Friday, May 16, 2008

'FESS UP FRIDAY | Some Gaimanesque Tips

Some of my friends in the real life (as opposed to this virtual blogsphere) actually know about this blog. But I think only 3 of them ever post comments on this blog. So, I'm always a little surprised sometimes, when they talked to me face to face, text message me on my phone or email me -- about something I posted here. In this blog.

"You mean you read my blog?" I would wonder.

Apparently, they do. Which means there are people out there - people who knows my face, my real name, my phone number, my address, my place of work - these people know I'm trying to write a novel.

This accountability thing is suddenly feeling a little stressful. But, here's some of the things I did this week that contribute to my writing:

1) There might be something to this 'Fess Up Friday - I actually managed about 1,800 words. It's not a lot and there are many awkward bits I need to re-write, but I'm leaving that for now. Just trying to get words on the page.

2) This week I spent some time reading Neil Gaiman's blog - which incidentally has some good advice by the man himself on writing. Here's some Gaimanesque Writing Tips:

Neil Gaiman, offering his opinion on actually getting your first draft written:

As for thinking time versus writing time, well, that's up to you. But -- and I wish it were otherwise -- books don't get written by thinking about them, they get written by writing them. And that's when you make discoveries about what you're writing. That's when you get the happy accidents.

So think all you like, but don't mistake the thinking for the writing.

Neil Gaiman's advice, on working on your drafts:

The second draft is where the fun is. In a first draft, you get to explode. The objective (at least for me) is to get it down on paper, somehow. Battle through the laziness and the not-enough-time and the this-is-rubbish and everything else, and just get it written. Whatever it takes. The second draft is where you go and gather together the fragments of the explosion and figure out what it is you did, and make it look like that was what you always meant to do.

So you write it. Then you put it aside. Not for months, but perhaps for a week or so. Even a few days. Do other things. Then set aside some uninterrupted time to read, and pull it out, and pretend you have never read it before -- clear it out of your head, and sit and read it. (I'd suggest you do this on a print-out, so you can scribble on it as you go. )

When you get to the end you should have a much better idea of what it was about than you did when you started. (I knew The Graveyard Book would be about a boy who lived in a graveyard when I started it. I didn't know that it would be about how we make our families, though: that's a theme that made itself apparent while the book was being written.)

And then, on the second and subsequent drafts, you do four things. 1) You fix the things that didn't work as best you can (if you don't like the climactic Rock City scene in American Gods, trust me, the first draft was so much worse). 2) You reinforce the themes, whether they were there from the beginning or whether they grew like Topsy on the way. You take out the stuff that undercuts those themes. 3) You worry about the title. 4) At some point in the revision process you will probably need to remind yourself that you could keep polishing it infinitely, that perfection is not an attribute of humankind, and really, shouldn't you get on with the next thing now?

Sometimes I think I rather spend time planning a novel than writing it. It reminds me of Geoff Dyer's Out of Sheer Rage, a book where he writes about how he procrastinated on the task of writing a book on D.H. Lawrence.

Procrastination may be a sign of fear - you forestall the conclusion - so you never need to find out how you might have fallen short.

Like Gaiman says, "books don't get written by thinking about them, they get written by writing them". I have never had problem charging into something without a definite plan. So, why stop now?

Excuse me while I go write something.

17 comments:

gartenfische said...

Funny, I read your title and thought, It can't be Friday already! In your part of the world it can be!

Thanks for the Gaiman quotes--very helpful.

I know what you mean about planning rather than writing, sometimes the writing just seems like so much WORK. How lazy I am!

Chris said...

I always love Gaiman's writing advice...and I tend to take it to heart too. I figure, he does it so well so it must work! It's quite practical too and really does work best...just do it!

Nymeth said...

"Procrastination may be a sign of fear - you forestall the conclusion - so you never need to find out how you might have fallen short."

Sigh. I know that this has been true many times when it comes to me.

Neil Gaiman always has the best writing advice.

For a couple of years I had a livejournal blog where I posted regularly, and I more or less forgot that I'd give the link to a few real life friends...it was always unsettling when they mentioned something I'd posted there in a conversation.

