Friday, May 9, 2014

Paperback Writer

What stage in your writing process causes the most angst? Draft, revising, plotting...?

By Paul D. Marks

clip_image002 Hard Day's Night

Every stage of writing causes angst, anxiety and nerves, which is why I used to like eating Red Vines while I wrote. Just chomping on one after another while writing helped with the nerves. But the doctor finally convinced me that three boxes of Red Vines every day while writing maybe wasn't the best plan.

Here Comes the Sun

Coming up with Ideas is pretty easy for me. I have an idea file that's about 65 pages long and has over 700 ideas in it. I don't think I'm gonna run out any time soon. People who want to write often ask me where I get my ideas, as if they're baffled where they come from. It's the kind of thing that if you don't see them there, at every turn, you shouldn't be writing 'cause they're everywhere just floating by in the air.

We Can Work It Out

The First Draft is also pretty easy...because I'm one of those "pantsters" who just writes stream-of-consciousness and whatever comes out comes out – I can always fix it later in the "editing room". I hate outlining, so I just let it all flow and then hone it and polish it in later drafts. clip_image004


Plotting, characters, conflict, suspense, description, can all be difficult because you want them to be right and work and play off each other (you know, plays well with others), but again that can be fixed in the "editing room" and during the revision process. But with each draft you see a clearer picture and everything starts to come into focus.

I Should Have Known Better

And that leads to revising, which is where I start yelling "what did I get into this for – I should have known better". Revising is the most angst-producing phase of writing because this is where it all really starts to come together. And because it's all in the rewriting for me. I've seen other people who labor over each word and sentence as they go along so they probably don't have as much revising to do. But for me, that's where it all really starts to take shape. I pretty much let it fly in the early drafts and the real shaping, honing, fine tuning, polishing, come together in the revising. I might have ten drafts – or more – on a project, but some of them may have only have a handful of changes while others have wholesale changes in plot, character and incidents, all of which need to 'come together' in 'the end'.

Fixing a Hole

The worst part of the revision phase is that it's an endless process, because every time you read the story, even if it's been published, you find holes that need plugging and things that you want to change, from small things like typos, to major things like plot points and characters.

Good Night

But at some point you just have to say goodbye and good night and close the door, like they do on Diane Keaton at the end of Godfather I. And then you move on to the next phase.

No Reply

You send your baby out into the world and hope that everyone thinks you have a beautiful baby, but, like those people in Casablanca, you wait...and wait and wait for a reply. And then you just have to:

Let It Be

And now for some reason I have this desire to listen to some Beatles music. See you next time.


Art Taylor said...

Love it, Paul. Terrific!

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks, Art. Hope your singing Beatle songs too :)

Robin Spano said...

Ha. Funny how you call the hard parts a breeze. I need to learn from your easygoing first draft mode. Love the Beatles theme.

RJ Harlick said...

I've enjoyed reading everyone's take on the writing process. So different and yet so much alike. Great final advice, Paul. Let it be..... something that's hard to do. And I love the song too.

Paul D. Marks said...

Robin, my easygoing first draft mode is because I hate outlining, but in essence it is my "outline". It seems to work for me, but I pay for it later in the polishing drafts :) And I guess we all find what works for us.

And, RJ, I agree, letting it be is always easier said than done...

And glad people like the Beatles theme.

Alan Orloff said...

Writing a books truly is a long and winding road. Nice post, Paul (and George and John and Ringo)!

Meredith Cole said...

Great advice, Paul! And yes, I do have the Beatles in my head now, too...

Stephen Buehler said...

Revising is the hardest part for me but also the most rewarding. It's when all the pieces are laid out on the table and now you have to put it together. But when I fit a section together and that part works, I want to celebrate with my subconscious mind. Doing a high-five with it hurts.

btw - Who are the beatles? :-)

Paul D. Marks said...

Alan, Definitely a long and winding road and John, George and Ringo give their regards.

Thanks, Meredith. You could have Justin Beiber songs or It's a Small World in your head. That would really be bad.

Stephen, I agree, it is rewarding when everything starts to fall into place. Especially when something wasn't working and you find the way to make it work. As to who the Beatles were, 'your mother should know' they were just 'yesterday,' a flash in the pan. I just like bringing up obscure references. :)

Stephen Campbell said...

Thanks Paul - Now I'll be hearing Paperback Writer in my head for the rest of the day.

Great post. I've been buried in revisions for the past few weeks, and you're right. Sometimes you do just need to let it be. My latest work was a total panster job and like you, I paid for having my first draft fun when revising. Sort of like fixing holes where the rain gets in.

Paul D. Marks said...

Well, Stephen, you could do worse than hearing Paperback Writer or Fixing a Hole all day long :)

And I think everyone "pays" at some point for their method of creation. Sometimes it's front-loaded, sometimes back-loaded, but either way you gotta get the job done.

Susan C Shea said...

Coming late to this. I think food is essential in order to write, or to sit at the computer a long time cursing oneself and poking absently at the keys. Your choice of candy would work if there were no such thing as cavities. Try chocolate covered raisins in future. ;-)

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks for the recommendation, Susan. I'll have to give those a shot. :)