good for them! (I like stories more than work, though. I sit down, or more likely wander around all over the place, and tell myself a story. Weird and not correct, maybe?)

Truth: am I totally opposed to writing this way, in theory? Nah, not so much. But there are two primary problems. First, the whole idea bores me, and all my attempts to outline thus far (in advance, anyway–sometimes I do write an outline as I go along, and in fact I’m doing that with the current book) have led to insta-avoidance, the precise opposite of a “flow” state. Second, I wonder just how long all this outlining and pre-writing takes? If that’s figured into the words-per-hour count, what do you end up with then?

Of course I could be completely wrong about all this, which wouldn’t be unusual. Maybe the next book will tell me it needs an outline, or I’ll find a way to make myself do it and see what happens, or the pixies will write the damn thing instead of leaving dirty dishes for me to find in the kitchen of a morning. Or maybe “the reason” I don’t need to outline is that I cycle back and edit my work as I go along (not via dictation, or at least mostly not…definitely not via transcription, though if there were a way to do that I’d probably try it). Or maybe I’ll just get better at this over time, and either speed way up or slow way down and require less editing, or I’ll begin to love rewriting things six times, or the answers will all be different with different books, or whatever. Time will tell.

In the ever-lasting “plotters” vs. “pantsers” debate (as in “writing by the seat of your pants”), sometimes the plotters say that pantsers have no idea where their book is going, so they’ll have to throw out tons of work, or they’ll end up with a mess. Some of the pantsers buy that notion, and actually do either or both of those things. Hmm.

As for me…I wonder: why is it that, when I begin a chapter, I’m going to know less about what I need to write than a person who outlined in advance would? I mean, that person presumably wrote the outline before starting the book, right? But as I begin a new chapter, I ought to know more about the book than I did before I started. Right?

Both of us are aware of things like story structure, character arcs, and so forth? Maybe so. The plotter probably changes the outline as she goes along, and the pantser is probably aware of what, in some sort of meta-writing sense, needs to be going on. I’m not sure either is theoretically better than the other. The goal, it seems to me, is to reach a flow state and give yourself permission to write. Does an outline help with that? Use it! Does it get in the way? Eschews it! So says me, if not all that darn-well grammatically. You’re welcome.

Arguments on both sides strike me as suspiciously self-serving. Some of the pantsers say plotters end up with formulaic plots, and also say that if they don’t know where their book is going that must be true for the reader too. Uh…that argument reminds me of the folks who don’t like open-source software, because it’s presumably easy to find bugs/exploits in it. Right, but see, creating software you don’t know how to break is easy. Creating software nobody knows how to break is quite a bit harder. The more eyes on it, the better, I think. In other words, the fact that you don’t know where your story is going as you write it has nothing at all to do with its predictability to someone else. Just saying.

Do what works, I say. If it quits working, do something else. Try other things even if what you’re doing is working, to see if they work better. But mostly, do what works. Kind of a rule around here. On my better days I sometimes follow it. Ish.

About rebooting? As if I’m going to finally get to why that’s in the title of this post? Well, maybe. There’s the career-level thing, about which I’ll probably tell you tomorrow. Not fair, given the headline and all, but I do have other things to do today. Then there’s the fact that transcription quality was falling off a cliff yesterday, and the first computer-reboot seemed to help but later attempts didn’t. And then there’s the way I’m approaching transcription itself.

Version 15 of Dragon NaturallySpeaking is precisely 1.836 metric shit-tons better than previous versions. So what did I do? I decided to ignore things like maintaining separate profiles for separate microphones. I mean, what if I didn’t need to? Wouldn’t that be convenient? The software works so well, after all, so maybe…?

Yeah, no. I was using my USB headset when dictating directly into my laptop, plus using my phone both with and without a headset for transcription. I also used the phone’s headset on the laptop. Plus I played around with the laptop’s internal microphone. All in the same profile, telling Dragon it was the same microphone. I also used the same profile for both fiction and nonfiction. This…isn’t supposed to be a good idea. Probably it wasn’t. So I deleted that profile, and started afresh, and Dragon’s accuracy improved greatly. Immediately. So now I have five entirely separate profiles, and may have more soon. (I also bought an Olympus digital voice recorder, which I like quite a bit, and used it in this morning’s session.)

Huh. Long post. Need to get back to work soon. You too, maybe?

Anyway, before I leave you for today: this morning I got 42 minutes of dictation in. No idea about word count, but I did realize I’d actually finished Chapter 7 yesterday. Or, you know, I got to a point where I realized what I had looked like a chapter and it came in at around 2500 words, which feels appropriate for this book. Magic, right? Maybe so. Anyway, today’s stuff was all for Chapter 8.

On the cookbook front, I got the ebook mostly done last night. Today and tomorrow I’ll be doing a cover and formatting it for print. Ideally ordering a proof before the weekend…I definitely want that done before Monday, though, so I can dedicate next week to fiction and hopefully finish this thing by the end of it.

Oh. Did I say I should get back to work? I think I did. I should have said it, because it’s true. I should also do it. Maybe I will?

Have fun out there!


Yesterday’s dictation count: 1041 words
Time spent dictating: 30 minutes, 1 session
Week to date: 4118 words
Total words since 1/22/18: 4118

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