Monday, November 29, 2010

Write Forward, Not Backward

First: Thank you all for the well-wishes! We had our baby boy November 17, and mom and baby are and have been nothing but perfect all year, and they are continuing this trend moving into Christmas. I also have managed to write 19kw this month -- not too shabby! -- and am determined to finish my WIP by January.

In the picture are my daughter, son, and son. It's the right baby and his name is Trant, despite the Howey on the baby-tub. That's his momma's last name, which will be changed in 2011.

Now, on with the show...

What the heck do I mean by writing forward?

Hell, it's what NaNoWriMo is all about, isn't it. Don't stop to rewrite. Don't pause or stall or drown your muse in an endless edit-reedit-rereedit-rerereedit cycle.

Write ~FORWARD~! Onward, ho! Move along. If your train derails and you find yourself writing in the desert, on a horse, with no name, write from the desert on your nameless horse and forget the train derailing, because that may be the most wonderful thing you ever write.

Now why did I get to thinking on this topic? I'll tell you why, thanks for asking.

It's because I'm reading a lot of write-forward authors. I've always been attracted to them the most, and with few exceptions, I'd argue it is the write-forward author who writes the most imaginative, creative, beautiful pieces.

For instance, I'm reading Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land. He wrote that book forward. I guaran-damned-tee you he didn't stop to edit along the way. Even his character-author Jubal Harshaw said this about his writing, which he dictated to his secretary (and I paraphrase): For God's sake, Anne, don't show it to me! Type it up and mail it off! It's hardly worth reading, much less writing, and if I read it, I'll destroy it. Now off with you! FRONT!

You see what he's saying, don't you? That's Heinlein giving you one of his methods. He wrote, refused to re-write, and in Stranger I hit any number of plot-kinks (if there ever was a plot) that would have stalled me, had I been writing the book. I probably would have put it down and burned it around page 150.

But Heinlein didn't stop. He didn't burn it, and there's a good chance he didn't do much editing before he submitted the piece. Hell, his first release required a 60kw cut!

And it's considered one of the greatest Sci-Fi pieces of all time.

Anyway, we call these people pantsers in this blogosphere. It's what NaNo is all about, writing forward not backward, move along, keep it up and keep moving and get from here to the end.

It's the way we dream. We don't stop and edit our dreams as we go. We dream through to the end. We live life the same way, no do-overs.

In some ways, I believe the computer and the word processor are the WORST thing to happen to writing. It makes editing too easy. Used to be you wrote it with your quill, or in later years typed it.

You wrote forward. That's the way it's always been. WRITE FORWARD!

I say this about editing, and you can quote me on this: Revision can take a good rough draft, pound out the lumps, roll the kinks smooth, straighten the curves, round the edges, and untangle all the thoughtless knots—until there's nothing left but a bunch of flat, balmy words. Blech!

Keep some of the kinks. Let us see the author in you, the writer, the YOU in your words! Write it forward and let the editor sort it out, should it come to that.

It's how I write my blog posts, and when I finally get going on a freaking novel, it's how I write my novels. When I forget this, and begin editing, I kill the piece, just like Jubal Harshaw aka Heinlein said I would.


Assuming that works for you. It's funny how authors give conflicting advice. Who was it who said, All first drafts are shit! (Hemingway)

And, I don't write. I rewrite. (??)

But I digress.

- Eric


Stephanie Lorée said...

I believe in the power of revision.

Congratulations on the baby! He's beautiful!

Scribbler to Scribe

Anne Gallagher said...

Oh Congratulations on the baby! He's beautiful! Just in time for Christmas.

I wrote my first novel with lots of going back and edits. I wrote my second novel, going forward, never stopping, never looking back.

Truthfully, I don't like it. I found at the end I had waaayyy too much stuff to rewrite and edit and I just didn't like it. Sure it was a great shitty first draft (Anne Lamont Bird by Bird) but I wanted it to be somehwat revised when I was finished and it wasn't.

We all write differently so it's not contradicting advice, it's just advice.

Charity Bradford said...

Congrats on the cute baby!

This was a great post, here's what really struck home with me:
"Revision can take a good rough draft, pound out the lumps, roll the kinks smooth, straighten the curves, round the edges, and untangle all the thoughtless knots—until there's nothing left but a bunch of flat, balmy words. Blech!"

