Writer’s Diary 7: The Process That I Know

 

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I’m starting another book, and this is what I now know about my writing process.

I now know that what other authors say about writing a book – that the writing of every book is no easier than the first – is a fact I have found to be true, but there are other things that I know, and the knowing makes it a calmer and enjoyable process, perhaps more enjoyable than those books that came after the first, and before the most recent.

I now know that it takes me at least a year to write a book, (others are faster and churn out a few per year, or are slower). I’ve learnt this about my style, and so I know not to expect myself to be quicker. I know that I need to make a plan for a book, and that the end result will only barely resemble that initial plan, but I need to make the plan, regardless. I know I will make many drafts, the first will be sketchy and shallow, the last will be a long and satisfying process of examining every word’s relevance in every sentence. I know that when I have finally completed that book, edited and laid out how a finished book should be, and told everyone that I have finished, the truth will be that I have, in fact, not finished. Three months later I will write one more of at least two more drafts, and I also know, that this process from start to finish is all part of what I find to be the most enjoyable part of writing a book.

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That Word When: Writer’s diary, 3.

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There’s nothing wrong with the word ‘when’, and many many writers, including myself, use it in the way that I’m about to tell you can distance your reader from the action and lose them a little bit; they might start thinking of cats and drop the book and look around for the kitty litter tray and never come back. I’ve just read this sentence at the beginning of my chapter 9:

When Ulrik breathes in the taste of hot dust, he remembers where he is.” And I’ve edited out two words, ‘when’ and ‘he’. “Ulrik breathes in the taste of hot dust, and remembers where he is.”

The difference is that the word ‘when’  means the action is not happening now, it happened at some time in the past or will happen some time in the future. There’s no urgency to keep reading, it’s not happening right now, and there’s probably no dire consequences bc Ulrik is perfectly fine right now. Taking out that word ‘when’ has dropped the reader right into the action.

Clunky sentences? Read that stuff out loud. Writer’s Diary: 2

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The last thing I do before moving on to the next chapter to edit, is read that thing out loud — shut the door and say it loud! — It’s a piece of advice people give you but you never do, right? I started doing it b/c the couple of times I’ve had to record a short story for radio and podcasts, I found that in the act of doing so I picked up so many clunky phrases or yucky sentences. And it’s especially helpful if you’re a fan of sentences that have rhythm and feel good and are nice to listen to. After reading my stories for said radio/podcast I actually changed a lot of words and had to resubmit the written story. If you imagine, while reading, that it is for radio and therefore u need to pronounce clearly, it really hones in on those ugly words – and you never know when, in the future, you might have to read that out loud to someone, so best fix that shit now.

The fighter pilot excise of those mousy little words

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Working diligently through my current WIP, I find that I’m honing in on and attacking specific words, busting them off the page like a fighter pilot. These pesky words are triggers for me that I’m not happy with the sentence they find themselves inhabiting. Little cancer cells of a healthy body of work, they are. There’s nothing wrong with the words, they’re innocent and they have a right to be there. I just don’t like them. The list of excised words includes these mousy little culprits below. I’m interested to know if you have a similar list. Add your culprits in the comments below. There’s also a list of favourite words that I like to include in every MS just for the fun of it, words like GUSTO, but I only include them once, let’s not get carried away, and that list is for another day.

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