The Craft of Writing
This article explains how a successful and published author received a rude awakening when he submitted the first draft of his book. After taking the time to process what was being communicated, and resisting the temptation to respond with a “f**k you), he re-wrote the entire book.
The money quote is this one:
The first draft is for the writer. The second draft is for the editor. The last draft is for the reader.
I am, at least some of the time when writing, what is known in the writing world as a Pantser. I will start to write down something without any strict or clear understanding of where it will fit in the grand scheme of things.
The life of a Pantser comprises the creation of large piles of Stuff in bursts of writing. Then, in order to unlock the value and make a sensible structure for a book, you have to engage in post-hoc organization and evaluation.
Sometimes what you create emerges as a different type of artifact. For example, some of my blog postings began as ideas for book chapters, but I realized that for multiple reasons (often having to do with the fact that they keyed off news stories and were highly topical with a short shelf life) i converted them along the way to blog postings.
Sometimes I complete a story or chapter draft, then it gets ransacked for ideas for other stories. That happens a lot when writing novels. It is important to almost never delete Stuff. Even if you think that something you wrote is way less than half-baked, it may contain an idea or phrases and descriptions that can be re-used later. (I read an interview with Chris Hillman, who played with Stephen Stills in the band Manassas, who said that one of the important things that he leaned from Stills was to put all of his ideas into notebooks. Even if they seemingly had no clear end point, you could quite often go back to a notebook when writing a song and find something that suddenly fitted into that new song. My best friend from school in the UK, who was a songwriter, also had a similar pile of notebooks and music books, where he wrote down ideas. Sometimes they were just fragments, but they often were used at a later date.
What being a Pantser leads to, within a Scrivener project, is a large number of chapter and story fragments in various life cycle stages. Then you have to be able to organize them, clearly call out their status, and organize them so allow you complete the ones that are worth completing and unlock the value.
This weekend I learned how to combine three features of Scrivener to make that process of post-hoc organization much more elegant and useful.
1. Project Find (aka Search)
The Project Find (Search) facility is good for pulling out files that meet various text criteria. What I did not realize until now is that Search can also select based on key meta-data items like Status. This allows me to (for example) pull up a list of all files that are in To Do status (i.e. unstarted).
I discovered how to use Collections in a way that allows me to have a work list of ‘in flight” items. It is possible in Scrivener to save Search results into a Collection. So, I can Search for all files with a Status of “To Do”, and then create a Collection (which is not a copy of the files, just a different view of the contents of the Binder) named “To Do. Then I can work my way down the Collection, creating sketches or drafts for the items in the Collection.
The functionality is good, lacking only only one feature – the ability for Scrivener to drop an item out of a Collection as the item’s life cycle status changes. For example, if the Collection was based on Status, if the Status changes to a value outside the scope of the original Search that created the Collection, ideally an option should exist to drop the item out of the Collection. I suspect that this facility is not implemented in Scrivener because Search and Collections are two separate facilities linked only by the ability to save a Search as a Collection, which is a one-way creation process. To make what I just described happen would require a significant amount of extra coding.
3. Default Status
The other essential feature to implement in all Scrivener projects is a Default Status. I found that my Scrivener projects had no Default for a Status, so any new file I created had a Null value for Status. I set the Default value to “To Do” on all projects. That way, if I write down an idea, it appears in the To Do Collection list, and I can then see that it needs to be at least Sketched.
I also looked some more at the Label facility in Scrivener. This is a powerful feature that allows you (for example) to color-code the display of items based on Label criteria. I think it is useful, but I need to play around with it and use it over time. It would be more useful for me right now if it allowed color-coding of display based on Status value, but that does not appear to be an Option.
Up in Oklahoma at our friends’ lake house.
This is an opportunity for me to shut myself away in a corner of the living area and hammer away on the Corporate Realist book.
I set myself a target of 4000 words a day. I exceeded that yesterday by 1002, so I have around 3000 words to finish today.
Since many of the stories have been sitting in my head for years, I can write them out very quickly.
I should have 9000 -10000 extra words done by the end of the weekend.
Mia Moore and myself spent the weekend in Oklahoma at a lakeside house working on our respective publishing efforts.
U cranked out 8000 words for Corporate Realist and also did some organizing on other book projects.
Ms Moore assembled 16000 words for her first book of her Flying Commando series. A lot of it was pre-existing content but she got up on the wave and carried on and on.
We are now planning a second book writing weekend on the Texas Gulf Coast for February. In the meantime I am working on marketing and sales preparation for Corporate Realist.
Thanks to a group of Russian hackers, the draft itinerary for the Writing Retreat has been uncovered and leaked on the Dark Web:
18:30 Carrollton Pick up Mia Moore
19:30 TBD Dinner en route
22:15 The House Arrive at house
22:30 The House Scrivener overview
23:30 The House Bed Time
7:00 The Lake Run, cold showers, beatings
8:00 The House Breakfast
9:00 The House Objectives and Plan discussion
9:30 The House Writing Session 1
12:30 The House Lunch
13:00 The House Writing Session 2
17:00 The House Walk time
18:00 The House Dinner
19:00 The House Writing Session 3
22:00 The House End of Day Review
23:30 The House Bed Time
7:00 The Woods Prayers, floggings
8:00 The House Breakfast
9:00 The House Writng Session 4
12:30 The House Lunch
13:00 The House Writing Session 5
16:30 The House End of Day Review
18:00 The House Departure
19:30 TBD Dinner
20:30 Carrollton Drop off Mia Moore
After trying without much success to complete the first Corporate Realist book in calendar 2017, I came to the conclusion that I need a different writing space where I can work uninterrupted and focus.
So, for 2017, I am planning writing retreats at our friends’ lake shore house in Lake Raymond Gary in Oklahoma.
Our friend Mia Moore, also a writer with the same challenges, will be joining me. We plan to spend an entire weekend jump-starting our writing in January. My target is another 10000 words for Corporate Realist, and the completion of storyboarding for another book project.
“Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers.”
Not much to report the last 2 weeks, due to work pressures. I did some tidying up and added more chapters and vignettes to be fleshed out. I use SimpleNote to capture small thoughts and ideas and then transfer them into Scrivener.
This works well, since I am a multi-directional thinker and I tend to have sudden bursts of inspiration while sitting somewhere. Those go into SimpleNote for later action.
As I was spending time at a rural retreat in OK this 4th July weekend, I used it to work out how much of a book I could draft up and crank out over that long weekend.
During that weekend I wrote 18000 words, which took me from 4000+ to 22600 words drafted. I did my best to suspend any in-flight judgement, which is one of my challenges when writing. In other words, other than typos, I did not edit myself as I was writing. This will probably lead to editing and polishing, but hopefully I will be able to identify which are the good bits that need further work, and which sections are not worth further work.
Right now, I look to have enough material, based on estimates so far, for at least 2 books. There is a bigger issue about how to package the material that I need to work on in parallel with the actual writing.
I have finally completed the configuration and load work for my Corporate Realist projects in Scrivener. It has taken me a while to learn how to be effective using Scrivener, but the more I use it the more I like it. It has the right balance between visual and textual layouts and UI.
Now I have to knuckle down to the serious business of writing the book material.