Friday, February 13, 2015

Writing is easy. You just open a vein and bleed.*

How do you hammer out your first drafts? Have you ever used NaNoWriMo or the 3-Day Novel Contest, or a similar group motivation effort, to get your first draft done?

by Paul D. Marks



And no.

Should I quit while I’m ahead and just leave it at that? No, why not put my foot in it more:

I’m too much of a hermit and an individualist to do the group thing. I like to sit in my cave and just write. And I’m pretty disciplined, so I don’t need those things to motivate me. But whatever works for any particular writer is what they should do.

As to how I hammer out my first drafts – I sit myself in a chair, usually at my desk, and write. I’m a pantster, so I write by the seat of my pants. Early drafts are just sort of stream of consciousness...but with some purpose in mind ‘cause I do have a story idea and some characters I’m working with. And I tend to do a lot of drafts because the early ones are so all over the place. But with each I see the story and characters developing. And often the characters change the nature of the story or at least the direction it’s going in.
I usually spend time goofing on the internet before I actually get down to the business of writing. A better procrastination tool has never been invented. It makes you feel like you’re working when you’re really just looking up the lyrics to that song you heard the other day. Or if you really want to feel like you’re working you can actually do some research that might make it into your story. Or, you can go on Facebook and post clever memes or watch silly cat videos. Then you know you’ve done a good day’s work. Of course, with two cats I can watch my own cat videos, live every day.

When I teach on occasion, the thing I find with students is that they’re all gung ho...until it comes time to actually do the work. Everybody, it seems, thinks they’re a writer or at least wants to be. The difference between people who are writers and the wanna-bes is usually no more than sitting oneself down and doing it, improving your writing over time, and then having the persistence to keep doing it in the face of rejection, which can be devastating.

Maybe NaNoWriMo or other things like it are useful to some people, help them get motivated and give them word counts to reach for. But ultimately, whether you just sit your ass in a chair or use NaNoWriMo or one of the other methods to motivate you, it still comes down to just sitting your ass in the chair and doing it.

Okay, ‘nuff said. Now I’m off to watch cute cat videos.

*attributed to Red Smith, Hemingway and others, but I think Red Smith is the one who said it

* * *

Well, a little bit o’ personal news. We have a new family member. He weighs in at about 85 or 90 pounds. And is one big guy. He makes our other dog look smallish, and she isn’t. No name for him yet. Got him from Westside German Shepherd Rescue in LA, a no-kill shelter, last Sunday. He’s about three years old. So now we’re back up to our full contingent of two cats, two dogs. The cats are still getting used to him... And, unfortunately, our other dog, Pepper, hurt her knee ligament on Monday and had an operation Wed. Her injury had nothing to do with the New Guy. He was in the house with me and she was running in the yard. She’s home now and recuperating. Here’s the New Guy’s debut pic. You can’t really tell how big he is in this pic, but I think of him as Gigantor.

New Dog - Buster von Basall -- picked up 2-8-15


Meredith Cole said...

Had to laugh at this, Paul, "Everybody, it seems, thinks they’re a writer or at least wants to be." So true!

Welcome to your new family member! You'll have to do a group animal portrait so we can see how big he really is... And let us know if you need help with names (although Gigantor is pretty cool).

GBPool said...

I'll ditto Meredith's and your comments: Yes, everybody thinks they can write. Some should never try. The rest of us can't help it. It's an addiction for which there is no cure. Thank God.

Your new boy is good-looking. Somewhere between Sylvester Stallone and Tyrone Power. Boy is he lucky.

Susan C Shea said...

I have long thought the mark of a writer is plowing through the second or third draft. In fact, thanks for giving me 5 more minutes of avoiding it! Good post, as always.

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks, Meredith. It does seem like everyone has an idea, is working on a script, wants you to collaborate with them, etc. It’s kind of funny. Kind of... – And I thought about putting it out on FB or something to ask about names, but I think we’re narrowing it down.

Gayle, some probably shouldn’t try or at least should give up at some point. But I guess there’s something to be said for spirit and perserverence. And you’re right about it being an addiction. – I’ll tell him you said he looks like a cross between Sly and Ty. He’ll eat that up. :)

And Susan, always glad to help with the procrastination factor. Without it we, well, we might just have to write. And the first draft for a panster can go fairly quickly since we’re just putting it out there. But it really starts to take shape in the later drafts.

RJ Harlick said...

Boy, can I relate, Paul. Sounds like my stream of conscious approach too, right down to the cave. Love your new family member. He looks a charmer.

Paul D. Marks said...

RJ, hopefully your cave has all the amenities, like running water and cable TV. It makes our caves so much nicer.

And thanks about the New Guy -- who still has no name, but will probably get one this weekend. He is a charmer...but a handful too.