Friday, March 5, 2010

In Which I dissect my Brain


Novel writing is mysticism. A process, where everybody speculates and offers wisdom, but it is up to the individual to discover what works best. February evaporated from the calendar at a frightening speed. From that month and this week I’m left with circa 17 000 words [16, 658 to be exact, but who is counting] and although I’m not happy with the pace, I am comfortable with the quality of the works. These are 17 000 words I am quite confident of letting anyone read them. I admit that this is a pre-final draft, but my work process distilled to a very peculiar ritual.

I start with an outline. Write what the scene will hold. Then jot down ideas for how to write the ‘in-between-the-lines’ material aka meaning to what I am doing. After that I sit in front of the journal [yes, I hand write] and write the first draft. When I am done with the chapter, I sit down and type it up, which ties everything I have written over the days into one whole [yes, I possess an extremely short term memory]. After that I edit, which consists of adding weight to the rough draft and tinker the narrative to pass the character. This is what I learned that I have to do in order to not get distracted by a different novel project.

Because, this more or less deviates from how novelists do this these days and I have a weird psychoanalytical streak in me, I’ll try to generalize my behavior and list its elements. For fun and possibly educational purposes, but I don’t plan it to be too long to bother with. Short, to the point and sweet.

~ In which I grow impatient. Fact is, I am one of the very few underwriters in existence. The normal people overwrite and then edit out, while I always need to edit in. I explain this with my natural urge to complete and dash madly to the finale without hitting several checkpoints. I am a dirty cheater, but I also think quite fast and my hand usually cannot compete.

~ In which I get distracted. Fact is, the fastest way to write these days is to type, but modern technology is evil. It distracts me. When I grab my PC’s keyboard, my mind thinks what else could be done with the keyboard and the mouse as a dastardly duo. A quick reference Google session ends with mail checking and Twitter. While at the same time I cannot establish any connection with the Word File. I am paper bound, when writing, I am afraid.

~ In which I experience fear. Novels are long. Their length is scary. Outlining a whole book, world-building, check-finding, writing a first draft and then revising a whole book is massive and just screams long work. With a short term memory such as mine, this is an even greater task to accomplish, so I deconstructed the truck load work to a chapter by chapter module. I do because I am a dynamic thinker and the smallest detail can offset my general outline.

The moral of this story, apart from me justifying not confining to general rules and doctrines, is that a writer should be able to find his center [speaking Zen of course] and complete his or her novel in his/hers own fashion.

That and DO not pursue word count, less good will come out of it, if you are not comfortable with the quality and with a first novel, the journey matters.


Charles Gramlich said...

I'm actually an underwriter as well. A lot of my stuff is really bare bones when it's first put down and I have to flesh out background information and character. I don't skimp as much on action, but even setting, which I love, has to have layers added.

Harry Markov said...

@ Charles: I had no idea. I tend to be indecissive as my brain tries to tweak and perfect all the time, so when I finally settle on something I usually have to change it later.