Saturday, June 18, 2011

Lessons Learned for the Week

Scott D. Parker

Since we met last Saturday, I have continued plugging away with my current book. And I've learned a couple of valuable, personal lessons that I'm going to pass on.

Writing in the Morning

I don't know about your day job, but mine, as a technical writer, consumes a good deal of my brain on a daily basis. The excellent SF writer, Ted Chiang, is/was a tech writer and he said once that being a tech writer is not a conducive way to get the imagination flowing. I'll concur. Thus, my morning writing--before I started my day job--was fantastic. It was out of the way and over by 8am.

Cut to the day this past week where I decided I'd write at night. Ugh. After a day spent doing technical stuff, my head was fuzzy and cluttered. Could not focus. My own problem? Yeah. Could have I have persevered? Yeah. I wrote a paltry amount of words, counted the day good, and went to bed. Next morning, "bright" and early, I'm up and writing. Lesson learned.

Fingers on the Keys

I'm an outliner. Or, rather, I'm the guy who prefers to write in scenes, on index cards, and then write per scene. It's an excellent way of experiencing the story. On the one hand, I get to sit down with a pile of index cards and a pen and just go through the tale. I write down the scenes as they appear. By the end of the exercise, I have either the entire story laid out, or, at least, a good chunk by which I can start writing.

On this book, so far, I have a skeletal outline. I know the murky outlines of the story, but not the details. Thus, more than once, I've found myself with the moment of "What's next?" Thus, I sit at the keyboard and ponder. Wrong move (for me). I start pondering threads and, most annoyingly, how I could "better" write the scenes I've already written.

My cure for this? Keep my fingers on the keyboard. They will want to start typing and they should. I remove my fingers from the keys, I slow down. (No way! Really?!)

So, for me, I work best with an outline and my fingers on the keyboard. Are there neat little tricks y'all do?

Book of the Week: Carte Blanche by Jeffrey Deaver. I've waited a long time for this book and, so far (chapter 11 at this writing), I'm enjoying the heck out of it. Deaver seamlessly blends things from the Fleming novels (the lock of dark hair that falls onto Bond's forehead is still described as a "comma of hair") as well as from the films (Bill Tanner, played by Michael Kitchen, in the Brosnan films, is here). And the story, so far, reads very much like Fleming in that Bond isn't always out kicking ass, but he's in the office doing research. Well done


Unknown said...

One of the best pieces of advice I received was to find a work method that suited me. Thanks for the reminder - I've let it slip.

And good to hear you are enjoying Deaver's Bond. Any reviews I've read from the newspapers were less than complimentary - but that was no real surprise.

Dana King said...

I'm not a technical writer, but my job involves a lot of writing on technical topics. (Job aids, teaching materials, meeting minutes, etc.) I understand what you mean about workaday writing making it harder to write afterward, but...I'm not very creative in the morning. I like to get work out of the way in the morning, but the less creativity morning work takes, the better. I find I have to separate the work day from the writing evening by several hours: eat dinner, cruise the blogs, mess with email. I'll feel myself slipping into writer mode sooner or later.

As for the outlining, exactly right. Some people can write a book by the seat of their pants and it comes out perfect. (McFetridge comes to mind.) There are other whose books I can tell were written that way, and they should have outlined. My creativity flows best when I know what I need to be creative about. Not so much "what happens next?" but "How's it going to happen?"