To Rewrite or Not to Rewrite

Recently I’ve been reading the Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing blog series by author Dean Wesley Smith. Like his wife’s articles on the business of writing, there is a lot of good information, both on the business and art of writing, and I highly recommend them to anyone who is serious about starting a long-term writing career.

In particular, Smith’s post on rewriting (which you should read, by the way, because it’s quite excellent) got me thinking about how I usually approach writing. Normally, I do what is apparently called “redrafting”; that is, I write three different drafts of the same story (at least for novels, anyway). After that, I’ll go through and edit the last draft three times before I decide to show the story to anyone else.

This method usually works for me and I generally enjoy it, but reading Smith’s article on rewriting, I wonder if I should try being a “three draft” writer sometimes. His process is as follows:

First draft I do as quickly as I can, staying solidly as much as possible in my creative side, adding in things I think about as I go along, until I get to the end of the draft. Again, I try to write as fast as the project will allow since I have discovered a long time ago that if I just keep typing, the less chance I have to get in my own way and screw things up.

Second draft I spellcheck and then give to my trusted first reader.

Third draft I touch up all the things my first reader has found and then I mail the novel or story.

If my first reader hates the story, I toss the draft away and redraft completely.

It sounds like a recipe for mediocre work, don’t it? But apparently it works for him quite well (he’s traditionally published over 100 novels and hundreds and hundreds of short stories). And not just him, either, but he says that other professional writers use a similar approach and have similar success in publishing and making money off their work.

Of course, I’m not Dean Wesley Smith. As he says, every writer does it differently, so what works for him may not work for me and vice versa.

Still, I would like to try this method out sometime, just to see if it will work for me. It sounds like a lot of fun, if a bit scary. Maybe I’ll use it for my next novel, just to see see how it works for me. I might be pleasantly surprised.

What are your thoughts on rewriting? Share your thoughts in the comments!

-Tim

Victory! (Again)

As of this morning, I finished writing the second draft of my upcoming fantasy novel, The Mad Voyage of Prince Malock. At 125,437 words, it’s longer than the first draft, but also a lot better because I understand the characters, plot, and world better than I did in the first draft.

Per my usual method, I am putting it aside while I work on something else. Then I’ll write the third draft and move onto the revision process and, after that, publish it.

Like with the first draft, this draft just flowed out of my fingers onto the computer screen like a fountain. That it’s coming so easily just blows my mind and makes me think I’m onto something (although of course this “something” will require a little revision before it’s ready to show to anyone).

-Tim

Swimming

Swimming is my second favorite activity in the world (next to writing, of course). There’s nothing better than a long dip in the cold water on a hot, Texas summer day. Even before stepping into the pool, looking at the clear water reflecting the bright rays of the sun is one of the most striking images in my memory. In some ways, that initial step before you get into the pool is almost as good as actually swimming.

In spite of my love of swimming, I do not own a large pool in which to swim. I have this little metal above ground pool, but it’s only good for sitting in, not actually swimming. Sure, sitting in cold water on a hot day is good, but — like taking a cold shower — it’s really not the same as a large in-ground pool.

So whenever I do have access to such a pool, I often spend what may be considered a ludicrous amount of time in it. For example, a couple of years ago I went to a summer camp, which had a nice in-ground pool available for the campers to swim in. During the free time we got every day, I would spend most of it in the pool, simply enjoying the water.

I’m not one for pool games, though, and don’t even get me started on crowded pools. If you want to play games in the pool, that’s fine by me, but don’t expect me to join in. It’s not that I hate pool games. It’s just that I find that pool games often distract me from the actual experience of swimming itself, rather than enhance it.

Nor have I ever considered becoming a professional swimmer. This is primarily because I’m not Michael Phelps, but it’s also because, like I said above, swimming is only my second favorite activity. I like to write more than I like to swim, but I admit that swimming is very, very close and is definitely something I’d do daily if I had a large enough pool.

Another good feeling I associate with swimming is tiredness. I mean the good kind of tiredness, the kind you feel after a long day of doing good, hard physical labor. It’s one of the best feelings in the world, much different from the tiredness I get from writing, and one I wish I could experience more often, to be honest.

Maybe someday, if I make a lot of money through my writing, I’ll buy a pool. At any rate, it’s certainly something to think about.

Do you like to swim? Share your thoughts in the comments!

-Tim

Solitude: Its Benefits and Downsides

I like solitude.

That’s a good thing, by the way. If I couldn’t stand being alone, I doubt I could get any writing done. Solitude is a necessity for most writers, especially if you intend to be a fulltime professional writer like I do. If you love being around other people all the time, you probably shouldn’t pursue writing as a career.

Solitude has many benefits. In solitude, you can explore yourself deeply, brush off the filters that other people and the media place around us, and master new skills without interruption. For me in particular, I’ve found that I need solitude in order to give my story ideas the attention they deserve before I put them down on paper.

