Tuesday, August 10, 2010

FAQ -Moving Forward in Your Writing

Q: How do you keep yourself moving AHEAD, rather than "backing and filling" --editing--rather than creating?  
A: I tend to write in a pretty linear fashion -- start at chapter one and keep going. Sometimes I have an inspiration for a scene pretty far ahead -- or even the ending -- and I'll write it down and file it away till time to use it.  

I edit as I go -- reading what I wrote the day before and fixing what needs fixing before beginning the next bit. This has the virtue of getting me well back int the story before I write something new.

If, as sometimes happens, events prevent me from writing for a week or more, I may go back and skim through everything before continuing on. And I always make some changes. But I try to keep moving forward.

If I'm stuck or out of steam for the main story, I can always go to the secondary, historical subplot -- which also proceeds along in a linear motion. Here too, I read and edit the previous work in this story before laying down new stuff.

Some people swear by writing a first extremely rough draft very, very quickly and only after  reaching the end do they go back and flesh it out with description and such. It sounds good but I don't think it would work for me as my ideas are developed at a leisurely pace.  I may be fifty pages from the end and still not be sure who the villain is.
Q: Do you have a daily page/word count goal?  

A: Around 1,500 words or around five pages (double-spaced, of course) is what I shoot for. That's about half a chapter -- at least in the first two-thirds of the book (the chapters get shorter toward the end in an attempt at picking up the pace.) And it's pretty polished.

Sometimes I do better than this; I have done 5 thousand words in a day (once or twice)  -- sometimes it's a struggle to get 200 words down. The muse is fickle.

And sometimes there are days when Life interferes with my plans for writing. Stephen King famously writes every day of the year.  I can't even imagine that kind of dedication. But then, I'm not Stephen King.
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18 comments:

bo parker said...

Since you are talking about writing, I am dying to know how you were able to get into the flow of the language in A DAY OF SMALL THINGS, and hold it for such long periods. While I’ve said it reads as natural as breathing, I have the feeling it was a very difficult task. Any hints? Or is it a "trade secret?"

Martin H. said...

I'm always interested to hear how writers go about their business. Although the methods and routines vary enormously, the one common factor is discipline. I've been promising to write a novel for years, and have I done it yet? No. The reason is simply my lack of discipline. I am still too easily distracted to take on a novel and I may never actually write one. Ever the realist, I am acutely aware of the dedication it takes to produce a MS, let alone a work suitable for publication. This leaves me full of genuine admiration for authors like yourself, Vicki.

Pat in east TN said...

Very interesting post ... I learned several things but most important is you have a special gift, and, thank goodness, you share it with us all.

Alan Burnett said...

This is remarkably instructive. Thanks Vicki. One day, one day, I will finally get down to it.

Deborah said...

Vicki, it was really interesting to hear your take on keeping the forward motion going. I'm a bit of a compulsive editor, and that hinders my progress in a major way. It's always instructive to learn about the habits of other writers.

Of late, I've been reading a lot about creating a complete story structure before starting a new work, which I find quite difficult. It's heartening to know that an 'organic' or linear writer like you is well able to complete what you start. Very encouraging!

Brian Miller said...

thanks for the insights into your craft vicki...these are most helpful...

My Carolina Kitchen said...

Vicki, this is a wonderful peek into your writing life. Thanks for sharing. I've attended classes where they recommended the very rough draft idea and I could never get my mind around it.

I find that if I get an idea I can't let go of it. I just keep writing and writing. Sometimes ideas wake me up and won't let me go back to sleep until I write them down. If only I had more time.....
Sam

Carol@ Writers Porch/ Book House said...

It's funny that you mention Stephen King,last night between 100 & 150 I was reminded of a book by him called Tommyknockers. I'm with Bo, it's a natural flow!! :)

Liza said...

Do you prefer to write in the AM or PM, or does it matter to you?
I really enjoyed this post.

Vicki Lane said...

Bo - writing mountain talk is really very easy for me as I've spent many years in the midst of folks who speak this way. (If I'd lived in Italy for 35 years, Italian would probably come easily.) I just think of the way my older friends spoke and wham! there's Miss Birdie or Little Sylvie.

Martin - There are so many good writers doing blogs -- I wonder if blogging scratches the creative itch sufficiently that the thought of seeking publication is less compelling. And yeah, writing a novel is Very Hard Work -- for me at least. I'm not doing it at the moment and am enjoying the break.

Pat -- Aww! Kind words!

Alan -- See above -- what I told Martin re blogging.

Deborah -- I do have a very rough story outline -- but only because my editor demands it before she'll give me an advance. And I'm free to depart from it. I tried once completing the whole structure and then it was very hard to go back and fill in -- kind of boring like I's already been there.

Brian -- I'm glad if any of what I say is useful. I remember when I first began looking for the One solution but of course there is no such beast as everyone is different.

Sam -- Time. Thar's always the problem. I quit watching TV and that freed up enormous amounts of time. But now blogging has moved in to fill that vacuum. Hmmm...

Thanks, Carol! And what about that book you were working on?

Liza -- I find that I have to get mundane stuff (laundry, chores, filling bird feeders, grocery shopping, gardening) out of the way before I can give my mind to writing. My best work is done from 9pm to midnight or later. But that's just me. No right or wrongway to do it.

NCmountainwoman said...

I rather like the idea that even you don't know how the plot will twist until it happens. With your books I never need to go back to see the clues that would lead me to the villian. They are always there, as if you knew it all along. So while I never guess them, I have an "Aha" moment at the end.

Suz said...

Oh I love your shameless morning glories!

Friko said...

I enjoy these insights into your writing life; they are also very useful to me. As Martin says, discipline is all, but you demonstrate that even a day or two off occasionally, can't do much harm to those who have the talent and the drive.

Vicki Lane said...

Thanks, NCmountainwoman! Once I finally decide 'whodunnit,' sometimes I go back and stick in those clues.

Suz, the morning glories are threatening to take over everything.

Friko -- there's the writing life and then there's Life -- I don't want to lose sight of that.

maría cecilia said...

Darling Vicki, such questions I can´t help you to find an answer., I have never write even a chapter. I know that Pablo Neruda used to write everyday looking to the sea in any of his 3 houses, two of them by the sea. He had such inspiration over there and also took his naps after a big sibarita lunch with his friends, but then put himself to write again...
cariños,

Vicki Lane said...

Oh, Maria Cecilia! Gaze at the sea, write, lunch, gaze at the sea, nap, write . . . Now that would be a lovely way to live and write! But I think Senor Neruda probably didn't have to worry about the laundry or cooking that wonderful lunch or cleaning any of those houses. But, no doubt, he had earned such an idyllic life with his amazing writing. Carinos a ti!

Bouncin' Barb said...

I can't tell you how happy I am to have stumbled across your blog. I have a work in process (autobiographical journey) which I just started. As I usually do with any challenge in my life I just jump in and go with the flow. I find it difficult at times and think I must be doing something wrong. To hear you tell your methods of writing I realize I am not going crazy for nothing. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and I will be following you for sure.

Tipper said...

So neat to get a peek into your writing life : )