Friday, April 27, 2012

Rites of writing

Since the end of 2011 I have engaged in some rather silly and different practices in an effort to supplement/bolster my creativity, motivation, and general writerliness. These strategies have worked to varying degrees of success and failure. To wit:

Writing by hand: Seems reasonable. In December, January, and February I wrote a roughly 60,000 word novel by hand. The pace of hand-writing made me think more about what I wanted to take the time to write and what could be foregone for the sake of my callouses (whereby I actually mean, what simply did not need to be written). It turned out relatively fantastically, with only one or two weak sections to speak of: nothing was forced, I nowhere tried to "thicken" the text with extra words or passages, and on the whole this fared better by an incalculable power than the other five novels I've penned... er, typed. I was also totally surprised when I added up the length, because it felt like it was much shorter.

The major disadvantage? I've only typed up half the novel, and I have little desire to continue. Writing by hand is a great exercise, but re-writing the entire thing in the typing-up process is mind-numbingly boring.

Mobile writing: I just wrote a short story on my smartphone with a Notepad app for Android. Similar to the strategy of writing by hand, mobile writing encouraged a terse, efficient, strongly illustrative style. I have a great typing system on my phone--I believe it is called "swooshing"--so it really wasn't tedious and may even have been faster than hand-writing. It also had the advantage of already being digitized: I just had to forward it to my email.

The apparent disadvantage is that the program is plain text only and it's a pain to insert special symbols. But that's also a pro. I pulled the ol' "no quotations dialogue" trick, which worked really well for the story thematically and symbolically, and I was encouraged to find natural stresses instead of using italics. (I actually found the same thing when I wrote with Q10, and I was equally pleased. Italics are a very lazy writing technique, Orson Scott Card's laudation of them to the contrary.)

Wide margins: I'm in the process of writing several new pieces in LibreOffice with the help of wide margins--two or three inches on the left and right sides. Compressing the text into a tighter column is, psychologically, similar to using double spacing as you write: you put pages down faster. More importantly for me, however, it gives a look of "bookness" on-screen that I really like. I feel like the story looks more polished on account of the fact that it's not appearing in boring old standard manuscript format.

So, yeah, funny ways to write. I'll continue looking for more. I don't think any of these strategies can work all the time--the first two, in particular, effectively preclude any lengthy composition, at least for me--but they're nice ways to shake up the process.

-bn