KJ (owlmoose) wrote,

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TTD: Writing Process (or lack thereof)

Sure, let's do a post about writing when I haven't written a word in three days. ;)

Anyway, [personal profile] wallwalker asked me to talk about my typical writing process. I start, almost always, with an idea: a plot or premise bunny, a topic or aspect of canon or characterization I want to explore, a prompt, or some combination thereof. By the time I sit down in front of a keyboard, the idea has usually been percolating in my brain for awhile. Since I almost always think in prose, this means that I've already figured out some of the words and phrases I'm going to use before I even start officially writing. So I open the new document and start setting the words down.

Most of the time, I edit as I go -- it's very rare for me to create a completely unedited first draft. (The only exception is when I'm doing writing sprints -- turn off the Internet and all other distractions, and just write as many new words I can over a fixed period of time, either 20 minutes or an hour, depending. Those are for just getting words out, and I try very hard not to edit in the moment.) I fix typos and grammatical errors, look for better phrasings and word choices, sometimes completely rework a sentence or paragraph, research minor canon details if needed. I realize this goes against most conventional writing wisdom, but if I notice something as I'm writing that could be better, I find it distracting, and it will keep me from being able to move forward. Still, I try not to spend too much time on editing during this stage. If the problems are major, or I'm not sure how to fix them, I set it aside and move on. Even though I edit as I compose, the first draft is never the final draft.

How things proceed from there depends on whether I'm writing flashfic, short fic, or long fic. For flashfic, I try not to spend too much time on editing -- if I'm writing flash, the idea is to play around and have fun, not craft the stories into masterpieces. (Although sometimes a story that begins as flashfic turns into something more -- see "Aftermath" for the most dramatic example.) I don't publish anything completely unedited, but I don't spend as much time on it as I otherwise would.

For short fic, in an ideal world I would write a complete first draft in one or two sessions, editing as I go, then set it aside for a day before coming back for the first in a series of more thorough editing passes. However, because endings are usually the most difficult part of a story for me to write, I often end up doing at least a couple of run-throughs of earlier sections before a complete draft is finished. Often times, the act of editing and reworking will show me what the ending needs to be (and occasionally I'll discover that I wrote past the natural ending and really should have wrapping things up a few pages before).

I don't write as much longfic these days, but when I do, it works much the same way, just in segments. Sometimes one segment leads into the next; sometimes I write out of order, depending on which parts of the story occur to me when. I only rarely do outlines, and when I do, the final story never follows it exactly. One of the reasons I write a story is to find out what happens. If I could outline the story completely, I'd probably be much less driven to finish writing it.

If a story is going to a beta (longfic, exchange fic, Big Bangs and other challenges), I'll send it off once the first major editing pass is done. Sometimes earlier, if I'm stuck and want some help figuring out characterization or direction. I also really like to bounce ideas off of betas and friends, in chat or in locked journal entries -- this kind of feedback is invaluable.

Once it's returned, I'll incorporate the beta's comments, discuss any questions that either of us might have, and send back fixes for another check if appropriate. Then I'll give it one last read-over to make sure I haven't missed anything really glaring. After that, I post the story as quickly as possible. If I sit on a story too long, I risk tweaking it too much ([personal profile] renay and I refer to this phase as "rearranging deck chairs"). Much better for me to put it out of reach, into a final form where it needs to stand or fall on its own. I'm fortunate in that my stories usually stand, but even if one is going to fall, I still want to get it out of the way, to clear my plate for the next thing. I usually have multiple stories going at the same time -- I prefer having some level of choice in what I want to work on -- but too many works in progress is just as bad as not enough.

Tools: most of my stories are drafted using My Writing Spot, a simple web-based text editor with an associate mobile app. It's basically just a blank screen, almost no formatting features. I like it for two reasons: the clutter-free interface, and being able to easily swap between writing on my computer and my mobile devices. It's just for composition, though, not major editing. Once a story is ready to edit, I move it into Microsoft Word. Word has its problems, but I've been using it for decades, so I'm really used to its foibles as both a text editor and formatting tool, and I like not having to think about it. For longer stories, I use Scrivener for both composition and editing. It's a fantastic for keeping chapters or sections organized, especially since I tend to write such stories out of order. (I really wish I'd had it when I was writing "A Guardian's Legacy".)

This entry is also posted at http://owlmoose.dreamwidth.org/698284.html. There are currently comment count unavailable comments on DW.
Tags: talking through december, writing

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