Monday, June 21, 2010

We are Works in Progress

We are constantly learning, aren't we? We're learning about craft, the business side of writing, and ourselves as we push toward publication and beyond.

Here are some of the things I've learned lately (though a few are ideas I've touched on before):
  1. I'm way more productive when I require myself to write a certain amount of pages each day instead of a certain amount of time. This may not be true for everyone, but it totally is for me.
  2. E-mail is a huge distraction! Cutting e-mail out until my work is done each day makes me more efficient. I realize this isn't possible for people who receive work-related emails, but it's a luxury I'm taking advantage of right now. Confession: I got weak today and didn't wait. I'll forgive myself and start fresh tomorrow. Aren't I kind?
  3. Keeping good revision notes instead of revising as I go will make me more productive. I realize from comments to past posts that I'm a little different from many of you because I turn chapters in to my critique group as I write the first draft. I used to revise before writing the next chapters, combing details through my pages. With this manuscript, I quit doing that because I'm focusing on pushing forward faster. I plan to finish the draft, edit in the revisions based on the initial feedback, then set it aside to let it breathe/chill/ferment/whatever-you-want-to-call-it-that-we-do-to-get-fresh-eyes-and-insight-before-the-next-level-of-revisions-begins. Since I'm a perfectionist, this is a big deal, though it doesn't feel as big as it did a month ago.
  4. I think I love the people at Starbucks for creating so many fabulous ways to drink caffeine. D + S = TLA (Dawn + Starbucks = True Love Always)
  5. Even though I intellectually embraced Anne Lamott's "sh**ty first draft" philosophy long ago, I have to repeatedly give myself permission to suck during the first draft. Samuel Park wrote a great post on first drafts that everyone should read.
  6. Days off are extra sweet when you've been working your asterisks off. We had a blast last weekend! Here are pics of a sea gull's nest my son spotted from the ferry. I've lived near the water my whole life, but I don't remember ever seeing a sea gull's nest.
Isn't he or she* cute?!

I had "she," but my husband said, "How do you know that's a she? It may be a stay-at-home dad."

How about you? What have you learned lately?


Becky Levine said...

Oh, this all sounds so familiar. Yay for just doing revision notes through your first draft. I do this as well, for many of my revision drafts, too, until I get "close."

Nicole MacDonald said...

Currently revising and if I get one chapter a day done I'm happy - any more and I'm thrilled *grin*

Solvang Sherrie said...

It's funny how we keep learning, not only about writing but about ourselves. We all do things differently and that's the beauty of it -- there's not just one way!

Dawn Simon said...

Becky, I can already tell I'm saving myself a ton of time.

Nicole, one chapter a day is a lot!

Sherrie, I totally agree. I also think there isn't just one approach for each individual.

KLM said...

First drafts and's all just blech. Usually I try to push all the way through to the end,but with my currrent WIP, I can't do that. Gotta back up and fix something before I proceed. I feel like I missed an off-ramp or something and now I'm hopelessly lost in backwoods Alabama with a banjo soundtrack playing in the background. Scary stuff.

Anonymous said...

Haha! "Maybe it's a stay-at-home dad," that's great!
Recently, I have learned that no matter how much you yell at the BlackBerry, it still won't work if you don't know what the root of the problem is, and the only way to really get any good writing done is to just sit down and WRITE IT, no excuses.

Anonymous said...

Lately I have learned that writing is a big part of my life but not my whole life. We are definitely "works in progress."

Kat O'Keeffe said...

I'm 100% with you on the Starbucks love.

And lately, instead of requiring that I write a certain number of pages or write for a certain amount of time, I'm setting my writing goals according to scene. Since I outline, this works well for me. I write until I get to a certain part of the story, and then I'm done. This also stops me from checking the time/word count every two minutes.

Dawn Simon said...

Kristen, I used to revise the chapters I got back from crit group each week before moving forward with my new chapters, and it worked for me. I may always do that at the beginning of the book when I'm trying to get my footing--I did it with this one until I got my rhythm and established my protagonist's voice. Now I'm loving the push forward method. That said, I TOTALLY get the wow, I missed my exit--I need to backtrack feeling. I assume I'll still need to do that from time to time in each manuscript. Good luck. It's hard work and it can be unnerving.

Rosemary, true: we have to get our butts in our chairs and write.

You're right, Paul. Balance is so important.

Kat, it's great that you have a routine that works! (And yay for Starbucks!)

Hema P. said...

What a great post, Dawn! I always come to your blog expecting to learn something new and you never disappoint!

Love all your findings and definitely relate to many of them myself. One thing I have learned recently is: you need to completely go away from writing when you're on a break. Going away half-heartedly doesn't do the trick of relaxing you :). Love the seagull's pic!

Amy Holder said...

What a great post! It sounds like you really know what works and what doesn't for you as a writer, which is so important. I totally agree with your #2 (even though I rarely wait to check my email) and #4 made me laugh. :)

Dawn Simon said...

Thanks, Hema. You're a doll. Good point about the break. I think meeting my page count also allows me to go away guilt-free.

Thanks, Amy. I think it is important to find what works best for each of us. Talking with/listening to other writers sometimes gives me ideas of things to try. I bet my approach will evolve with time and each new manuscript.

Sammy Suzuhara said...

Yeah, I'm in the process of determining how I can get my writing done instead of saying I want to write for one hour or so...:)

Anonymous said...

Hi Dawn. I'm back again. This time to say, "stop by my blog. You won a book."

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I'm the complete opposite to you. I write my first draft, then revise it several times (based on a checklist I use). Only when I'm happy with it will I send it out for feedback. I find even though I'm working with an outline, surprises always happen which might affect early chapters. But that's what I love about revisions.

I used to have a crit group, but that split. Now I work with different individuals separately. I like that much better.

Dawn Simon said...

Sammy, it can be tricky squeezing everything in, can't it?

Paul, woo-hoo! Thank you!!

Stina, one of my favorite parts of blogging is learning how other writers approach their drafts! I'm currently working with the most complete outline I've ever written, but I totally had a plot twist last week that I didn't see coming; it just felt right when I got there and made other stuff that's coming later make more sense (if THAT makes sense). Lots of things are evolving as I'm writing, so I have quite a revision list going. I learned from past posts lots of people wait on the feedback. I think crit partners and crit groups are all awesome, and so crucial.

Suma Subramaniam said...

Great Post, Dawn!

I loved the point on keeping good revision notes. I have a lot of notes, but they're all quite disorganized. I should work towards that!

Kiki Hamilton said...

Wow Dawn! You are inspiring! Geez, if I had to wait until I reached a page count every day my family might never eat!!!! But I do get the not opening email thing. That would save me about an hour every morning!

Loved the seagull's nest. How interesting it's on the ground in such a strange spot. I'd never really thought about where they nest but I guess I always assumed it was in the trees close to water. Thanks for sharing!

Dawn Simon said...

Hi, Suma! I was just thinking I need to rewrite my notes from this week to stay organized. I want to have everything in one place when I hit my revisions!

Kiki, yeah, that feeding the family thing can be tricky... ;)