Sunday, May 3, 2009

Capturing Pictures or Voices?

By Deborah W. Yoho

How do you know when you are finished with a piece of writing? I can’t seem to figure this out. I was flabbergasted when my new friend Ilmars announced that he had “finished another novel”.

I had to ask, “You mean you are finished with the first draft? Did you write it straight through?”

“Yes,” he answered, “now I will go back and edit it.”

I wish I could do that, write straight through. I can’t compose a sentence without editing it as I go. (I just changed the last sentence to substitute compose for the word write. But I’m not at all sure the result is better.) Ilmars’s method seems much more efficient.

Fifteen years ago I wrote a short self-help book. At one point I decided I was finished with it. But when I pulled it out six months ago with the idea of actually publishing it myself, it was clearly not ready. Here I am now still fooling with it.

Is writing an art form, an activity suited to spontaneity and experimentation? Or is it more like a craft, the result of carefully honed skills perfected only by consistent practice? If it is an activity to be practiced, I have surely had plenty of that! Yet the more I practice, the more unsure I am about my ability to put two words together sensibly.

There is something profoundly visual about how I go about this activity. So often when writing, I stop, cock my head sideways, stare at the print, and ask myself, “Does that look right?” Look right, not sound right.

When I am reading, the words become sounds in my head. Authors speak to me, rather than write to me. I think I’ve got this all backward, or inside-out, or something.

So I’ve decided to tack into a new direction. I’ve bought a digital recorder, and I will try to speak my thoughts “straight through” before putting them to paper.

I’ll let you know whether or not this works. But I know what you’re thinking, and I agree. The written word is not the same thing as the spoken word. Many articulate speakers are not good writers.

Perhaps what I am after is to match my written words with the pictures in my head. What I see in my head, I think, is what motivates me to write. I want those thoughts to have life!

Hmmm, maybe writing is about visualization after all.


purpleprose 78 said...

Debbie, Gwen Hunter aka Faith Hunter is SC writer that writes mysteries under the Gwen name and urban fantasy under the Faith name. I've been to several workshops that she's done and she described her writing process as this. "I write 10 pages a day. The next day I go back and revise those 10 pages and I write the next 10 pages. At about 150 pages, I go back and read what I've done to make sure I'm going in the direction that I think I'm going. I continue the process until I'm done with the novel. When I'm finished, I have a solid draft of the book." This may not be a direct quote, but it is close. That process works for her. For me, I write a horrid narrative summary first draft and then I go back and edit/rewrite. I'm working on my WW2 Historical now and hope to have the first draft of the first scene for critique in the middle of May. Every writer has a different process. You just have to find the one that works for you. :)

Raynene said...

I bought a digital recorder several years ago and used it once, I think. It's sitting in my desk drawer instead of in my purse. I recently bought an Alphasmart Neo word processor and that little thing has already paid for itself! I take it everywhere. We all have different ways of writing what we hear and see our heads. I'm a detail person and have to always go back and either shorten or break up my descriptions. But when my characters chatter at 2 a.m. they pretty much are ignored, depending on what they're telling me! Good luck with the digital recorder - it may be just the thing for you! Hope to also meet you at a meeting. I'm interested in visiting a meeting or two and possibly joining.

Laura Valtorta said...

Editing is essential. I think that Ilmars does a lot of editing.

The importance of editing is another reason why self-published works are usually inferior to those published by companies with editors. The reject the chaff, and then they edit the manuscripts they do choose to publish.