*sigh* I so feel this!

Unknown said...

Such a beautiful photograph.
Thanks for the mention. Carole.

Wine and Words said...

Well, seeing as I am not a writer...I flipped this a bit. Live Forward. Don't stop to re-hash the past. Live now and step towards the future. I need to do more of this and resolve to do so in 2011, although truth be told, I never keep my resolutions :) But I resolve to try! Ha!

Wendy Tyler Ryan said...

Congrats, Eric. Glad everyone is doing well.

As for writing forward, it took me awhile to learn this.

Andrew Rosenberg said...

Don't I wish I could bang out a masterpiece in 25-30 days. But it ain't never gonna happen.
And also, just because someone "writes forward" doesn't mean that they didn't spend a long time plotting/world building/etc before they set pen to paper.

But I do agree about the not-editing part. I don't even do that during editing...iow I start with Chapter 1 and edit forward and never go back.

And for me, my revisions are much juicier than the original draft because I think about a lot of "how can I really screw things up for my character here? Why are they agreeing here?" and create a lot more tension and conflict.

Jai Joshi said...

Massive congratulations on the birth of the baby boy!!! I'm so glad to hear that everything went well. I knew when I didn't see you on the blogosphere for a while that a certain happy event must have happened.

I agree with you that the first draft is always about writing forward. I never re-write in the first draft. I just go forward all the way, carried by the momentum of the story. It's quite a rush.


Raquel Byrnes said...

Congratulations! Wonderful news! So glad Mom and baby are doing well. Big sister and brother must be over the moon. =)

I am a notorious type-A planner, outlining, plot blocking,software using...unspontaneous I can't even wrap my mind around what you just suggested.

I actually write a chapter and go back and immediately edit it...then when I finish a book, I edit every chapter again. I know...I can't help it. 0_0

I also watch water boil.

However, my critique partner is a pantser and she is a marvelous writer. To each their own -- whatever works, right?

So proud of you for getting so much written in such a crazy month.

Have a super time with your family!
Edge of Your Seat Romance

EC said...

Congrats on your new member!

Yes - write forward, or even a side trot if you have to.

You are terribly busy, but just wanted to remind you about the holiday catalog I'm posting on my blog on the 1st, since you left a comment about it. Of course I'll add you on after it's posted if you need more time to gather a short blurb, link for purchase, pic, and contact info!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Congratulations proud papa!!!

TL said...

Congratulations, Eric!

Phoenix said...

First and most importantly, congrats on your baby boy. He's a cutie, but then so are your daughter and older son too (you can tell 'em I said so!) so it must be good genes and all that jazz.

Secondly, I love the idea of writing forward. I think most art (and life, now that I think about it) is meant to be expressed forward. If we start editing ourselves we can start a spiral of a never-ending, boring-ass quest for perfection that can consume us. Let us move, and think, and write forward and let be what ends up on the page and canvas express ourselves in all our imperfect glory. That's what art is, right?

And finally, thank you for your very kind comment on my blog. The sentence "You're heartfelt,
honest, a little bit neurotic, and a lot talented" is the nicest thing I've heard in a long time. And yes, yes I am neurotic. Damn straight. :)

Get some sleep,

Wine and Words said...


You crack me up!

What makes you think you can
just lay it on
like a brother
push me off the swing
and laugh at my buds?

What gumption
to just pick up
where we never
left off
like the cousin
who always got me
but never knew
I knew
'cuz I don't admit
to such

Ooooo I love it!
But I ain't sayin so :)

(Sorry, just giggling over your comment and a poem burped out!...and I forgot to say, congrats on the new bambino!)

dolorah said...

I hear you on the computer fallacy. Sometimes I can just straight write and get it all down - but usually, there's a lot of back spacing and deletes looking for just the right word or phrase.

When I write longhand I tend to ignore those things, figuring I'll fix them during re-write.

Computers. Love to hate them.

Beautiful family Eric. Good luck finishing your novel. You know you can do it.


Olivia J. Herrell, writing as O.J. Barré said...

Congratulations and a big "Yeeeeehaaaaa!" Beautiful fambly. :)

Forward, huh? Well, I like Wine and Words poem. It fits.

Congrats again, that rebel, Olivia