Sunday, March 25, 2012

It's Not a Stream, It's a Flood

I am going to try something totally new for today's blog post: I am not stopping for anything. The local time is now 11:35 AM. Let's see how long it takes me to put up a post, shall we.

Thought the first: I couldn't touch-type less than a year ago. I did take a typing class in high-school, so the problem wasn't lack of knowledge but of practical experience. I can now touch-type with a fairly average degree of speed and accuracy, nothing amazing but at least functional. I still have problems watching the screen Vs watching my hands and still make plenty of mistakes, but so far so good.

Learning to touch-type has been a huge factor in increasing my writerly production. If you are hunting and pecking, using anything less than all ten digits, it will be well worth your time to learn to touch-type. Unless you plan on dying in the next year or so.

Thought the second: Learning how to turn off your internal editor is crucial. The genius of Kerouac was that he got all of his ideas on paper, filterless and without restraint. The tragedy was that he didn't go back and rewrite afterwards (grin). I find that my best ideas often grow out of my worst ideas: ideas that wouldn't have made it on the page and thus been up for further processing if I hadn't let myself write whatever drivel I durn well wanted too.

I used to revise as I wrote, doing what Dean Wesley Smith calls "cycling": put up a paragraph or page or several, run out of steam, cycle back to the beginning or earlier of the new material and get a running start again. While this method does produce cleaner copy, I feel that it is inferior (for me, of course, you can figure out for yourself what works best for you) to just dumping the whole durn story and then figuring out what to fix.

I save time this way. Sometimes the story isn't worth fixing, and the sooner I move on, the better. Sometimes the structure is flawed, or characters need reworking, or events need rethinking. Once I have a solid structure, time spent polishing is much less likely to be tossed out later on. Also, as noted above, often the warts turn out to be the most interesting parts of the piece, suggesting new avenues that I would have just plain missed if I had cleaned them up beforehand. This is possibly more important than the mere conservation of effort.

Part the third: The realization of growth. I take it as a good sign that much of my earliest work is--to put it kindly--not done in the same manner as I would do it now. I have grown tremendously as a writer, to the point that the only way I would touch some of my earlier stories, if at all, would be to completely rewrite them from scratch. This is another variation of the no-cycling or editing practice from above, seen through a much larger lens: months, instead of days, hours, or minutes.

At a certain point, a point that I am realizing is arrived at far quicker than I might have suspected, rewriting, polishing, fixing old stories in general: all are worthless. I can tell a new story, from scratch, far better than I can tell the old stories. I can do it in less time, with less effort, than it would take to revamp an existing work. Easier to tear down the building and start fresh than crawl amongst the decrepit ruins and rot and shore things up, so to speak.

Onward and Upward. That's the way it goes, right? Not Fix It and Fix It Some More. Also, Less Is More.

And my favorite: Do It Right the First Time.

Media Breakdown - I just finished Leviathan Wakes by James S A Corey. It was well-written and enjoyable, but I had several hang-ups. The story is basically a cross between military SF and cop/detective drama. I liked the former and didn't care much for the latter (just my tastes.) The novel is a great synthesis of previous ideas, but didn't offer much in the way of anything new or fresh, SF idea-wise. The narrative moved incredibly slowly, with a heavy focus on internal tension and angst (the aforementioned cop drama). Worst of all, the central mystery of the book, and thus the key plot point, (which I'm not revealing for fear of spoilers) wasn't resolved at all. The ending was more of a stopping point than an ending and was a huge let-down for me.

To be fair, this is the first book in a series. I expect series books to stand well on their own, however, and this one doesn't. I might be inclined to keep up with the series anyway, and/or read it when all the books are done and out, but... that glacial pacing is a huge stumbling block. So I won't be reading further when the remaining volumes come out. Verdict: well-written, but  slow and thus not compelling, unsatisfying ending (as a stand-alone book.)

Final Thought - The time is now 11:56, making this a twenty minute blog post. What say you? Should I have gone back and tweaked and reworked, or is it fine the way it is?

See you next week.

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