Posted on by Steven Savage

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So lately I’ve been reviewing how I write.  Let’s take a look at where we are:

When I write I usually get a big idea, then I review and record it.  I figure if it’s book worthy if it fits my goals.  Then, I work on an outline (in fact I usually work on that earlier as I’m inspired and want to evaluate the idea).

So how do I write?  I mean I’ve talked about getting up to the point of writing.  So when does it begin and do I actually get stuff done

The above activities set the stage.  I got an idea, I have an outline, I have drive.  All that’s left is basically cut loose.

In short, I kind of vomit onto the page.

Disgusting Metaphors Go!

Actually I’m being a bit facetious.  I have an outline, so it’s not vomiting onto the page, it’s vomiting into a very specific framework that lets the vomit flow into the right form.

I sit down, with my outline, and following the direction it set I start writing.  The Outline provides me enough information to know what to write, and I simply do it.  I rarely take the time to do any editing or revision unless I have to.  My goal is to get from A to B in that outline as best as I’m able, even if it’s kind of crappy, half-assed, or understandable only to me.

(In case you wonder, yes, sometimes I eventually throw things out.  But stick with me – this works)

So what’s the benefit to this?  Quite a bit:

  • * First it’s fast.  I can get  a lot done – and the Outline helps that.
  • * Secondly, it’s visceral.  It’s from the gut, the brain, the feelings, whatever part of me is currently engaged.  It’s near automatic.
  • * Third, it’s disinhibited.  The worst enemy a writer has is often themselves.  I’m too focused to get in my own way doing this.
  • * Fourth, it’s about writing.  My goal is not to do anything but get something done, so I avoid distractions, or hemming and hawing.

Now note that this method doesn’t work as well if you don’t have an Outline.  The Outline gives you a pattern to work with (so you don’t go off the rails) and making it keeps you rethinking your ideas (so they’re more instinctive to write).  Going with no Outline can result in this vomit method getting pretty incoherent.

Pacing Myself

I usually set a pace for me to write – based on the aforementioned Outline – on how much I’ll do within a certain time.  It doesn’t have to be good or coherent, but I cover a certain percent of an outline within a given time.

I usually block out the major tasks of my book in terms of months, and set writing goals by weeks.  This way I have the large outline of the book (done in X months) and specific, actionable goals (get 15% through the Outline in a week).

I need this pacing not just to set goals, but because the outline and the “vomit method” actually mean I can overdo it.  I’ve had huge writing binges of hours where the words are coming out, and after awhile I’m exhausted.  I have trouble remembering writing parts of “Cosplay, Costuming, and Careers” as I was at my desk for hours.  Well I think I was.

You can too easily burn yourself out doing this – and because the goal is to “get it done” you might not realize it’s happening.  A 10% decline in quality when you’re using the vomit method isn’t apparent, and you won’t notice you’re real tired until your quality is much, much worse, or the words just stop.  Setting the goals helps this . . . but you might just go a bit farther.

So I pace myself, but I’ve never found a perfect method.  Mostly it’s a mix of gut,pre-set deadlines, and guesswork.

That may explain a few things.

It’s OK To Change

Now even though I go and just vomit onto the page, I do occasionally revise the Outline itself.

At times (less and less as I go on) you may find that things didn’t quite work out the way you expected.  It’s OK to revise your outline if you realize things need to be restructured.  However I’d do that as a separate task or after taking a nice break from “vomit writing.”

I also have found that in a few cases of writing you have to write in detail to know just what order things should be within your outline.  You may, say, know when events happen in a chapter, but only later discover the order you tell them in may need to be done differently.  Sometimes orders aren’t even apparent until you start writing – which is fine (and has been something I’ve done deliberately because I had to read over a lot of research and it was easier to find a pattern while reviewing it and writing about it).

Moving On

So then I’ve got a book that’s really a fast-written dump of ideas into a reasonably planned outline.  It’s barely a book at all.

Which is why, after I finish up all that writing, it’s time to go editing.  That’s when a book starts to become a book.

  • Steve

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