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Writing Progress: Week Ending July 28, 2012

July 31, 2012

On the upside… at least I didn’t write nothing:

Book of M:

  • Background Notes Wordcount: 0 words
  • First Draft Wordcount: 271 words

Grand Total: 271 words

There’s a lot of work left to do on the Home Project Phase III, to be sure.  But last week Dear Wife and I were feeling stretched pretty thin, I think.  So I did end up spending some time writing – writing may be work, but these days it’s my primary leisure activity.  That exhaustion continued, but potential writing time was eaten up by working on Home Project stuff through the exhaustion, or collapsing in front of the Olympics, and such.

With the little time I did spend writing, I probably could have written more, if I had been writing new material.  Instead, the weeks of non-writing allowed Editor-Head to kick into gear, and I started thinking about some of the plot holes and problems I’d left in the current draft.  So I was patching holes (and incrementing some of what I’ve written up from First Draft to Second Draft).   That involves more re-reading, finding the best spots to patch holes, adding new material to form the patch and sometimes deleting material that’s incompatible with the patch.

I know I shouldn’t be editing at this stage.  But I feel better about continuing knowing that I’ve fixed some obvious problems with the first draft.

Incidental to this, I’ve been thinking about drafting in a more general sense.   I don’t have a ton of history of completed material to consider in how my drafting process works, or if I have a process in the first place.  But I’m imagining this novel going this way:

  1. Start with the first draft – getting the raw words of the story on the page.
  2. Next comes the author-driven plot-hole clean-up.
  3. The third draft would ostensibly come after an Alpha read, and involve consideration of Alpha reader comments focused especially on the further clean-up of plot holes, story flow, pacing, characterization and other grand-scale details.
  4. The fourth draft, in my mind, would be focused on my use of language; which I believe is in need of some serious polish. This is where I intend to focus on my authorial style, waxing hopefully more poetic and lyrical where possible and where desireable.

After that, who knows?  If I were a lucky writer, I’d have a group of willing Beta readers ready to take a crack at it, who can comment further on my language, story, pacing, etc. to help me gauge how successful my fixes in drafts 3 and 4 were.  But I’m not anticipating that being the case.  As a relatively poor contributor of critiques for my fellow writers (whether of the Alpha or Beta variety), I don’t really feel as though it’s fair for me to keep going back to the well for this.   Not if I’m not able to give as good as I can get.  And right now… I don’t think that I can.  (In fact, in terms of pure fairness, I don’t think I can honestly ask for Alpha readers, so the proposed Third Draft above is a bit of a reach.)  On the plus side?  It’s certainly a feasible idea, however remote, that by the time I’m actually done with my first and second drafts that I’ll be in a better position to supply critiques as well as consume them.

But that’s where my thoughts are as I tinker around second-drafting some parts of “Book of M”.

So how was your week in writing?

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Scott permalink
    July 31, 2012 1:13 pm

    Stephen, I’d be up for beta reading for you if you’d ever like. I’m a Pastor and wanna be writer so life’s a little hectic, but given time I’m also an English Major grad from UC Berkeley so might be of some help… Let me know anytime. Scott Williams –

    • August 1, 2012 9:29 am

      Well, thank you for volunteering. However, it’s a little premature, still. I think my current goal for completing the first draft of my WIP is like April 2013 but in reality I’m thinking it won’t be done until sometime late in 2013, so that’s over a year away yet. But come that time, if you’re interested in reading and offering some feedback on a somewhat non-traditional steampunk-flavored post-apocalyptic Epic Fantasy, well, I’ll be very glad for the reader. 🙂

  2. July 31, 2012 2:27 pm

    Glad you were able to get away to your writing a little in the midst of the chaos. I hope it was restful for you. I’ve been busy editing a couple children’s books. It’s really challenging me to tell a better story with the limited number of words I have to work with. As to alpha and beta readers, you might take some time to find some information on what Orson Scott Card calls a “wise reader”. In this case, it’s usually better when they are untrained, when the person is not a fellow writer or a trained student of literature. It focuses on being an observer of the reading experience and letting you solve the problems they discover in your own manner and voice. They can be your best ally in editing, and what’s more you really only need one, and it’s something that can be learned/trained. In Card’s case, at the writing of the book I read of this in, it was his wife.

    • August 1, 2012 9:35 am

      I think it’s a great idea, but I don’t know that this would work for me. For one, my wife would be the only person I could reach this way but my wife’s fiction tastes don’t entirely overlap with my own, so I’m not comfortable asking her to read and critique in the same way I’m not comfortable holding it back from her either. And in my writerly paranoia… I’m more confident in my work if I’ve gotten feedback from a larger number of sources. In my personal experience, the best feedback I get on my writing – in terms of the best critique and analysis of my work – has almost always come from other writers. I think this is because other writers are more attuned to understanding things like pacing and plotting and characterization and all of the things that go into making a story or novel and they already read more critically than non-writers. Most non-writers who’ve read and critiqued my works were typically only able to express whether they liked or disliked something but rarely articulate why in any detail. I’ve never been afraid of the thoughts of critiques from other writers overriding my own personal style and approach to a story because whatever problems they encounter with the manuscript, it’s still up to me as the writer to do the actual writing work to set it aright. Whatever their thoughts, it’s still going to be my own voice and vision.

      • August 1, 2012 2:47 pm

        It makes sense. Fellow writers can be good readers, but I’ve found the majority of them to be better editors than readers. To get the full picture of a reader, I’d reference you to Card’s description. It can be found in ‘How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy’. And in most cases, a wise reader must be trained. The usual training method is one of asking specific questions that help them learn to observe their own reading process. i.e. I had to reread this paragraph 3 times and it wasn’t because I was reading at 3am, or there was this great tension here, but it just vanished. They can’t tell you why it happened, that’s not their job. They just help you see what’s in front of you more clearly so you can fix it. A wise reader may or may not eliminate the need or desire for later readers, but it can be a very good start, especially when people and money are in short supply. Cheers, and thanks as always for sharing your thoughts!

  3. August 2, 2012 2:07 pm

    I managed about 2k, I think this week in writing. It’s not flowing well yet, but its my first uninterrupted week of regular schedule in a long while. Things are not looking good for next week, but we’ll see.

    I’ve had a mixed experience with beta readers, and if you want details I can email you about it. They are valuable, but there can also be a lot of warnings attached lol.

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