Sunday, January 4, 2009

new strategies

I'm trying something new--or rather doing something I used to do but stopped doing--this month as I write up my JaNo project. I'm writing each day's "new words" by hand, instead of on the computer, then the first thing I do the following day is type in the previous day's submission. The biggest reason I'm doing this is since I'm a freelance writer I've become addicted to using the Word Recount button--have it firmly available in the middle of my toolbar. This is important when I'm doing articles, so I don't spend more time "editing down" than I did "writing up" the article to begin with; but I've found I get a little too fond now of hitting that button to see "where I am" at the moment.

I used to write every first draft by hand, but changed that tactic as deadlines became more frequent, and writing on the computer became more comfortable. Even as I changed over, I knew I was missing the potential for having that quick edit when I moved my words from pen to keyboard. But I never realized what an addict I was to the Recount key until recently.

This fall, I was watching a morning program while procrastinating on an assignment and checking email instead, and the talking female head (don't remember which on it was) mentioned that during the continuous stock market dive she was continually checking the stock tickers and making herself more and more depressed as the day went on. While I don't get depressed by checking my word count (well, not enough to be concerned about), her words made me realize I was spending time stopping myself from being productive whenever I hit that dastardly little button. Worse, if I was near my daily goal, I would mentally start letting myself "shut down for the day."

Writing by hand also keeps me away from the possibility of checking email--or finding new reasons to research while I write (and become addicted to reading new sites that shift me over to other sites that let me click to other sites, and so on).

While I've always edited by hand (I just don't notice things on the screen that I should, and find things--especially repetitive words and phrases--jump out at me when I read them on paper), I'm finding this low-tech re-habit is kind of comforting right now.

That's not to say I'm writing any better. I've found that as I reread what I've written the day before, as I type, I tend to ax much more than I do when I'm just re-reading a previous day's work on the screen. Guess my fingers don't want to bother typing what I know will go anyway. And while I'm "writing" my 2000 word goal each day, I'm actually typing and keeping something between 500 to 1000. But that's okay. The editing I do now won't have to be done later. And I'm not throwing away these handwritten pages until the project is completed, so if I find I absolutely must have something I didn't give enough credit to during the first readthrough, it will still be accessible--if harder to find.

Best of all, doing the retyping the next day gives another deadline to keep me from straying off track. If I allow myself to only read the previous day's work while I'm typing, I'm not tempted to waste the morning rereading and editing a whole chapter.

It's only day 4, so I don't know if this new habit will be the best thing that ever happened to my fiction; but since my nonfiction has "deadlines", and my fiction has only "wantlines," if I don't find ways to make it have some kind of priority in my day, I just work on assignments instead.

Anyway, that's my life at the moment. Now I'll go back to reading about all of your more interesting lives. Love seeing all the collages, BTW.


smellshorsey said...

I think this is brilliant. And I love the idea of finally achieving our "wantlines." So much more important than deadlines.

Just be sure to give yourself credit for all that you're doing.

And isn't it funny how easy technology makes it to derail ourselves -- from the word count button to e-mail to research that wanders into procrastination. Hmmmm. Maybe I should switch to the pen. But I'm so keyboard dependent I practically type my mother's b'day cards. Happy writing, all!

I'm behind. But I'm going to hit my "wantline" this time.

Anne AKA smellshorsey

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Fascinating thoughts on this. I really do live by my word count button. At the moment it's the only thing that's keeping me honest in terms of not going back to Ms. Internal Editor.

The thing that's scaring me as I go back to read, however, is just how much editing lies ahead. I mean, really.

Ceri Hebert said...

I have a friend who is my crit person (she's not a writer, just an avid reader) and she scolds me every time I tell her what my word count is.

I have notebooks and notebooks filled with handwritten wips. I do like to handwrite when I'm not around a computer, but I haven't attempted to do an entire manuscript that way in ages.

Definitely a good way to keep away from the internet and other distractions.

Tiffany said...

I read something a while back (was it in The Artist's Way?) about handwriting bringing out more creativity because it's a right brain activity.

I can't handwrite because I get so frustrated with the slowness (that and my penmanship is barely legible!). But I suffer from shiny object syndrome if I write on the computer - mail? Yea! I have mail! And while I'm at it, why not google that little fact I wanted to check? :-)

Several years ago Melissa introduced me to the Alphasmart and the little word processor totally changed the creative process for me. Now I rough draft on the alpha and edit on the mac.

I love the concept of "wantlines"!

edeevee said...


When I read your posts I wonder if we are writer twins? I seem to suffer from the same writing pitfalls that you do (like tiffany's - shiny object syndrome -lol & research-itis). I'll be watching to see how well you feel this hand-writing works for you. It sure sounds promising.

And 500-1000 pre-edited words a day sounds like really productive sessions to me.

Melissa said...

I was struggling on my last ms with hand pain and had to do a lot of the writing by hand. I hadn't done that in years, but it was really good. I found I got two drafts done that way. Once on paper, then the second when I typed in and could make changes. I usually ended up adding since much of my on paper was dialogue and nothing else!

Keri Mikulski said...

Interesting.. I do a semi version of this at times - writing out scenes. Can't wait to hear how it works for you.