Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Tricking Oneself into Writing

I envy authors who enjoy the process of writing. I love outlining (just call me weird). I don't mind minor revisions and proofing galleys. It's the work in between that I find laborious and slow. Maybe it has something to do with performance anxiety evoked by an empty screen.

In Peg Bracken's I HATE TO HOUSEKEEP BOOK, she discusses ways to trick oneself into cleaning. One way is to start several jobs at once. After you've got the laundry halfway to the washing machine, the vacuum cleaner out, oven cleaner sprayed in the oven, and the bed stripped, you have little choice but to finish the tasks.

Similarly, I've spent years looking for new and improved ways to trick myself into writing. Discovering FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS, by Karen Wiesner, came as a terrific help to me. The "draft" created by this method is actually a very detailed, scene-by-scene outline that ends up about one-fourth the length of the finished book. The more detail I build into the scene-by-scene "formatted outline," the more wordage I can produce while continuing to fool myself that I'm not really writing, just outlining -- the part of the process I enjoy. The next step is to expand each summarized scene into a fully fleshed-out passage of narrative. Since I have a rough idea of how long it takes to expand a scene, I can plan out a writing schedule with more accuracy than I ever could before.

Another plus of this method is that I'm working with a template of the entire novel on the screen in front of me. So if I get a stray idea for a scrap of information, description, or dialogue to incorporate into a future scene, I have a place to insert it. No more jotting notes in my workbook or on loose sheets of paper and then forgetting where I put them. (Even though, as suggested in FDin30D, I now maintain a "story file" for each novel, I find it's still possible to lose track of miscellaneous notes in the folder.) This method makes it, if not quite painless, at least measurably easier to produce what I think of as draft 1.5.


Rowena Cherry said...

Now, I love to write and loathe to outline.
I must get Karen's book!

Thank you for this very useful posting, Margaret.

best wishes,

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