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Writing styles

Various writers post or talk about how they go about the process of writing, and of the ones I'm aware the majority appear to do a first draft fairly quickly and straight through, and then do a rewrite, possibly a massive one. I don't write that way. I think I'm closest in style to joe_haldeman, who writes only a couple of hundred words a day, but when he's done, he has a book that's almost final draft quality. I'll also write a couple of hundred words at a time, do a minor rewrite of those first thing the next time, then write a couple of hundred words more. When I'm done, I have a reasonably good quality draft, if not nearly as good as something Joe Haldeman would write.

The problem with this approach is that it's slow. Also, if I get stuck, nothing gets written. I've been stuck on one story, a rewrite from Milford, for several months, and last month I got tired of it. As an experiment, I partnered with a friend who was also feeling stagnant for us to each write a story to submit to the next Sword and Sorceress anthology, beginning on the first day of the reading period. Given the time pressures of work, which included a business trip, this meant that when I did have time to write I had to write many more words than usual much faster than usual. I did get it finished on time, and submitted (and rejected), and I learned a lot.

One thing I learned is that I can write faster than I thought I could. Also, if something isn't perfect, I can go back and rewrite even big chunks of the story without problem. I think I've had my first "dare to be bad" lesson, and I'm pleased. The final version of the story wasn't as good as I wanted it to be, but it wasn't embarrassing, either. I'm also jazzed about writing again, and am ready to start tackling some projects. I also realize that I need to have a mix of new projects, not just a backlog, even if the backlog contains a new project. Going back and forth seems to work for me.

This experiment was a success, and I'm pleased. Now for the next story.


Definitely not embarrassing! And the final draft was dramatically improved. I was impressed. And will continue to work on mine once I have food in the freezer again.

May 2011

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