lady_yashka (lady_yashka) wrote,

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More Writing Advice

A person sent in an email to Neil Gaiman, and after reading it, I thought this woman's writing method sounded very similar to how most of us write fan fic. I personally think it's a flawd method, the one we use. (write a chapter, edit, update, repeat until fic is done.)

This is why I'm moving away from this method. I feel I need to, because this current method just doesn't seem to work very well for me.

Now you guys can disagree with me all you want. But if this current form of fan fic writing is giving you fits the way it is me, then I think you'll like what he as to say. If not, feel free to ignore this post. :)

Part of the lady's email:

For one thing, I don't write a first draft completely, then edit it several times. I work with scenes. I write a scene, I correct it, a re-correct it, I edit it and so on. I usually have a story planned out in my head entirely, so I end up writing the scenes in any order, really, although it's mostly chronological...I guess my question really is, should I make sure to finish a first draft as soon as possible, even if what I write is crap and has to be rewritten later, or can I polish each piece, put them all together, then polish the result? Is it very important to have a whole to work with, and can that whole be in your head rather than written?

Neil Gaiman's answer:

The biggest problem I can see with the way you're doing it is that it doesn't seem to give you anything finished. (If it was working for you I'd have no suggestions. There are nine and sixty ways of constructing tribal lays and every single one of them is right, after all.) The second biggest problem is that if you're writing a novel scene by scene, trying to get each scene perfect, you don't get to see how anything works when you put it all together, and that's important. A novel is more than just a sequence of scenes put side by side. It has its own rhythms, and you have to bow to them; a novel, or any long story, is something that has to work when you put the whole thing together.

If you're being forced by the nature of what you're doing (episodic comics or serial television, or even writing a novel at 200 words a day online or in a newspaper) to just write and hope it all works out, that's one thing. But if you're writing a novel determined to make each scene perfect before you go on to the next, and you're writing the scenes out of order, then you're making something that's either going to work or not work when you put it all together. (That's still "write the first draft any which way".)

But it won't excuse you from doing a second draft, because you'll get to the end, and put all the scenes together, and then you'll still have to do a second draft, if only because when you read it you notice that you've got two Wednesdays coming together, and someone's name or eye-colour changes between scenes. Or your heroine seems like a bitch, although that wasn't your intention, because you don't have a scene there that shows her humanity. Or a great scene you wrote and rewrote and honed and rewrote and polished till it shone just doesn't fit anywhere because the thing that's happening at the same time loses all vitality if you cut away from it.

I guess that's one reason I like things like NaNoWriMo -- it makes people write and finish things, helter-skelter and however. And once something's finished, you can always fix it. (The first draft of Good Omens took about 9 weeks. The second draft took MONTHS. And it wasn't until we came to rework it a little after that for the US edition that we realised that we had indeed, without noticing, created a week with two Wednesdays in it.)

As for thinking time versus writing time, well, that's up to you. But -- and I wish it were otherwise -- books don't get written by thinking about them, they get written by writing them. And that's when you make discoveries about what you're writing. That's when you get the happy accidents.

So think all you like, but don't mistake the thinking for the writing.

I left out the part about her mentioning writing in a language that is not her first. Besides the fact that none of us are doing that, he only mentioned being in awe of anyone trying to do that.

Also, it's a fairly long post.
Tags: writing
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