Time and Distance: The benefits of cycling.

One of the reasons I work on multiple projects at a time is because my writing process is unlike anything else in my life. Most other aspects of my life are filled with clearly defined steps, checklists, and algorithms. Exceptions are clearly defined by “if,then” statements. Loops are set up in very specific ways. This includes the laundry.

Writing is the one thing I do that doesn’t work that way. It’s why I don’t outline (waste of time; I don’t stick to it; I write them AFTER).

Give me a beginning and/or an end, a theme or a moral point, and I can make it all work. Give me an already written ending and a song and I’ll give you a story (more about this when it’s official).

Think of a finished story as a sequence of scenes, numbered from 0 to N. Chances are, it’s been marinating in my head for some time and exists in one form or another as a set of notes, scribbles, and research references in a Scrivener file, waiting on me to get stuck on my current project and in need of something else to work.

A work in progress (WiP) might originally start out as scenes 5, 12, 18 … 52. Of course, at the time I’m writing them, I don’t actually know that, but you get my point. It’s not unusual for me to realize that I need to cycle back as I’m writing scene #18 and then come up with #13-#17 or go back and fix #12 so it works with #18.

Yesterday I spent the whole day writing (for the first time in awhile as I’d gotten side-tracked by other projects; I spent the whole day in pajamas and I think I ate).

There is nothing quite like time and distance to make you see that scene #156 is no longer a good fit. There’s also nothing quite like time and distance to make it easy to gut #156 if that’s what the story needs.

And by gutting, I mean opening up a new Scrivener scene document, and typing it out fresh after getting myself solidly set inside the character’s head. It is being inside the character’s head that allows me see that scene 156 no longer works.

It’s an entirely different process that “editing” an existing set of words and polishing the hell out of that turd hoping no one will notice what it is.

This is why writing takes time–and I’m talking writing here, not typing. All kinds of time go into “writing.” Research time. Down time (like a hobby or reading for pleasure).

Time spent cycling back to read what you’ve written so that you can get into your viewpoint character’s head before you move forward.

Time spent looking stuff up as you go along when you realize you need an essential piece of information (like can they really match bullets to specifics guns–the answer turns out to be a resounding NO!).

Time spent arguing with your characters because they don’t want to go where you want them to (aka writer’s block, at least in my case).

Is it worth it? I guess it all depends. I’m not a big fan of typing*.

Typing: Julie was a dog lover.

Writing: Julie tossed a TV dinner into the microwave for her husband and rushed out to the grill to make sure that Precious’s steak didn’t get overcooked. Great Danes were known for their particular tastes and she hoped he liked the kobe beef as much as the butcher seemed to think he would. Of course, the butcher had been under the impression that it was for her husband, and she hadn’t enlightened him. He wouldn’t understand. No one would. No one but Precious.

*For a better explanation about the difference between typing and writing, I recommend Writing to the Point: A Complete Guide to Selling Fiction (The Million Dollar Writing Series)

 

 

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