Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Part II: Hen-Pecking, WIP '09 #3

image I’m doing this series on “How I Write” because I truly want to see how I write. I think I am least aware of my writing process. I’m biased, looking through tinted glasses. I’m thankful you’re tolerating it! ;-)

So I abandoned the first thousand words of my WIP. This is unlike me, but I will probably use 700-800 words of it in the second chapter. Getting paid by the word definitely teaches one to write with economy.

One would think it would teach one to bloat one’s sentences, but for me, I’ve learned not to write words I’ll delete, and not to waste the words I’ve deleted.

And yes, there have been times I’ve highlighted a section, counted the words, opened up my calculator (so not kidding), calculated the cost, and said to myself, “Can I really delete $135?”

It HURTS. Let me tell you, it HURTS.

But I was noticing today that I “hen-peck” a lot. As I write, I edit. I write a spurt, then I start at the beginning of the section and edit. Then on to the next spurt.

During this edit, I delete as many words as I can. The less words in a sentence, the stronger it is. I extract words as if I’m doing fine surgery.

What words can I remove from this sentence and still have the same meaning and same effect on the reader? What sentences can be removed altogether?

I think this is a survival process, too. If I delete little bits at a time, I won’t mentally calculate the money in the trash can, LOL. I won’t notice the word count going down too much. (I try not to look.)

image When I write, I also “zoom in” and “zoom out” a lot. I’ll read the whole chapter, hen-peck at sentences, write some bits of a scene, zoom out, double check that it fits and there’s a purpose to it, zoom back in and hen-peck, zoom out to make sure what I’m about to write fits in the overall plot, zoom in a little to check the character arcs, and then zoom all the way back in to write it.

So… do you hen-peck? Zoom in and out? Do you do all of the above during separate “drafts” or all during one session? Do you edit as you go? Is it all mixed together into one process, one draft?

When do you hen-peck, and when do you zoom?

23 bonus scribbles:

Rick 4/09/2009 12:37:00 AM  

Hello, Spy. I'm taking the night off from training, and when I read this I thought maybe I should train less and write more!

I love the imagery of both hen-pecking and "zooming in and out." They sound so interesting that I'll give both techniques a try. Mysel, I write without much editing as I go along, then let the work age in a drawer and come back to it when I've forgotten about it- that's the best case scenario for me. I need that "distance" to do a decent job of editing.

I sometimes get feedback from trusted souls after I've finished first drafts, but it's difficult for me to apply critical feedback until I've had the time away from the story. Kind of like going away from home to appreciate what I really have and what I might work on to change things for the better.

spyscribbler 4/09/2009 12:43:00 AM  

Rick! Hi! How are you? I feel like it's been forever! It is SO cool to see you!

I was just thinking that I need to write with less editing. I think that's why I've gotten so slow at writing this year. I'm not writing! I'm editing!

I wish I could be training. My foot is my Achille's heel, I swear. I tried, but it only worked for a couple days. Gosh, I miss it!

Nadine 4/09/2009 02:05:00 AM  

I hen peck, but I seem to do this as I am working on the sentence below it or a few sentences below. So I'm constantly going up and down the page as I write.

It's like editing while writing, which makes the whole process go slower, but hopefully smoother. It's the one reason I can't hand write anything (besides my chicken scratch) because if I hand write, I can't fix the line above it because there's no room to edit.

Amy Sue Nathan 4/09/2009 07:25:00 AM  

I edit as I go along, yet still I call the finished product a first draft. I write without thinking, go back and edit, edit again, maybe once more and think "Ah, the first draft." And that can be with a paragraph, a page or more...just depends. When I analyze my writing process I realize that for me, a first draft is really the 2nd or 3rd. I only move on when I'm somewhat satisfied.

Robin 4/09/2009 08:17:00 AM  

I spill out words like vomit, and then beg my mother-in-law to edit. I'm evil, but I'm not a chicken! (A little double entendre there. Ho. Ho.)

writtenwyrdd 4/09/2009 08:19:00 AM  

Spy, that's pretty much my process as well. We are the writers who need a fairly well-polished first draft. Others can sketch in stuff, we need to have it be pretty much on the page to be comfortable moving on.

