How Do You Write?

March 1, 2008 at 9:35 pm 19 comments

Two years ago when I got serious about finishing more than the first chapter of the first book I started many years ago…I changed my writing habits.  I started, you see, as a horrendous self-editor.   Hours, days, months and years wasted because I couldn’t go on until every word of that first chapter was perfect.  An impossible, self-defeating, burdensome goal.  In the meantime, while I fussed and worried over whether to use “she leaped” or “she loped”, the characters from that first book were bugging the hell out of me.  I dreamed about the story, when I could sleep.  I swear a few of those characters tapped on my eyeballs from the inside in an effort to get out.   I tried writing short stories to make myself finish something…no luck, 1,500 words out of 2,000 and I was starting back at the beginning, because it just wasn’t perfect.  I was, quite literally, sick to death of talking about writing a book instead of doing it.

I started thinking about writing assignments in college, I always finished those and on time.  While I was usually unhappy with something, I had a deadline.  I finished all the stories I started when I wrote for the newspaper.  I had a deadline.  I finished the Evil Doctor’s book, first draft and edited, in four months.  I had a deadline.  So I set myself a deadline, 30-days (I write for children remember, average word count 35,000-55,000).  I did finish the first draft of that book and the book that came after it.  In there somewhere I started this blog, as an additional way to make myself just write without agonizing over every sentence.  In case you haven’t noticed…I rarely edit what I post up here.  I write like a maniac about whatever I’m going to and hit publish.  If I find a wart later… it bugs me to death, but I make it stay there.

Julianne is literally hitting the page like a wild fire, but these are ugly, ugly words and sentences.   This girl wants her story told, however, so the writing is easy.  I sit at the keyboard and she yells in my ear until I’m too tired to listen any more and wander off to bed.  The editing will be hard and tedious.

So, how do you write?


Entry filed under: Habits, writing.

Rebellion by Kid and Other Stuff “Practicing” Medicine

19 Comments Add your own

  • 1. rubbersoulcv  |  March 1, 2008 at 9:41 pm

    if you care to send me a better sample of your work, i would be more than willing in submitting a better reply

    how do i write, hmmmm
    i have written but all that i put down here or in other online forums are just my thoughts

    some are complex and others are, obviously, simple

    if you care to research, all i ask is that you give some input afterwards… MySpace, account name “rubbersoulCV”
    do take care, ChristopherPV

  • 2. QuillDancer  |  March 1, 2008 at 11:24 pm

    Kat, unfortunately I re-edit constantly until my characters die from frustration and no longer whisper in my ear.

  • 3. Kaige  |  March 2, 2008 at 1:34 am

    My first attempts were more by the seat of the pants type efforts and involved way too much over-editing. I’ve found that I need a game plan to follow and I can’t stop and go back until I’m done.

    I’ve also found a great online forum and several users frequent the chat room for challenges (twenty minutes of writing and then a break) and just knowing that someone else is working too helps me. It also helps me stuff my internal editor in a box for twenty minutes and give myself permission to write crap if need be. It’s much easier to fix once it’s on the page.

    Good luck finding a process that works for you! I posted about a similar topic today over on my blog. Feel free to stop by.

  • 4. bobciz  |  March 2, 2008 at 6:36 am

    The most difficult part for me is getting started, The words are all dancing around in my head falling all over themselves trying to get organized until I finally get my fingers moving over the keyboard. Then they all just fall into place miraculously in some preordained order that I am mostly unaware of. Then again I don’t claim to be a “writer” writer, only someone who enjoys getting thoughts down on paper (or monitor nowadays). Editing is cursory, a mere glance to find the misspelled word or dangling participle. I don’t know if I were to ever attempt to write that Great American Novel that I would be able to get past the jumbled words in my head. I am curious to see if I could do it, but nearly as fearful that I couldn’t. So I’ll stick to the occasional short story and infrequent poem and the blogging exercise that keeps the language muscles toned.

  • 5. Delmonti (Dave)  |  March 2, 2008 at 2:15 pm

    The blog is my only writing escape, but it’s not writing really. Just muted shoutings.

  • 6. Hayden  |  March 3, 2008 at 6:28 am

    When I write – which I haven’t, much, in a year or so – I do some weird combination of editing /writing. I really LOVE editing, so I allow myself some time to play with that, then set the task of completing the next “action” that has to happen. I don’t write from an outline – I know roughly where I need to end up emotionally, but not how I’ll get there. As I work I usually have 2 or 10 things in mind that “must happen” – sometimes I do them in order, but if I’m really having fun with an idea I’ll let it jump out of line and figure out how to connect it in later. As the piece gets longer I have to discipline myself around the editing, because it’s easy to spend an entire day playing and not get any further. Sometimes if I’m really fuddled and can’t think where to go an hour of editing gets me in the rhythm of the piece and I can carry it forward. Other times I won’t let myself edit until I’ve written out the action I should be ready to do (even if it doesn’t feel like I’m ready, LOL).

