I've been gone a long time. Intentionally. Sometimes writers have to stop and live a little, to refresh, renew, replenish.
But today I received a link to an article
) by article by Andre Dubus III, author of The House of Sand and Fog
and more, that contained the best description of my writing process--one many writers share--EVER. And I will save and love it forever because it explains, once and for all, the thought processes of those of us who do not outline our works extensively before writing.
There have always been two "camps" of writers, or some insist there are--I think we switch back and forth depending on what we're writing or where we are in the process. But there are long, LOUD arguments on many sites and in many books about this.
I have had two brilliant mentor/friends, both of whom ironically left this world too soon. One was Roger Ebert, as many of you know, who could write a review off the top of his head, minutes before the deadline back in my Sun Times years, and hit "send" confident that it would need no rewriting. The copy desk loved that man. I envied him.
Blake "Blank Check/Save the Cat" Snyder on the other hand, was absolutely adamant that writers outline, and created his famous "beat sheet" to help them "beat out" screenplays that would sell. Some have cursed him for it, others have blessed him for it. And for better or worse, most Hollywood script readers use it as a guideline that helps them decide whether to "pass," "consider," or "recommend."
As much as I adored the man, I was the one mentee who proved the exception to his rules. I could use the beat sheet, but whenever we did, I lost interest in the project quickly. I had "killed" the thing by planning it in too much detail before I wrote it.
I can still remember the coaching session that ended with him sitting there, totally stunned, and saying, "Why isn't this working?!" He had met his match. A drafter who forced him to realize there might be another way.
My way is a bear, that's no lie. As Dubus said, I'm always rewriting, because if one sentence or scene rings false, and I don't fix it, I'll probably wind up throwing away everything that came after that sooner or later.
We work by "feel." We work by intuition and "listening to the voices" and letting the characters lead us. And if the voices are talkin' a lotta crap that day, or the characters are on strike or not feeling particularly communicative that day...we're dead.
We write the whole damned thing, using that first draft as our outline, which we refine and refine and refine like a diamond cutter trying to make that sucker shine just right.
And we're never satisfied. Never. I've never published an article or book that I thought was totally reader ready. Editors had to almost come to the house and hit "send" for me.
Open Salon and Our Salon helped me tighten up my writing considerably, but I am still a drafter. Today...I wrote this quickly, because I couldn't wait to share that article with you. Normally, I would rewrite a few dozen times before I posted. Today...I'm going to be daring and post it as soon as its finished.
It's that important to me--I want all the drafters out there to have it to turn to when their characters lose their way for a day or two. Or to rekindle that "fire in the belly" we drafters need to keep it real.
So here I go. Clicking "Update" now. No rewrite. Cross fingers...