Sunday, March 21, 2010

Am I sprinting to the finish line or running a marathon?

Okay, this week I took a hard look at the way I write. I have always said I was a pathetically slow writer and I won't try to lie about it now. I have also said I usually have less traumatic edits at the end because I edit so much when I write. That's one of the reasons for my snail pace. I also read what I wrote the day before when I start writing. It takes me a good hour to actually pick up the pen (yes, I write long hand, but that's a whole other discussion.)

I've listened to a lot of writers say - just write, man.

"Forget about the edits and puke out words."

"You can go back at the end and edit."

"Unlike a blank page, even crap can be turned into something brilliant."

Yeah, yeah, I've heard it all. But here's the thing.

I can't NOT edit! I seriously have to reread it to get my train of thought going for the next scene. Call it OCD or whatever, but it just doesn't work for me any other way. My agent once asked me how fast I could write. When I hedged, she asked if I could write two books a year. "Yes, of course," I said. I hope I didn't lie.

Because I write a lot of plots and twists and characters, for me, the planning and research are the most important parts. I can devote the entire day to writing, yet not get a single word on the paper because I have no clue where I'm going next. I do my best plotting lying on my back.(So, I have to stop and take a nap!)

For me, there has to be time in between scenes to plan the next one, to integrate it into the overall plot without giving my mystery away. For me, all those writing deals where you pen an entire novel in one month or you see how much you can write in a week don't work.

Actually, I suck at them. I can't do it. Period. And I'm tired of people telling me the "right" way to write. I cannot sprint to the end. I have to take it slow and concentrate on the pacing. My goal is to write "The End" without shin splints or a heart attack. Don't get me wrong. I'm impressed that others can. I actually envy them, but I'm through beating myself up over it.

I stand proud. I am a Marathon Writer.

What about you? Are you a sprinter or a marathoner?

I just remembered I have a deadline. Oh hell! Where's my running shoes??


Mary Martinez said...

Great thoughts. And there is no right or wrong way. You have to learn what works for you. If I edited everything before I moved on I'd never get finished.

It took me a long time to figure out what was best for me was not what other people told me.

When I first joined RWA I took every workshop on how to write, what would help me become better at my prose.

And I tried to implement them all. It really messed with my voice. But finally I've figured the best way to learn is to take the workshops and listen carefully. Use what will work for you comfortably and toss the rest. And I'm back and I think I've polished my writing.

My grammar still leaves a lot to be desired, and it's probably because I'm a sprinter and not a marathoner. I just spit the words out as I go.

Thanks for the fun blog.

Kari Lee Townsend said...

LOL loved your last sentence Liz.

You have to do what's right for you. I am somewhere in between. I write very fast (usually :-) but I go in bursts. I stall for a while, then go into writing frenzy mode (which I plan to do this week since hubby is gone ;-))

And I usually write a chapter first, then somewhat edit the chapter, then write the next, then edit the next, etc. I plot my overall book, then do more detailed plotting for maybe 3 chapters, then write those, then more detailed plotting for the next three, then write those, etc.

I think if you stall too much and overedit because you're stuck on plot, then you'll never finish in time. sometimes you HAVE to just write to get unstuck. It doesn't mean you can't chuck that chapter or whatever, but sometimes simply the act of writing "anything" will cause your brain to stop overthinking and then the perfect scene will come to you.

I know you can do it, I just think an actual deadline is scary as hell and we start to freak out. Once you write the first book, you have 9 months in between the next ones and I think it will get easier.

Hang in there and get busy, chica :-)

Liz Lipperman said...

Mary, an honest to God sprinter! I love that we can be so different, so so much alike. Grammar is one of those things that can be made brilliant at the first cut. I wish I could write like that, but alas. I'm not even one of those skinny marathoners from Kenya who could be sprinters. I've accepted it.

Thanks for commenting.

Liz Lipperman said...

Kari, I wanna be you when I grow up!!! Somehow, you juggle two different book contracts, write proposals, help brainstorm with CPs, all while catering to four children and a hubby. You're amazing.

It sounds like we do write a lot alike, but you always have more to show for it than me.

And thanks, Mom, for the pep talk. I CAN do it!!

Kari Lee Townsend said...

Hee hee we ARE a lot alike Liz. I used to write long hand all the time. In fact I wrote my whole first book long hand because back then I didn't have a lightweight portable computer and I was always writing on the run while chasing kids :-) Now that I have more time, I use the computer because my hand can't keep up with my thoughts, but I do still occasionaly write a scene long hand when I don't have my computer handy!

