Sunday, April 13, 2014

Crappy Drafts

"Write drunk, edit sober" ~ Peter De Vries

The web is full of writing rules, but there is one follow I intuitively: I write crappy drafts. I admit it. Actually, I could have invented this rule. 

Not that I love crappy drafts per se, but in the process of writing, creating something, my brain is completely in the story. I can even hear the characters talking, thinking, feeling. 

Beautiful, isn't it?

But here comes the other side of the coin: As much as I love the creative part, as much I'm struggling with editing. Not the revising, that's still part of the creation process, but the pure finding the right word, the best sentence, the right tone. Some of it is probably might be the language, some of it is my personality. 

Writing in an other language, crappy drafts tend to get more crappy.  If I can't come up with the right word, I'll put the german word and correct it afterwards - with the danger that I might have to change the paragraph. The same with the tone. I realized, some of my characters speak the same way, use the same words. It happens mostly with the side characters, where I don't hear the voices that clear. I usually have to rewrite their whole dialogue parts.

So here are some strategies I developed to overcome this

  • If you don't know a word, look it quickly up. The key word word here is quickly - have the thesaurus, a translator and a dictionary open and flip the word in quests once or twice between them. It should take you 30 seconds and you have a good answer and as a side benefit, you had to think twice what is the right word.
  • Use character sheets for side characters. It probably doesn't solve the problem, but it helps. Anyway, you should have character sheets for every character (side note for myself: Use character sheets! I know I am a discovery writer, but at least after 20'000 words I should have and stick to them)
  • Get into the right mood before you start writing. Sometimes all the words, all the sentences come wrong. You want to write a deep conversation, but all you get is a dispute or you want to write in english, but you still think german. Here is my solution: Plan and get into the right mood before starting. I listen to music for specific moods, for example for disputes I listen to fast rock or punk, for romantic scenes to bossa nova. And if I'm not in the mood for writing at all, I listen to writing podcasts, like "writing excuses",  "I should be writing" or "the creative penn". It helps me a lot. Sometimes I even watch films. After "Finding Forrester" or "Wonder Boys" I'm like - where's paper and pen. It's "Kopfkino" after all (another nice word that misses translation. It means something like mind cinema or using you imagination).
  • And last but not least, stand by your crappy draft. Don't jeopardize your creative process simply to have a better first draft. 

I hope these strategies help. They work for me. What are your tricks? Looking forward hearing from you.

Your writer in a foreign land

And yes, "Write drunk, edit sober" is not from Hemingway, even though half of the web attributes it to him. In Peter De Vries' Novel "Reuben, Reuben" published in 1964 the main character says “Sometimes I write drunk and revise sober, and sometimes I write sober and revise drunk. But you have to have both elements in creation — the Apollonian and the Dionysian, or spontaneity and restraint, emotion and discipline.”

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