A Writer’s Life: Method To Your Radness

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr)

My friend Serdar had opinions on my recent halfway-point review/light rewrite of “A Bridge To The Quiet Planet.” Namely, he was surprised at the ambition, as he says:

Sometimes you can put your head down, bluster through the rest of a draft, and fix everything next time around. Sometimes you simply can’t, especially if the psychic pressure created by the need to make those changes in the first place becomes a distraction.

My main objection to stopping and turning around mid-draft is that it breaks momentum. Anything you can do to sustain momentum is helpful. But if it comes at the cost of the overall maintainability of the work, it’s not worth it.

Serdar’s preferred method is to power through a draft. Meanwhile, in fiction I tend to plot it out and when a revision is necessary work it in as opposed to waiting. For me, having that intimate feel is important, and a revision keeps me in touch and focused.

What’s ironic is the “power through” method is something I often use for my instructional writing. My friend writes fiction the way I write job guides.

We see these discussions of different methods all the time in writing. “Pantsers versus plotters.” Diamond methods and three part structures. Writers of all stripes are always talking methods; and writers often take different approaches to writing.

This can lead to confusion over what the “right” method is to writing. I can say with full confidence that the real question is “are you finding the method that works for yo?.” Remember despite these endless debates, books are still getting written.

First, whatever method lets you comfortably deliver quality work is a good method. I can’t tell you what’ll work for you. Nor can Serdar. Nor can a multi-million-book selling author. You have to find what works. If in your head and heart and gut you can see it’s working, fine.

And that’s the second point, and perhaps the more critical point, of writing. You have to actively look to understand what methods of writing work for you. I don’t care if it’s exactly like mine or something I think is ridiculous; if it works, for you and good works get made, fine. As long as it’s not unethical, go for it.

Being a writer means actively understanding what helps you write better. Take the time to review methods, study theories, and try stuff out. In time, you’ll get better – possibly in ways you never expected.

This is also why I keep notes on my writing methods. It helps me both understand what I’ve done, and intimately learn the lessons I need.

(Remember I do all sorts of books on creativity to help you out!)

– Steve

A Writer’s Life: The Big Edit

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr)

I got to the halfway point on “A Bridge To The Quiet Planet” and realized I had lots of notes, things I wanted to improve and tweak, and so on.  In general I wanted to “tune up” what I had and improve my plot outline.  So I did something kind of ambitious: I decided to review the entire first half of the book scene by scene, both adding and rewriting, as well as fleshing out the plot outline.

Yeah.  Kinda stupidly ambitious?  Probably was a good 6-8 hours of work.

It was also totally worth it.

First, it let me get in touch with my story.  Over time I’ve been rereading parts of it, but seeing the whole sweep really helped.  I kind of wonder if I need to do this at the 3/4 mark.

Secondly, it let me tone up my writing.  Always good to apply lessons learned later to earlier writing.  It’s been especially good as I’ve been “shaking off the rust” of having not done fiction for awhile.

Third, it let me improve the plot and story in both the large and small.  A big review in a short time – not quite a revision or rewrite – did wonders for making things better and tighter.

Fourth, I got the characters down even better.  Seeing them in the big picture and small, in a short time, let me tighten them up.

Fifth, I got the “mood changes” much better.  I can see the big picture and how the mood shifts (more later).

Sixth, it got me the improved plot outline (at least for what I wrote, see below).  I now have every scene noting major goals and major character attitudes.  That’s something I should have done before, but I got it now.

What was also kind of amazing is how starting to write the second half felt.  The characters felt more solid, the shift in moods more real, the sense of plot tighter.  Diving into writing after this review has taken all I learned and applied it.

(It’s probably good to keep writing after such a review so those lessons get applied).

Of course as I go on and write the second half, I want to take an hour or two to review the plot notes I have and revise that as well, which should take all my lessons here and solidify them.

(Remember I do all sorts of books on creativity to help you out!)

– Steve

A Writer’s Life: Taking Notes And Improving Writing

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr)

As I write “A Bridge To The Quiet Planet,” I’ve started taking notes on my writing techniques.

Getting back into this was a bit tougher than I thought, so it took me awhile to get going.  Fortunately I kind of got a writing system going again – only, as I used it, I had other insights.

So I figured, why not write them down for later?

This is something I hadn’t thought of before, but as I do so I find the act of reviewing these findings, these new techniques, and recording them helps my writing even more.  I’m activley thinking about how to get better.

This is really classic Agile practice; you don’t just do things.  You review them in order to improve.  I strongly recommend every writer keep a list of “technique notes” and gradually review them.  If possible, actually write up your techniques, maybe review them every work, to help build a system in your head.

This may sound a bit excessive, but so far?  It’s helped me a lot.

Besides, it gives you something to share with other writers . . .

(Remember I do all sorts of books on creativity to help you out!)

– Steve