What can be achieved

DebE —  January 26, 2012 — 2 Comments

After procrastinating (although, one could argue that the music purchasing – I’m a member of an online music voting group – and software buying – I’d nearly reached the end of my free trial period with Scrivener, and I like it – was necessary), I finally set about doing some writing during my son’s late morning sleep today. He’s due to wake soon, so I’m going type this note quickly. I learned something the other day – yesterday, in fact … No, I’ll say I learned it now, actually.

See, during my procrastinating yesterday, I visited Elmore Leonard’s website and looked up some of his stuff. I came across a short interview with him, in which he said that he didn’t always know how a scene was going to go, he just knew its purpose, and then he would write it. He also mentioned that characters had to talk to him or they were liable to get killed off, but that’s another matter. It came as a breath of fresh air to me. When I first started writing, I just wrote and hoped something entertaining would come of it. And, something did. It wasn’t awesome, but people liked it.

Then I got further and further along the path of enlightenment. I learned about the Snowflake method, I learned about Outlining, I learned about PLANNING … And then I got pregnant and had a baby (oh, the Outlining learning came after the baby … but, meh, details details), and time to write got ever shorter. And so I got to thinking – it’s not about working harder (I don’t have the time for that), it’s about working smarter. My thinking started to turn towards building up a rock-solid outline, have everything nutted out and planned, so I knew exactly how things would play out, and when I had time to write I could do just that.

But …

… it wasn’t working for me.

I was revisiting stuff. I was thinking about my characters and what needed to happen to them (maybe, depending on exactly which path I take to get to the end), but my writing was becoming stilted. When I sat down to work on a scene I had planned, I wanted to write it perfectly. Get it done (as in finished and ready to go out the door). But, that’s not how this thing works. Not for me, anyway. I’m a Pantser, as I’ve heard us called. I like to write on the seat-of-my-pants. Or something. But, then, I am also a planner. I have a plan. I know how I want to end this thing. And, I have a general idea of how I’m going to get there. The rest, it just needs to flow. And that is what I learned from that short interview with Elmore Leonard. Successful writers can be successful by “just writing”. I’m sure he plans some, too. But, it’s nice to know I don’t have to be fully bogged down. Sometimes, working “smarter” isn’t working smarter, at all. This is a creative process. It doesn’t follow the same rules as a normal office job.

So, I’ve been telling myself a new mantra for the last day – “Just write. Then edit. Then edit some more. Then …” I’m sure you get the idea. My first three chapters, which now tend to get pretty positive comments when they get reviewed, have become polished because I have polished them. They started out a bit rough. And it has been through forging ahead and having new ideas that get me thinking “Oh, I should put a hint back in Chapter 2” that has got those chapters up to where they are.

I’ve seen all the quotes: “Write drunk, edit sober …” “The first task of the writer is to write …” Now it is time for me to remember them.

Writing is a lot like painting (and this also makes me think of a snowflake, but it’s not the analogy I get when I read up on how to do the Snowflake method): You do a rough sketch. You start painting it. You start with broad strokes, and you work finer and finer – depending how detailed you want to go. Sometimes, you go straight in and do detail – which is fine, ’cause it’s a pain waiting for paint to dry (hence my love of digital media). As long as you’ve got that broad sketch done, so that you don’t end up with a tiny painting in the bottom left corner of a huge canvas, you can work however you like to get that painting done. But, get it done.

I’m getting it done.

593 words today. Sandwiched between procrastination (yep, including this). And that was all addition to a scene I had considered cutting altogether. Another lesson – never delete anything (I don’t – I’m a hoarder).




Deb E was born in New Zealand’s North Island, but her parents corrected that within months, moving south to Dunedin and staying there. Childhood nights were spent falling asleep to cover versions of Cliff Richard and the Shadows and other Rock ’n Roll classics played by her father’s band, and days were spent dancing to 45 LPs. Many of her first writing experiences were copying down song lyrics. She graduated to scientific reports when she studied a nematophagus fungus in the Zoology department of the University of Otago, trading all traces of popularity for usefulness… then traded both for fiction. Mum of one human & four fur-babies.

2 responses to What can be achieved


    That’s right, never delete anything. You can always recycle it later. I was reading Larry Niven’s “Rainbow Mars,” which is basically a novella based on a bunch of short stories about “Svetz the time machine pilot” that he wrote in the 70s. The novella came first in the book (written in the 90s I think), then all the old short stories were at the end. I remembered them from long ago. I think “Rainbow Mars” would have been better if they presented the short stories first, to set up the universe, and then plow into the Mars/beanstalk story. But no.

    Anyway, Larry just recycled a bunch of old crap, added some new not-as-good crap on top of it, and published it. Easy money. Not as obnoxious as Orson Scott Card, endlessly rehashing “Ender’s Game” from multiple viewpoints in different books. I do NOT like it when authors do that, and I see it happening more and more.


      “… endlessly rehashing … from multiple viewpoints …” – sound like the New Testament.

      Oh, well, there you go. So, I just need to save all my crap, make a name for myself and then anything I write or have written will be gold … I’ll remember that (o:

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