Saturday, October 03, 2009

Writing ADD

I think I have Attention Deficit Disorder when it comes to writing projects. I like bite-sized projects that I can finish in a few days' time (which is probably why I enjoy writing the Behind the Spells series so much). These Pathfinder locales are a bit different. Thursday night I worked on both The Prophecy Stone and The Junkyard without really making much headway on either. The night before I was sketching out the look/layout for our Swords & Wizardry adventures. There's something to be said for spontaneity, of course, but if the projects start to lose inertia then everyone loses.

Having a deadline aids you in keeping focused but, as I've said before, I can break such deadlines without penalty as the boss. Another focusing technique that may surprise you is presence of music. Some authors can't write with any sort of distractions. For me, there's two types of writing music--inspirational and working. The former is anything uptempo with lyrics. The latter can still be uptempo but should not have lyrics (new age/classical/soundtrack). Unfortunately, I don't always follow my own rules, using lyrical tunes while typing away. When I do this I'm trying to combine both the creative and actual writing phases of a small project (a la BtS) wherein I type whatever I think of. After working out the storyline for a BtS, for example, I set to typing at the computer without a draft.

Yes, that's right, the bulk of what you read in those pdfs is basically the first draft. Sure, there's some grammatical editing that goes on but, concept-wise, I can't tell you the last time I've ever gone back and erased whole sections of something I've written. I guess that's because I don't start writing until I'm sure of what I want to do. And it seems to work since reviews are average or better for my stuff. Now, if I would only learn some patience and try to refine my work I'd be able to get better as a writer as there's defintely room for improvement. It's all about keeping to a good writing process but, for that, I need to stay focused.

So how do you stay focused?


Blogger Axel said...

I'm the exactly oppposite :) I find it hard to write the short and highly focused texts. I'm always adding more and more, which is also a problem, since there is something to be said for short and efficient text that gets the business done, like your Behind the... series.

Also, my writing is (almost) always spontaneous. Planning a sunday of writing, say 2-3 hours, never work for me. I write when the inspiration strikes me, which can be bad sometimes. Luckily, I write because I love to, not because I have to. A project can take a week, or it can take 3-4 months, or even a year... it doesn't matter to me. If I had to make a living from writing, that would be different, of course.

I do like to use music, though, but mostly for inspiration. Sometimes, I also pick up the old laptop and go to the local library to write. Somehow, being surrounded by old books and (at times) weird people, also inspires me, and in a way, keeps me focused. At the local library, there aren't a lot of things to distract me, like a TV with my favorite show, some dishes that needs to be washed, food, schoolwork etc. You get the picture :)

11:48 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

Meticulous outlining, and a lot of self-discipline.

For long projects, I have everything mapped out to the Nth degree before getting underway. Once I start, I commit to either finishing the project before moving onto something else, or at least hitting a certain milestone.

In the past, I've gotten distracted while writing projects, getting "a better idea" for something else while working on an existing project. It always left me with a half-dozen unfinished projects and nothing accomplished. I hate that feeling. So I've committed to finishing whatever gets started, no matter what.

7:57 AM  
Blogger Bret said...

@Alex: I couldn't write in front of others to save my life. Even in a library setting where no one is paying attention to you it still is too public for me.

@Mike: I stuck to an outline for Goodman's Dragonkin book (can't recall if he made the outline or I did) but I did not care for it. Outlines are too restrictive, IMO. Once it's "on paper", I'm reluctant to change it so writing an outline is pretty much like writing the piece in a straightjacket.

9:42 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

I don't find outlining all *that* restrictive. If I want to make changes along the way, I refer to the outline, and try to figure out what the effect of those changes will be on the rest of the manuscript. The outline's just that - a guideline. I try to stick to it, but it's not carved in stone.

Sometimes I find the change is worth it, I make the adjustments, and go from there. Others, I realize the change is going to require too much work to fit into what's already been written, so I tuck the change away and save it for another day.

8:40 AM  

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