Friday, August 3, 2012

Triple Take

To begin with, this post is actually an experiment in workflow. Because I enjoyed the process of writing the Armadillocon Challenge Story in longhand and then typing out a second draft, I wanted to try the same thing for a blog post, just to see how it felt.

It's important to try different things, even if they may not always turn out to be improvements, just for the learning involved. New perspectives and all that.

The problem is that I'm writing this post at work, while driving. So: cue the voice recorder.

I'm doing something a bit convoluted, in the interests of exploration. I'm writing this post first on voice recorder, then I'm going to transcribe it longhand, then I'll type it on the computer. Phew.

This means three drafts, essentially. In order to keep the process transparent--and to explore putting photos up on my blog--I will include pics of the handwritten second draft.

Podcasting is a pain for me at the moment, so you won't get the audio first draft. I suspect the 2nd draft, and third for that matter, will be substantially different, so it might be interesting for comparison, but I doubt there will be much interest in listening to me drone on. (Note from further down the timestream: The drafts are all very different. Also, I say umm... a whole lot and repeat phrases like blog post way too much. You don't want to hear the audio, trust me.)

So that's the big idea. The rational is that a blog post is the smallest chunk of writing worth doing this with. A tweet would be silly and fiction, even flash, would represent to large a chunk of time. If I enjoy working this way I will try a short story next. If not, no worries, I haven't lost much writing time. (Time traveler note the second: I don't like transcribing by hand. I do like having a hard copy to work from. See final thought for the next experiment's parameters.)

On to the main topic: As mentioned last time, I wrote a complete short at 'dillocon this weekend. I wasn't sure I was up to the challenge, to be frank, and was quite proud of myself for completing it. I've now finished the second draft of 'Apeshifters', transcribing the text from legal pad to computer document. I made substantial changes as I went. I had a blast all the way through.

I still have a bit of revising to do, mostly line edits, but the story is mostly done now. It turned out to be a pulpish adventure, heavy on the weird. It has my kind of humor. I like to think of it as rollicking.

As glad as I am to have a complete story, especially given the drought I've been in lately, the biggest value here is the lessons learned. I've gotten back in touch with why I write in the first place. The one-word answer: fun.

Putting my worlds, characters, ideas, and events down on paper is a good time. Regardless of merits. It can be a terrible story, but it's mine and I love it all the same. And the thing is: completion is the first step on the path from awful to sublime.

I've been prejudging my ideas, and that's been killing my writing. The habit reared its ugly head after last year's 'dillocon, and has persisted until now. I'm glad to kick it.

The truth is, it's very rare for a story to start out good, for an idea to come to me whole cloth and be worth pursuing. By trying to only focus on good ideas, of which I get precious few, I've been neglecting all the terrible ideas that can grow into beautiful swans if I only let them.

My work evolves as I put it down. A few pages can make a world of difference to a story. I can't know how far an idea might carry me until I've finished putting it down, all of it, every last bit.

Because handwriting leaves little leeway for editing, and because I gave myself a deadline and was under the gun, I managed to bypass the critical voice entirely. I wrote a breezy, fun first draft. The second draft tightened up a ton of things, developed the ideas, and was also great fun. Absolutely marvelous to be working like this again.

I'm so stoked.

Verdict: Pad and paper + blasting through first draft = super way to get a story of to the races. I've written more this week than I have in a long while. In fact, the Armadillocon Handwritten Story Challenge was such a success that I went to my local big box and bought a twelve pack of legal pads and a twenty-four pack of jr. legal pads :)

Final thought: Having the story in front of me, in hard copy, makes editing/redrafting so much easier and more fluent. I'm going to try pushing myself through my next computer-typed story the same as this last one, then printing a hard-copy and redrafting from that. Basically mimicking the process I used on 'Apeshifters'.

I'll let you know how that goes.

As promised, pics of handwritten 2nd draft below. Which makes this officially my first pencast. As noted, the text is substantially different, although the ideas and flow are similar.

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