Writing process stuff

In trying not to overwrite, I’m finally learning why I do overwrite. One reason, which I already knew is, outlines can only get you so far. The truth is, I hate outlines, and would never use them in the first draft of an original story. But I need them in a fanfic WIP just to keep myself organized. And yet, I can outline until the cows come home, but when I start to write, I will always think of ten things I need to have in the story but didn’t think of during the outline. So the story starts to expand beyond what I initially imagined it would

(Naturally, there will likewise be five things in the outline that just aren’t going to work, but they usually aren’t cut, they’re replaced with something else which serves the function they were going to serve in the story)

And then, of course, when I do start writing, I hate a lot of what comes out initially. It’s just not what I had in mind, but I can’t get what needs to be there down on the page. So I have to keep writing and writing and discarding and saving in a “maybe” file all sorts of stuff before the words start to come out right.

But in the end, overwriting (writing 20,000 words when the story’s supposed to be 14,000) isn’t about all the junk I have to write first and discard to get to the good stuff. In the end, the reason the 20,000 is a problem is that I’m past the junk and writing Good Stuff, and it’s 20,000 words of good stuff (or OK stuff, or decent stuff), and 6,000 of it has got to go (for tightness’ sake, for consistency’s sake).

No TD 208 word count this morning, I’m in flux–half-text, half-outline, none of it absolutely certain to end up in the final draft. People who start with a zero word count and just keep adding to it until they’re done befuddle the hell out of me.

Reading progress notes

My plan to do more reading more regularly this year is not going as prolifically as I’d hoped, for a lot of reasons. But at least I’m still doing it.

Latest book: “Neverwhere,” by Neil Gaiman

Which I swear I’ve read before. It’s been sitting on my already-read shelves for years, and if you’d asked me what it was about, I’d have told you it was about an ordinary Londoner who one day falls through a rabbit hole and ends up in this semi-magical underground London. Which is, indeed, what it’s about.

And, in fact, the only reason I decided to read it “again”* is it closely fits the genre and themes of the books I’ve been concentrating on this year, and in such a prototypical way that I would often refer to “Neverwhere” as an example of “the sort of book I want to read–and write” in my LJ posts and comments. Richard Mayhew is an ordinary human “character of invitation” who stumbles upon a hidden supernatural world on our contemporary Earth and ends up being a champion of that underworld in a supernatural struggle of good and evil.

(* I also decided to read it again because when I finished my previous book, I was on my way to Arizona and didn’t have time to wait for the inter-library loan to send me a different book from my reading list.)

But after about the first chapter, the specific events started losing that familiarity of having been read before. Which makes me suspect I read the first chapter of this book at some point in the past, and then something happened in my life and I put it down and forgot about it. It’s not the sort of book I would have stopped reading because I didn’t like the book (as was the case with “American Gods.”) I do like the book. Did.

So Gaiman really is English, is he? Because I was sitting reading this thinking, “pretty good grasp of British humor for an American.”

“A Wizard of Earthsea”, Ursula Le Guin
“Proven Guilty”, Jim Butcher
“Dreamchild”, Hilary Hemingway and Jeffry P. Lindsay
“Guilty Pleasures”, Laurell K. Hamilton
“The War for the Oaks,” Emma Bull
“Shifter,” by Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens
“Neverwhere,” by Neil Gaiman

An experiment

OK, to prevent the disastrous consequences of over-writing that vex me so often (these consequences being hours and days spent shaving thousands of words off a story after spending hours and days going to the trouble of adding those words in the first place), I am going to keep a running word count of TD 208.

I will try not to write more than a thousand words over 15,000.

Today’s count so far: 734 words.

Back in SF

Good trip to AZ. Very enjoyable/productive in many ways.

For some reason, this time coming back home on the airport van, I got thrown in with people heading downtown instead of the usual folks from the outer Richmond and Sunset districts. So I got to see the more romantic side of SF–Grace Cathedral, Chinatown, etc. And I’m thinking to myself (not for the first time), “I’d love to write a novel and *set it* in San Francisco.” Once you don’t live in a place anymore, it gets its mystery back.