Good to change your method midway through production?

December 13, 2012 • Latest, The Light Echo • Views: 1914

I sort of go back and forth on what exactly I want this site to be. I know a few things. I know I want it to be a vessel for my work, especially the stuff that, at this moment, would be quite difficult to get serialized. I’m speaking of The Light Echo. So there’s that. But the posts, the blogging format, that’s the part that could use some honing. It could be a place where I review movies, sure, but there are a thousand other places and a thousand other people more qualified to write about movies than I. Same goes for books and music and especially about art. I like to hike, but so does everyone else. Hell, my boss put me to shame this last year, hiking nearly three times a week on all day excursions up mountains. I do like to write though. When I don’t write the urge to do so becomes compulsive. I feel like a much fuller person when I do it and do it often. It doesn’t exactly matter why that is the case, but it is and has been for a good long while. I’ve written with some sort urge longer and more consistently than I’ve done anything else I think. That doesn’t mean I’m the best writer or somebody with even the best ideas. But I feel better about that than I do about any of that other stuff that I mentioned.

So we come back to what this site could be. I went with an idea that I could use my writing here as a way to explore everyday events of my life and relate them to similar circumstances when I was a child. I think that’s pretty fascinating. It’s also fairly vague. That subject could really encompass almost any genre and also lead to an excess of, “When I was a kid,” posts. We don’t exactly want that.

Which brings us back to the writing. I don’t have an editor. Every so often my mom or dad or good friend reads something to clean up the grammar, and I’ll pass out some work to other friends just to give them something fun to read. None of these is a consistent or reliable outlet. So I think, dear reader, that is going to be you. I’m a shy guy, private in many areas, in many others less so. I’ve heard some writers scoff at attempts to pry into their method, as though their method is some sort of deep dark secret. If there’s any deep dark secret it’s most likely a shut door, a tall glass of water and some good old fashioned hard work. Anyways, I don’t really mind talking about what I do or how I do it. In some sense it’s probably a window into at least one drawer of the crazy cupboard that is my psyche.

Right now I’m editing January’s update of The Light Echo. Editing has always been a mixed bag for me. I really enjoy it, but it doesn’t provide the same end-goal satisfaction that a first draft does. The first draft begins with page one and ends with page 300 or 400. It is a tangible goal, the weight of which I can feel when I return from the printers. The second and third and fourth drafts are much more ethereal. The satisfactions come from character complexity, pieces coming together, the writing suddenly sucking a bit less. These are great goals, don’t get me wrong, with quite stellar satisfactions. But they don’t provide the same push or drive that that initial first draft does. It’s possible I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about of course.

I’ve tried something different with this draft. I began with my normal pattern. First draft I wrote by hand and draft 2 is me transcribing the handwritten draft to the computer and cleaning up any glaring errors. Usually here I go through and mark the hell out of my copy, deciding what I want the characters to do, how I want them to act, and crossing out everything that makes my stomach crawl (usually there pages of this) It is where I start to figure out what exactly everything means. I’ve done that a bit but I’ve also done something else. It could be a gimmick. In fact, that most likely is exactly what it is, but so far it’s been pretty fun.

I was reading The Iceman Cometh last week and thinking about Lincoln and suddenly remembered my love for dialogue. In college I would write entire stories with nothing but dialogue. It was a blast. I’ve gotten away from that a bit. Inspired by that memory, and my first reading of The Iceman Cometh and my first and second viewings of Lincoln I decided to write my second draft in dramatic form, focusing on dialogue and dialogue alone, saving my third draft for the actual quality prose. Once again, we’ll see how it turns out. Somehow I’ve been sick a bunch this month and my writing has gotten side-railed but everything should still be on track for a January 1st publication. I’ve included three pictures of three different drafts of the same scene.

First draft, handwritten

Shitty first draft, handwritten


Shitty second draft, mostly copied from handwritten draft

Aitken and Olof conversation, dramatic form.

Third draft, dramatic form. Aitken and Olof conversation

Now, I decided pretty quickly to drop Aitken’s whole “I-don’t-know-how-to-speak-English-just-yet-but-I-will-soon-learn” bit. Besides being sort of difficult (in the context of the Flute world this brings up a great multitude of linguistic consequences that I do not want to commit to just yet) and dramatically boring, it conjured up all sorts of stereotypes I really didn’t like. Nevertheless, switching to the dramatic form definitely allowed me the freedom to have more fun with the dialogue, to let it go and flow (hopefully not too much). My whole plan with this is two fold. One, I think I’m not too bad at dialogue. I might as well play to my strengths. Two, to help prevent me from telling too much of what is going on. I’d rather show how these two characters get along than be forced to tell you in exposition. It’s an old fashioned rule and one I break probably just as much if not more than anyone else.

Either way, how much of this leads to success is up to you and me to decide (more so you) and whether you have as much reading everything as I do writing it. My fingers are crossed!

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