Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Writing Myths

Sometimes, it not only feels as if you are talking to a brick wall but also vainly pounding your head against it hoping a little commonsense appears. Unfortunately, the other person usually never understands and you end up walking away with a headache.

It is incredible how little that people know about the process of creating a manuscript. I am not discussing the machinations of a story, but rather the mental process of typing, editing, and revising one. For some strange reason, people believe creating a novel is the easiest thing in the world and anybody can do it.

It is not the easiest thing and not everyone can do it.

I am going to discuss two instances that have happened to me during the process of creating my manuscripts. I am sure several writers will nod their heads over experiencing the same thing during their writing adventures.

Instance number one: Typing

I have had someone get angry over the fact that they did not hear me typing nonstop from 8am to 8am the next day. Dismiss the facts that there are basic needs a person has such as eating, sleeping, and using the bathroom. However, there is this weird belief going around that if a writer sits in the chair to type a story, their fingers should type away without any breaks.

Um. That is not going to happen. I am going to pause on occasion to get my bearings on how the story is taking shape. This means reading what I have typed as I would make sure the paragraphs are taking the correct route without going off-roading into whimsical nonsense. Having plot holes is a BAD THING. Unfortunately, I had an occasion where I typed in something and stopped just to hear someone in the other room say, “And?” Then I would resume writing, stop twenty minutes later, and again another, “And,” would break the silence. It happened more than four times. Although I said nothing to the badgering, my thoughts were very vocal about it:

And I need to read what I have written. And I need to make sure what I just wrote is sufficient in carrying the sense of the story. And my fingers need a little break. And my eyes feel strained from staring at the glowing screen for so long. And I do not see you putting your mind through fiery hoops into creating a compelling storyline so everyone will find entertainment from it. And-and-and-and-AND!
Instance number two: Editing and Revising

I am combining these two since, in my case, I work on each of them in the same way. When I edit, I will do the basic once-over for each chapter before printing out a hard copy for a more thorough study later. Once I get toward the middle of the story, I will combine my editing and revisions at this point while trying to create the cleanest, most shiniest, polished work I can manage before creating the rest of the chapters.

This means that I am reading over my work. This means that I am using a red pen over the printed text and that I am making all corrections by hand. This means I am not typing, and we all know how upset people get when they do not hear the clickity-clacks on the keyboard (re: first instance).

“All she is doing is READING. She isn’t even working on her writing. She is just wasting time READING. How long does it take for someone to READ? It doesn’t take anyone this long to READ.”

The only answer I have to the above comments is this: It takes as long as it needs to take to craft a good story. Whether it is one month or six years, let the story flow out on its own. Never rush the imagination in forcing the ideas on the word processor page. You might miss something important if you do.

Besides, for me to be able to read the paper then there must be words on the page. For there to be words on the page, I MUST HAVE TYPED IN SOMETHING!!!!
If anyone is wondering how long it did take for me to complete the manuscript, it took me three months to write it - about two to three chapters a week. Then it took me an additional two months to edit/revise, with a one-week break because I thought my brain would explode and the letters were doing funky dances on the screen from the eyestrain.

Okay, so the letters did not really do a dance. Yet I did suffer from eyestrain as I had muscle contractions around the right eye. I definitely had to take a rest. Boy, I sure caught hell for that.


  1. Yup. People don't realize that part of the writing process involves thinking. Thinking usually makes little noise, and it looks as though you are just daydreaming, so some uninformed folks assume you're just goofing off. Meanwhile, your brain is going a mile-a-minute.

    That is my main fear concerning the blog I'm writing for work, that my boss will not see me typing and assume I'm not working. I give him credit for more intelligence than that, but I still fear that assumption being made.

  2. Suldog: Thinking cannot be rushed. Hopefully your boss realizes by the posts made on the work blog just how much work (that's being redundant) you put into it. My post next weeks explores what people do when they tune out their ears to a writer's accomplishments.

  3. I totally agree, Michelle, especially with the first part. In my experience, "writing" is only about half of the writing process. I spend more time actually reworking a piece than the initial "getting it down" phase. Generally, I write a piece start to finish (not necessarily in one session), though, and do no revising or editing until the piece is completed. I've always found it easier to tinker with a "complete" story than to keep making revisions as I go.

  4. I think you wrote the manuscript pretty fast, if I may say so.;))
    What style of typing do you use? Are you the one who can type without looking at the keyboard using all the fingers of each hand? Or do you type with two fingers only? And which ones in that case?;))
    Just curious.;))

  5. I completely agree with you, about everything. I also think your crafting of a manuscript is pretty swift, a pace I hope someday I can attain. One of my biggest problems is I think too much when I write, searching for just the right thing to say and how to say it. I've been fighting that demon for some time. People who don't "care" about what they say or how they say it don't understand this particular bug, I think. Thats why they think the really good stuff we crank out (when that happens of course) is just easy and takes us no time at all. Good post.

  6. Chris: The reworking takes most of my time also. I can crack down something with my eyes closed. But when I go to edit, this is where a lot of my time goes into, and a lot of my headaches come from when involving other people who simply have no knowledge of how the writing process goes.

    Protege: I'm both. When it involves my stories, I rarely look at the keyboard. Right now, as I'm making my comments, I'm typing with five fingers and my face pressed against the keys.

    If you are curious, I use my pointer and my middle finger on my right hand and my pointer, middle, and ring finger on my left.

    Eric: I wasn't swift when I first started out. Took me a year and more for my first manuscripts. 3 months for the one I'm seeking representation on, and I'm hoping to complete my newest story in 1 1/2 months. But that just involves the writing, not the editing/revising.

  7. Apropos of something... do you ever watch "BookTV" on C-SPAN2 on the weekends? There are incredible interviews with authors various and sundry, and one of the constant interview questions is "how and where do you write?" The answers are many and varied, but they always reflect what you've written here, Michelle, which is to say "writing is a process." A grueling process, at that.

  8. AND?

    Just kidding of course. :) Who would have the poor manners to say such a thing to you.. or is the AND utterer part of your creative imagination too?

  9. Buck: No, I haven't watched those shows. I watch very little television - less than an hour a week. To find out such sentiments are shared makes me all warm and fuzzy inside, or maybe that is just the tea.

    Hilary: AND?!?! Oh, Hilary, how could you?

    Unfortunately, the "And utterer" is a living person. If they were a part of my creative process, I would have strangled them and tossed their body in an imagined ditch somewhere. No, I am NOT joking...

  10. I have enough trouble reaching a point where I'm satisfied with the quality of my blog entries before posting them.

    I can't even begin to imagine an entire manuscript.

  11. Lets try this comment again.

    Buckskins: I'm the exact opposite. I just post willy-nilly, barely remembering what is in the post and having to do corrections after the post is up. My manuscripts - they are my babies. I treat them right and give them all my attention.


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