Having said that, in my experience I’ve found that too much solitude can sometimes give me a distorted view of the world. Solitude can give you clarity, but if you do not go out into the world to test your views and interact with others, it is far too easy for this clarity to turn into opaqueness.

For example, whenever I hear bad news, I tend to become unhappy. That doesn’t make me very different from most people, I suppose, but it can be worse for me because I live in my head so often. I can take this bad news and focus on it to the exclusion of everything else, even if it’s not an issue that immediately or directly affects me.

When I catch myself doing that, that’s when I know that I need to interact with other people. Preferably people who can crack a joke or tell a funny story, people who can distract me from the problem or help me put it in perspective. While entertainment can sometimes do the trick, I’ve found that lighthearted people are generally a better antidote for sadness than lighthearted entertainment.

Solitude is helpful and necessary; however, it is useful to remain aware of its possible dangers and to counteract them with socializing so you can fully embrace solitude’s precious gifts.

-Tim

Experience and Imagination

Writers need experience and imagination.

When I say “experience,” I mean actually going out and doing things, meeting new people, or learning new skills. If you have ever gone fishing, for example, then you will be able to write more believably about fishing than the writer who knows about fishing through research only*.

As important as experience is, however, you also need to set aside time to reflect on your experiences in order to draw out the details that will make your stories that much richer. This is where imagination comes in, helping us transform the facts, details, and memories of our lives into interesting stories that other people will want to read and maybe even pay real money for.

Because the fact is, living an interesting life is no guarantee that you’ll write interesting stories. You need to learn how to write and reflect, as I wrote earlier. You need to learn how to turn your experiences into fuel for interesting stories and in order to do that, you need to make a regular writing schedule.

The exact balance between experience and imagination is difficult to achieve and varies from writer to writer. My suggestion is to set aside a certain time every day for writing so that you will always get at least some writing done, even if you live a very active life (if you need some help with that, you might want to read this blog post of mine I wrote back in November of last year on the subject).

*This not a slam against research. You can’t experience everything you write about, after all. I say experience is preferable; however, if you are unable to learn about the subject you’re writing about firsthand, then research is the next best thing.

How important is experience for writers? How do you achieve the balance between experience and imagination? Share your thoughts in the comments!

-Tim

Need Recommendations for Novels Featuring Characters Going through Crisis of Faith

I’ve recently came up with an idea for a project I want to work on very soon, but in order to start it, I need to read at least seven novels that feature at least one character (not necessarily the protagonist, though that would be preferable) who struggle to retain belief in God.

Any novel from any genre is appropriate and they can be old or new. Self-published, traditional published, and indie published novels are all acceptable, too, as are ebooks and print books. I don’t care who the author is, either. The only other limitation I must add is that the novels must be written in English (it’s the only language I can read well, though I can read a little bit of Spanish). You can even recommend your own novel, if you want.

As long as the novel features at least one character who struggles to retain belief in God (the resolution to that struggle is irrelevant), I’ll read it.

-Tim

A Victory Against Author Solutions

Some more news on Author Solutions from David Gaughran. Worth a read.
-Tim

David Gaughran

authorsolutionsPRHIt should be clear to everyone now that Penguin Random House has no intention of cleaning up Author Solutions.

The only development since Penguin purchased the company for $116m back in July 2012 is that Author Solutions has aggressively expanded operations (see here, here, here, here and here).

I’ve been covering the Author Solutions story for a while now – particularly since the Penguin purchase, which was met with disbelief in the author community.  It’s a frustrating beat, especially when faced with a wall of silence from the many companies and organizations in traditional publishing who have links to Author Solutions and its subsidiaries.

Documenting the links between Author Solutions and the rest of the publishing world is depressing work. The list reads like a Who’s Who of traditional publishing. Getting them to discuss their links to Author Solutions has been near-impossible, let alone taking…

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Two Interesting Websites

In recent days, I’ve discovered a couple of interesting websites that I’ve added to my “Interesting and Useful Links” page.

The first is the website and blog of author Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Yesterday I spent a couple of hours reading the Business Rusch Publishing Articles which are an absolute goldmine for any writer looking to become a full-time career writer (it’s also the page I link to on my links page). In particular, I’ve found her articles on writing a will and planning an estate to be highly informative on a subject you don’t hear much about in books or websites on writing (although I haven’t read all of them yet).

The second is a web tool called Readability-Score.com. Simply put, you copy and paste text into the website and it will tell you (using the Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease score) how readable your writing is, among other things. I scored between 76 and 84 with my short stories from the upcoming Ambage anthology, which I guess is pretty good. If you want to know how easy your writing is to read (though not, of course, how good it actually is), then this website is for you.

-Tim