Sometimes, though, I just write a stream-of-consciousness version of a scene to get the idea down before I forget and go back to where I am working. I can jump about in a longer piece, too, but generally it's start to finish for the most part, not writing in the middle and going back. Because I, too, hate to delete things I've written, and where I'm going (or where I've been) can change when I hop about.

Bevie 4/09/2009 08:59:00 AM  

I "stream". I'll pour out words like a garbage truck emptying at a landfill. Occasionally I will edit, but it is usually minor stuff. Getting hung up and having to back is often the death blow to my finishing a story. (I get so many story ideas into my head that any kind of delay is a threat to completion.)

So my first draft is kind of like dumping the box of Lego Blocks onto the floor. Editing is the rearranging of blocks into a coherent shape.

This take a LOT longer than your method but, for me, it guarantees a completed work.

Travis Erwin 4/09/2009 09:49:00 AM  

I edit as I go most of the time but occasionally I get on a roll and write four or five pages without reading over anything. I only go back and read whole chapters when i am stuck or it has been a while since I worked on the piece.

Edie 4/09/2009 10:33:00 AM  

I'm going through the exact same process with my wip. It's taking about five times as long as if I just wrote.

I know the reasons why I'm doing this. One is that I know more about writing and pacing and all that, and I can tell when something isn't right. If I don't change it right away, I'd have to change it during revisions.

lainey bancroft 4/09/2009 11:04:00 AM  

I'm zooming in and hen-pecking on this one but I can't really say it's working out for me. :(

I was much happier when I didn't know a damn thing about writing and I just charged ahead and spewed 80k.

Eric Mayer 4/09/2009 12:44:00 PM  

To be honest, I try not to think too much about how I write. When I start to analyze I get paralyzed and can't do anything.

spyscribbler 4/09/2009 04:24:00 PM  

Oh Nadine, I do that too! LOL, now that I think of it, it seems a little crazy, LOL. No wonder I lose the flow so much!

I can't imagine writing without a backspace key.

spyscribbler 4/09/2009 04:25:00 PM  

Amy, I know what you mean. Although... I only write one draft. I guess I consider it unfinished until it's finished, and once it's finished, well... I don't need to do another draft, LOL!

spyscribbler 4/09/2009 04:26:00 PM  

Robin, no wonder you have so much fun! I am thinking to try that method next time!

spyscribbler 4/09/2009 04:26:00 PM  

Writtenwyrdd, that's exactly like me! Sometimes I'll jump ahead, but in general, it's start to finish.

spyscribbler 4/09/2009 04:27:00 PM  

Bevie, that sounds like a BLAST! I once did a story like that, a little bit. That is so cool!

I'm considering trying that next time.

spyscribbler 4/09/2009 04:28:00 PM  

Travis, that's cool. I realized I am wasting a whole lot of time re-reading and getting in the flow. It'd be easier to spill a bunch of gunk out and then fix it!

I don't know.

spyscribbler 4/09/2009 04:29:00 PM  

Edie, there's also the fear, for me, that I'll forget to fix it, if I don't fix it right now.

But yeah... five times as long sounds right to me! It's driving me nuts!

spyscribbler 4/09/2009 04:29:00 PM  

Lainey, those were the days, for sure! I'm getting quite sick of my process, for sure!

spyscribbler 4/09/2009 04:30:00 PM  

LOL, Eric, I don't blame you! Like if you look at it, it will disappear?

Melanie Avila 4/09/2009 06:48:00 PM  

Interesting. I hadn't thought of it in terms of zooming in and out (perhaps because my former company is called Zoom, lol), but that's a good way to look at it.

I try not to edit as I write, but I will tweak a sentence while I'm right there, especially if I move on and it's still irritating me. What I try not to do is waste time staring at the screen if it's not coming to me. I'll leave it as it is and make a note to fix it later, or just trust myself that when I reread that part a fix will come to me.

G 4/09/2009 07:19:00 PM  

I try to write without editing too much, at least beyond having it make sense.

With my first one, I used to write like a madman, then edit the living daylights out of it.

Now it's mostly editing as I write. I have been known to gut entire sections because sometimes I would write myself into a corner with no way out, but I haven't done that in a while.....

Or have I?

Ello 4/11/2009 11:14:00 AM  

It always hurts to delete and cut. Man I have cut out sections that killed me to do. But I know it is always for the best.