Thursday, June 16, 2011

The factory method of creative production

I've been writing a lot lately, a trend following on the heels of my not-writing-a-lot (what we shall call "recharging" though was in fact "videogaming"). I've finished four short stories in ten days, writing about 40,000 words (two of said tales were novellas, essentially, so...). This is directly attributable to my for-now adoption of what I whimsically refer to as the factory method of creative production.

The basic motivation operating here is the fact that I have so many unfinished stories. These come in two brands: stories that were started and never finished, and stories that were finished but never edited. Therefore, I made it a goal to get all of these stories finished, edited, and "in the mail." I'll probably flop out before it's all done, because my to-do list includes four novel revisions, and all but one of those books have I tried (and failed) to edit before. Nonetheless, the objective remains: get some of that unfinished business out of the way before moving on to shiny new ideas.

And, basically, it's worked (for ten days, anyway). There are only really a few principles/rules at play here:
1. Give it a bracket-outline. A bracket-outline is something I contrived, somewhere along the way, from advice imparted by The Thai Barron: basically, slap down the major movements/scenes/actions/events in little square brackets on a page, then fill in the blank space below them with the actual story. This gives form and concrete direction without the kind of intense plotting and development that can detract from fun/time-management.

2. Write one story and don't write anything else. This is pretty important, considering how many ideas one tends to get in a day and how many shiny diversions there are in the world. So long as I don't start any new fiction - blog posts and other stuff's okay, of course - then, at some point, that piece is going to be finished.

3. Write crap if you must. This is a really important rule for me. I love conceiving ideas, and I love starting stories, and I love finishing them, and submitting them, and of course most obviously getting them published. I do not, however, always enjoy the writing of them. For me, a story is like giving birth: it starts with sex (pro), culminates in labour (con), and ends in a child (usually pro). But the time for natural birth has come and gone and now we must do a Caeserean. I need that baby out of me, and that means that, even if I'm not "inspired," I've got to write. I can fix the bad stuff later. (I don't know if you can do this with a child, but, whatever. The metaphor stands.)

4. Gestate. I need time for my stories to ferment (i.e., for me to forget them) before I can go back and do good revisions. We'll have to kill the metaphor here, since babies do their gestating in the womb, but I can't help pointing out the backwardness since it provides me, at least, Teh Laffs. So, yeah. Post-birth gestation.

5. Revise crap to goodness, and do not make more crap while revising. Since I permit myself to write crap, I cannot revise-unto-crap. My revisions have got to be, more or less, final. That's why I can allow myself to write crap, and also why I have to give time for things to ferment.

Anyway, it's going great so far. I'm going to take a break from finishing in-progress stories now and move on to some stuff I have to edit. There's something like twenty tales awaiting my revisions at the moment, and if I could just get those done, I could make it even more difficult for myself to find good markets because I have so many stories out there. But that's a really good thing, and when I'm really out of markets, I can send the stories to my editor at Isomorph Press - real swell guy, name of Ben Godby? - and make e-books out of 'em.

Of course, talking about creative production like it's a complete manufacturing process makes me sound pretty shallow, but I still find that it's an artistic process. That said, here is a really great post by Nick Mamatas at Booklifenow.com about rejecting the notion of craft and striving for art. I think it's a really good shake-up, considering how many folks be talkin' 'bout craft and forgetting to reach for the (st)ar[t](s).

-bn

Totally hawt image via sxc.hu user macrunning.

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