Tuesday, April 24, 2007

On Second Thought

In one of yesterday's posts Michelle of Scholar's Blog and I briefly (and I mean briefly) touched on how much we should worry about quality in a first draft. I know this must sound like a ludicrous issue. No matter what you do for work, you should always worry about quality, right?

Over the years, I've found writing more and more difficult. This is in part due to the fact that there was no Internet when I first started writing. Now that there is, I would much rather be checking out almost anything there than doing something hard like worrying about whether or not I'm using too much dialogue or how to show young Olivia's interior turmoil. A lot of my books have also gone through many drafts, which is very normal and very good, but sometimes a little demoralizing. And rather than be demoralized, I'd rather try playing a few games or read about actors I've barely heard of as soon as I come to a bump in the road workwise.

Quite some time ago, I read that writers like myself have too strong an internal editor. I read that and thought it was psychobabble. Drivel. However, after experiencing another year or so of the kind of thing I described in the preceding paragraph, I began to wonder if, yes, maybe I was incapacitated by worry over perfection. (Which is what is meant by an internal editor.) Trying to make this paragraph perfect is so difficult that I think I'll just stop working on it altogether.

To try to get over that, I'm trying to work fast, freewriting through worries instead of running from them. The plan is to get a skeleton story down and then go back and work on the muscle and circulation.

More recently I read an entry in Justine Larbalestier's blog in which she describes using a spreadsheet while writing a novel. Just as with the internal editor, my first reaction was, This is ridiculous. This is pointless fill-in-the-blanks work.

Then I remembered that while working on a later draft of Saving the Planet & Stuff I had to make a chart to keep track of who was doing what in each chapter in an attempt to make sure my main teenage character wasn't being overwhelmed by the adults in the book. And today I came up with an idea for using a spreadsheet for the manuscript I'm working on now.

Instead of stopping and obsessing on each chapter because it's not perfect (and spending enormous amount of time on material that might be deep-sixed 150 pages later), I'll make a spreadsheet with columns where I can enter in the problems I know I'm leaving in each chapter and plans for things I know I still need to do. This may allow me to work faster to get through to the end of a first draft. It may also make the second draft go faster.

Or I may spend an enormous amount of time learning to make a spreadsheet for nothing. Life is a gamble.

2 comments:

Michele said...

Spreadsheets ? Oh how I hate them ! I've got an on-going timline of events in my series of stories - that's enough for me ! Of course, writing shorter fiction makes it easier to not get lost (though switching between 5 or 6 PoVs can make one a little giddy !)

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