Thoughts on Writing
After several years of writing I have worked out a routine that maximizes the quantity and quality of my work. I always wake up early and begin writing first drafts early in the morning, before the demands of the day interrupt my thought process. The late afternoon and evening are reserved for editing my early morning drafts.
To ensure consistency between chapters in my novels, I start with an outline and develop an annotated outline identifying scenes in each chapter or short story. I then develop a spreadsheet with the columns identifying the chapters and scenes in the chapters and the rows specifying the Setting, Location, Date/Time Period, Status, Page Length, Characters, Point of View, Scene Summary, First Sentence and Transition Phase. The spreadsheet provides an easy and consistent technique to develop a first draft and reduces writers’ block. I learned a preliminary version of this approach at a BTO conference years ago.
The spreadsheet improves productivity by allowing me to start writing scenes non-sequentially. Thus, if I think of a great idea for scene 3 in chapter 10 I can start writing it immediately, without completing the draft through scene 2 in chapter 10. Consistency is improved because by tracking the dates in each scene before I write, I do not have to perform an excruciating effort coordinating dates in editing my draft.
The spreadsheet does not prohibit creativity. When I decide to change a section of the novel while writing the first draft or editing other drafts, I can change them at the scene level and identify the impacts on other scenes and update them.
While the spreadsheet approach is invaluable in creating a first draft and in editing other drafts, I find the best way of improving writing quality is to join a critique group, composed of positive authors. I belong to three. The critique groups keep you to a schedule, provide valuable structural document advice, as well first draft editing, that is better to receive while writing your first draft, then if you are working on your third draft. I use one critique group to make suggestions on the first draft. The second critique group reviews the revised document and recommends changes to improve it, while the third group is reserved to read sections that are close to a final draft. This process provides me with input from twelve accomplished writers, rather than from one professional editor. I am convinced the critique group members will find more errors or weaknesses and recommend alternative corrections than one highly paid structural editor. I always use an independent copy editor for a last check on the book.
Frank Hopkins http://wwwfrankehopkins.com