  • 7. katcampbell  |  March 3, 2008 at 9:44 am

    Rubber Soul – Hmm….thanks for dropping by.
    Quilly – Stop it! You’re too good to limit yourself to blogging.
    Kaige – Thanks for stopping by! Your choice of topic was very similar! Great minds think alike?
    Bob – You master those jumbled words pretty darn well.
    Dave – LOL! Sometimes not so muted my friend!
    Hayden – Your discipline humbles me.

  • 8. Jon M  |  March 3, 2008 at 8:57 pm

    In fits and starts but similarly, sometimes I fret about the writing before doing it rather than just getting on with it.

    I can sympathise with the characters desperate to get out!

    Writing is a bit like having a dump, I can’t if I suspect someone might be watching!

  • 9. Mr. Fabulous  |  March 3, 2008 at 8:58 pm

    I am starting to fear that I am over-editing. I don’t know. It always seems that it can be a LITTLE better…

  • 10. stacy  |  March 3, 2008 at 9:49 pm

    I can’t say that I do much (any) writing these days, but when I did I was like you and performed much better with a deadline. Left to my own devices I am a world class procrastinator. Every English paper I ever wrote was done in one draft, on the typewriter, the night before it was due. I got nearly all A’s. Never anything less than a B.

    I’ve never told my kids about that. They don’t need any ideas.

  • 11. Dave M  |  March 3, 2008 at 10:55 pm

    I suppose its a bit like the Nike ad, Just do it, ….and then leave someone else to tidy it up. I’m sure you’ll get there Kat, and from what I have read of you, I have the opinion that you didn’t get where you are today without a lot of resolve to do something. If there is one gift that I would like it would be the ability to write a novel that grips the readers imagination from beginning to the end of the story. How writers work the plot , inter weave the different characters into it, and then bring it all together is pure art. You’ll get there.

  • 12. katcampbell  |  March 4, 2008 at 5:15 pm

    Jon M – LOL! I suspect there are many who can’t write when watched.
    Mr. Fab – Stop it.
    Stacy – Good call, I won’t tell your kids either.
    Dave M – Aren’t you nice.

  • 13. Absolute Vanilla (an  |  March 4, 2008 at 8:20 pm

    I just write. I get the story down – usually it pours out of me and then I come back and fix everything up – usually a few times. If I interfere or meddle in anyway – even if I try to plot, it’s like I jinx the whole thing.

  • 14. anhinga  |  March 4, 2008 at 11:19 pm

    My “method” is that I probably prefer re-writing to writing. The wiritng is just getting the initial thoughts on paper with a natural voice. If I think too much or edit too much writing just doesn’t work. I get to slap myself around later when I clean things up. It’s so much more satisfying that way. Of course, my writing group helps me see points I never would have without them. I hate deadlines, but seem to need that prod to move me along.

  • 15. J.  |  March 7, 2008 at 1:00 am

    I don’t write.
    Yet. 😀
    But I greatly admire those who do, such as you.

  • 16. itelli  |  March 7, 2008 at 4:25 am

    Usually I am more or less like you: with or without deadlines, I have to go chapter by chapter if i don’t want to lose the plot. But because the writing is academic, sometimes u do get the opportunity to fill in every chapter, and then link all of it later.

    Sounds awkward (I won’t say amateurish, cos I don’t believe there’s a professional way of doing it – only professional end-products), but so long as it makes sense in the end…

    p.s. I ‘m sorry about ur experience described in ur most recent post.

  • 17. damyantig  |  March 17, 2008 at 11:34 am

    When I write, I do not edit. Well, sometimes I do.But mostly I let the stories write themselves and then put them away. I get back to them much later, and do my edits. Maybe that is why I am having such a hard time getting a book written. I leave things lying too long.

  • 18. Abby  |  April 4, 2008 at 4:12 am

    I can relate to your experience in so many levels — I want to write a book but feel like I don’t have enough ammunition to finish it. I’ve started a few blogs and just left them hanging — your blog inspires me to start a brand new one and stick by it. I do have a communal blog for the writer’s group I started at church — check it out — and click on my homepage. I hope I finally get the inspiration and motivation like you. It always inspires me when writers like myself conquer their biggest enemy to productivity — themselves.

  • 19. Jeana  |  April 8, 2008 at 4:04 am

    Hello, I would just like to say that I tend to over edit as well. I do think that my characters are still living and breathing. I have been writing for three years re-writing and re-writing until finally my ideas started to bloom. I have an easy plot method that I found on the internet that is easy to use and it is helping me….so far. I just hope that I won’t get stuck with stupid writers block yet again. Anyways Loved your blog and I think I want to start a new one as well. Keep on writing even when the going gets tough. And remember what would writing be if you never got stuck? If you never edited, there would be no talent in it then. So be thankful you have got that talent, as I never thought I did.
    Keep on smiling,


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