LK said...

Yay, Dark Orpheus! Great post, great progress. Well, it's just an inch by lurch process, isn't it?

Yogamum said...

I really started writing more and taking it more seriously when I started telling people I was doing it!!!

Love Gaiman's advice!

Ovidia said...

add my thanks for the neil gaiman quote!

saw it when blogsurfing & pretending to be writing--

okay... back to writing!

jpderosnay said...

ah, he's a gem, isn't he.

i also remember reading something very useful he said a few years ago about worrying about being original, about it "all being done before" and what he said was very cool!

i think thinking about it can is great fun, but yeah, you're right, it can become a kind of procrastination...

well, i hope his advice galvanizes you and that in the not-too-distant-future you'll be working on your second draft!

i can't wait!

stefanie said...

Gaiman is a smart man. I love your comment about procrastination. I think there is much truth in it. 1,800 words sounds pretty good to me. And if you think it isn't much, it's a lot more than zero! :)

Dark Orpheus said...

gartenfische: Oh yes. On this side of the globe, I'm 8 hours ahead of GMT. I read a lot of Friday posts on Saturday

Planning always seems more fun. So much more anticipatory, isn't it?

Chris: Gaiman actually likes NaNoWriMo - it gets the words on the paper. But it's hard. Can you imagine how hard he must actually work, writing?

Nymeth: It's unexpected when blog life overlap into real life, doesn't it? I prefer my life more compartmentalized.

Well, as for the fear bit of procrastination - remember something Gaiman wrote? When you take a leap, you may fall.

But sometimes,you fly.

LK: Thanks. It's an inch of progress. But I need to resist the urge to edit it though.

Yogamum: Good for you! :)

You know you're getting a lot of things done, right? Teaching Spanish class, cycling, yoga, raising a family etc etc etc

Ovidia: Ah, blogsurfing. I have that distraction too. So I shut off the internet access to concentrate on writing. But I started a game of Solitaire instead. Which led to 2 games. Then 3. Then 15...

JP Hey, 3 comments in a week. You seem to be getting your connection back. Did you shed blood? ;p

I would like to see the 2nd draft too. But right now it feels like a long time away. I just want to be able to finish something.

Stefanie Thank you for the reminder. 1800 is indeed much more than ZERO. I just need to keep moving. :)

Writing is a little like running. Just have to keep moving forward.

Doc Martian said...

hee hee hee. my bulwer-lytton this year is horrrrrible. in so many ways.

"It wasn't their first epidemic... although his wife and he hadn't seen so many cases of dysentery since they spent a year following the Grateful Dead, however these cases were much more revolting and the effluvia of which never were mistaken for earth-toned tye-dye patterns; Ah, Calcutta."

hee hee hee.
Doc

Melanie said...

1800, impressive! I really like these Gaiman quotes, thanks for sharing them.

Dark Orpheus said...

Doc You liked it though, right? :)

Melanie Thanks - but it's 1800 words in a week.

Doc Martian said...

no, not really, but then i wrote it to make folks feel uncomfortable and icky and like the first sentence in a novel they realllly wouldn't want to read. in that? i'd say it was a success. have you ever entered the bulwer-lytton contest?

Dark Orpheus said...

Doc it's only dysentery. now if you have described it in its full rich colour, smell and flavour - that might put people off.

never tried the bulwer-lytton. nope.

bloglily.com said...

Ah, but a little thinking and dreaming isn't so bad, is it?? I like having the novel in the back of my head when I'm writing other things, or can't write just then.

Here's to the shitty first draft -- I'm going to try to remember that's okay.

xo, L

Dark Orpheus said...

Bloglily The dreaming is definitely okay. It's the daydreaming over the years that finally made me decide I want to actually get them written down.

Just keep working on your draft. You're ahead of me - I have only 1,800 words. :)

Doc Martian said...

ahhh, but had i described odor, it would have been longer than a sentence and not have fit in with it being what the couple had seen. regardless, that's my entry this year.

perhaps next year i'll describe something smelly. like maybe a fishmonger or an athlete's gear. i know. i'll describe godzilla's jock. ;)