And I'm not amazing....I'm a spaz who has to stay busy or go mad!!! LOL. You rock...hell we all do, we're the M&M's!

Lindsay said...

Great post. Like you'll I've taken workshops on how to write and like you I've found that you have to take from them what you want.We all write our own style and with our own voice. And we can only do that by writing the way we feel.
I never thought if I was a marathoner or sprinter. Thinking about it I think I'm more of a plugger. Just plug along until it's done.
And I usually lie down to work on either refining a scene or figuring out the next one. Problem is I never get throough the process. I fall asleep. Course I do it when I'm going to bed at night.
I one sense I'm lucky right now. No dealines. Still hoping though.
Of course you're all M&M. Just haven't figured out if you plain or peanut.

Cassy Pickard said...

Liz: I love the topic you've chosen for today. I tend to be both- how is that for walking (or running) the middle of the line? I plot like crazy. I've learned I have to do that. Maybe in Friday's blog I'll describe my system.

Then I start to write. It's slow and cumbersome. I too have read all of yesterday's work before I begin the next day. It gets my mind working in the right direction.

Then I can start to take off. My speed increases as the story and I bond.

I do confess, I don't mind the editing. I edit each day what I did the day before then promise myself to keep going forward. Over editing too early is one of the mistakes I make.

I just returned from the eyedoctor's office and was told my prescription was waaay off. Maybe when I get my new glasses I'll be able to actually see what I write. Think that will increase the speed and the quality?

Mary Martinez said...

Cassy, being able to 'see' my work doesn't help or stop me from making mistakes! Good luck.

Liz you've really got me thinking about how I write. I do sprint, but I do more editing than I realized.

Mmmm maybe instead of an actual sprinter or a marathoner I'm a 10ker. Sort of combo of both?

Liz Lipperman said...

Lindsay, I wondered where you were.

It amazes me that so many of us are alike (except for sprinter Mary) but even she seems to be waffling!

I think the general consensus is that you should write what feels right to you. As I said, I am 2/3 finished with the contracted first book. Now that I'm over the hump of what to write about, the rest should go pretty fast. And the good news is that it's not crap.

As usual, I enjoy your comments, Lindsay. Keep writing and one day soon, you WILL have a deadline.

I think we're peanuts - NUTS with sweet shells!!

Liz Lipperman said...

Kari, the reason I write long hand is that I type so badly. I would spend the entire day trying to figure out what I meant. Seriously, I am a horrible typist despite a six-week typing course in HS.

Like you, I go so fast I can barely read my own writing. So, I transfer it to the computer after each session - sometimes even before.

I know. wake up, Lipperman and join the 21st century.

Liz Lipperman said...

Cassy, that would make a great topic for Friday's blog. So would your adventure trying to get home form Italy.

Hope you do see better with new glasses. I paid big bucks for mine and they stay in the case in my purse as I reach for my $10 readers!!

Liz Lipperman said...

Ah, Mary, you're caving!! Don't do it. I am so envious of anyone who can write like that. I have a friend who spits out between 50-100 pages a week. And I've read her stuff. It ain't crap!! GRrrrrrrr..

Cassy Pickard said...

Well, I think that we all find our way. Liz, I get the writing long hand. I write out lots of pages that are conversations with myself. I literally write, "What if..." Or, "Why would he do that?" And I answer my questions on the page. It is from there that I can go to the computer. Somehow I can't do that on the screen.

We all have our ways of making it happen. Thank goodness we share and then possibly improve our own processes.

Laurie Ryan said...

Great post, Liz. I think I qualify as both. I have my basic story outlined before I start writing. Then I write, write, write until I almost feel like I'm getting ahead of myself. Or the story takes a turn I didn't expect it to. :) At that point, I slow down, go back through a lot of it, and make sure it's all working.
Thanks for the fun blog!

Liz Lipperman said...

Cassy, you are a kindred soul. As long as it works for us, it has to be good.

Glad you're home, BTW.

Liz Lipperman said...

Laurie, thanks for stopping by. I think you have mastered what I wish I could do - be somewhere in the middle. It sounds like you're a pantser, though. Do you work with a synopsis or an outline?

Lindsay said...

Sorry to come back in so late. Just got home from work and couldn't wait to see the other comments.
Being able to see what your writing doesn't help. Maybe in editing it will. And Cassy if you love to edit so much, here (Lindsay is handing her his full to edit through the internet) (don't I wish). I know-I wrote it, I edit it.
I look at it not as 'if' I get a contract but 'when'. Just have to find the right person to read it.
Yeah, and the sweet shell is chocolate.