Writing In Public: Year 1, Month 1, Day 15

Saturday slog

I arose late in the morning and had nothing to do all day but drive my writing forward. Sounds like a great day!

First, I looked into creating print files. As I’ve announced several times now, I was all set to pull the trigger for the print editions. However, I recently became unhappy with the page numbers, headings, kerning, and hyphenation. Not terribly unhappy, but mildly so. So in the early afternoon I checked out some alternatives for generating PDF’s from text. The cxx2xslfo project looks like it might be perfect. However, it will take some time to test it and adapt my exporter, so I won’t get to it right now.

Plus, more and more writers are saying that in their real experience, it isn’t worth the time and effort to get into print. (See these comments, for example.) So, that’s something. In the same page, you may notice people pointing out that Hugh Howey and Joe Konrath have concluded their testing and decided it’s best to go all-in with Amazon KDP Select, too. Contrarily, Dean Wesley Smith strongly advises in favor of print and against KDP Select. Hmm.

Writing

Later in the afternoon I turned my attention to Taxi Adventure. I spent most of the day taking out pieces that no longer matched the plot and rewriting that action to match what really happens in this final version. I’m not sure how many words I wrote total, but I do know that it was about a wash in terms of words added and taken out.

Most of the time, though not always, when I take out or replace a scene or subscene, I put into a Removed section of the book. So far in this book I have written and removed almost 17,000 words. What’s left in the book at the moment is about 64,000 words. So, that’s a lot.

On Outlining

What I’ve removed so far for Taxi Adventure isn’t the record, though. For Paper Cuts, I’ve written and scrapped well over 30,000 words so far. Threshold of Vengeance has over 13,000 written and removed words so far. Sure, one of Heinlein’s rules that I’m trying to follow is to not revise, but these stories were not completed in their original versions, and they don’t work. Scrap. The Dancing Queen was completed in its first run, but in the end it had well over 17,000 words written and removed. What all these have in common is that none of them were outlined before they were written.

The Desert King was outlined first, and it had almost no removed words (in its original and current version). Winter Kills was outlined first, and it had fewer than 200 removed words. Zombies Versus Comicon was also outlined first, and it had under 1,500 removed words. The Crazy Jack was outlined first, but then suffered through multiple painful, wrong-headed rewrites, and in the end it had about 16,000 removed words.

I think all this adds up to a good argument that outlining is the right approach for me. The wasted words aren’t really the point; they’re just the symptom. The real problem is that it takes a lot longer for me to write without an outline. It takes good time write good words, and it is a shame to throw them away. Plus, when you have a story of a good length that isn’t working, it is usually a lot of painful, difficult work to figure out how to change it to make it “work”, if you even can. And you might say that at least it adds up to a better story, but I don’t think so. When sections get taken out and/or rewritten, the pieces before and after them have to be carefully checked and probably at least partly revised to match the flow of the new piece. In the end, for me at least, I’m never quite sure that the new piece fits exactly. It is so much better to write it right the first time.

So, does “writing it right” mean outlining? For me, probably, at least so far.

So prepare to throw up your arms in disgust as I announce that, inspired by Dean Wesley Smith’s book Writing Into The Dark, I am planning to do a new novel in the near future with no prior development at all. No character development, no outline. Just take a general or specific idea, start typing in Chapter 1 and go. I am not kidding. It should be fun.

I just hope it doesn’t end up with a ton of wasted words.

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