Category Archives: Writing

Thoughts on writing, both general thoughts and relevant to anything I might be hacking away at, or thinking of thinking of hacking away at…

Tweaking the workflow

I think it’s important, from time to time, to re-examine the workflow you’re using and question whether it’s optimal. As I think I’ve recounted before, my first workflow when I first started writing so many aeons ago was to write by hand, in a marble notebook, then transfer it to computer when I got home. That workflow was born from necessity more than anything else – who could afford a laptop just for writing in 1997, especially when making about $16k a year?

As time moved on my budget increased, such that by the time I came back around to writing again, I could afford a somewhat more mobile piece of technology. And isn’t that the dream of most writers at some point, to be able to write anywhere with the knowledge that their words can’t be lost?

IMG_0848As the years moved on, though, I’ve found that although I have greater means of recording words than ever before, I record less of them and with weaker effect. So a few weeks ago, I decided to do a little experiment. With my trusty and relatively cheap disposable fountain pen in hand, and a yellow legal pad of decent paper quality in the other, I set out to do some writing.

The rules for writing have been simple. I spend a day more on paper, writing out a scene, or if the flow overwhelms me, a chapter. Then when I am at a comfortable stopping point, or I feel like I need a little inspiration, I take what I’ve written so far and type it up. During my typing, I also do some spot editing, changing words, fixing flows, etc. I have found in the last two weeks that by alternating between the two, I am able to keep tabs on the pulse of the story.

What I’m not doing is frantically tracking my word count. That works for a lot of people, and internally I have a running track as I’m writing. I know that a page of written text, in this particular notepad, with this particular pen nib, is typically between 200 and 250 words. So I know if I’ve written four pages today, I’ve written between 800 and 1000 words. Maybe less, not likely too much more, but that’s good enough for a day to day. At some point, I will probably try and strive to write X number of pages a day. For now, i’m just trying to write until either my hand cramps too much or I’ve run out of words for the day. Last night, to act as a bridge between the carefree, just pen it all down, and the gotta save it all to disk mentality, I snapshot (literally) my writing into Evernote for safe keeping. It’s not a perfect capture, but in the event of a water glass spilling on my notebook and ruining a page, at least I’d have enough to work on. (The water glass scenario isn’t as far fetched as you’d think.)

And if you are interested in tracking your word count? Well, my original plan, and what I hope to work towards at some point, is to spend the first part of my writing time each day transcribing/editing the day before’s scribbles, lightly editing and getting back into the right frame of mind, and then to spend the second half of it writing by hand. With first the pinched nerve, and then my other aches this week (I know I haven’t posted about those, but I figured folks don’t come for the health report) I’ve pretty much fallen into doing one or the other and not both.

Even if writing your whole story by hand doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, I’d still encourage you to try doing a little handwriting occasionally. It’s more than the workout for the hand; there’s something liberating about penning your words. Of course, the most important thing, when everything is said and done, is that you are doing what you enjoy in whatever manner works best for you. The only critic you ever have to appease is yourself.

So that happened, a series of unrelated events

Seems like a lot has been happening around Casa Cummings the last few days, all of it unrelated. To kick things off, we’re pretty sure we got hit by lightening late last week. At least that’s what we’re calling it – there was a white, blinding flash at the same time as our brains tell us there was a weird popping noise and a vibration that I could feel through my feet. The only casualty in our house was our router and the surge protector it was connected to – everything else seemed to survive unscathed. This isn’t the first time that we’ve had a close call – ten years ago the house across the street got hit and the lightening traveled down the line and into our house, burning out a DVD player and a TV. All things considered, I think we fared pretty well this time.

Private home reference library
Private home reference library (Photo credit: warwick_carter)

In other news, last night I sat down and began writing again. I have reached a place in my initial outline where my brain is ready for me to start putting words down. I was nervous at first – it had been months since I successfully strung anything together. I’ve set up a goal date and word count, with an implied minimum word count per day (a fluid number, I realize, as days with bursts will offset the quieter days). But it has begun. Last night I put down the first 1k of the rewrite of “The Shambling Man,” book one in my urban fantasy series.

And as a final capper – after a year’s absence, I finally went back to the gym today. As I joked on twitter, I mention this not to gloat, but as a notation for future scholars. Day one is easy, I’ve had plenty of them. It’s repeating this every day, every week, for months that is the true test.

That’s about it for now. More on this gym and writing thing in the next few days (I hope).

N.B. – The photo on this page is apropos of nothing actually discussed. I just like book porn, and despite my desire and need to consolidate my physical book footprint in the house, find rooms like this to be intoxicatingly alluring.

Kevin J. Anderson on Writing an Epic at Warp Speed over at SF Signal

Part of me, like someone in the comments, wants to quibble over the use of the word “writing” in this context, but you can’t argue with the results in the least. In the end, it is all about storytelling and sharing those stories, not about the mechanism for getting the first draft down.

Back in 2000, when I began to write Hidden Empire, the first volume in the Saga of Seven Suns, I went to hike a nice local trail leading up to the Palmer Lake Reservoirs; on that day and that trail, armed with my microcassette recorder, I wrote the first three chapters.

Hoping to recapture that magic, I did the same this time. With my notes in hand for the first few chapters in The Dark Between the Stars, I hit the Reservoir trail, digital recorder in hand technology upgrade. I was ready to go, with 130 chapters ahead of me.

via [GUEST POST] Kevin J. Anderson on Writing an Epic at Warp Speed – SF Signal.

File this under “another approach to try when writing it down slows down the story telling.” (Maybe that’s too long of a file label?)