Tuesday, June 30, 2009

New draft "Moving Day" is about 4200 words, all produced last night

My goal last night was to write a new draft that would glue all the pieces together neatly and reduce the wordcount. I got there, but I was up pretty late.

I had the evening planned out: I had a crockpot meal ready when I got home, and I would sit down and write 1000 words, then do a chore or juggle or read a little bit. I had to take breaks because I've spent so much time at the keyboard in the last four days that my back is on the verge of a breakdown.

I'm pretty happy with last night's progress. I'm sure I'll hate it when I'm editing it tonight, but hey, I've got a coherant draft. A little editing and tomorrow's deadline is a shoe-in.

On this and other recent projects, I've been starting new drafts in empty files. Frankly, I've hardly ever done that before. Usually when I talk about a new draft, I mean a heavily edited version of a prior one, or one with lots of new chunks. But I'm finding that starting over, even if I end up retyping a lot of the same sentences, is a great technique:

  • It's very satisfying. You produce words fast.
  • It's easy to get into the flow of the piece in a writing session when you have something to start with. I get the same effect by starting a new scene in a notebook in an odd moment, and then using that to start my day's session at the computer. Just retyping what I wrote is a great way to get started.
  • It's a great way to unify the story and fix/catch logic errors. You can't ignore stuff when you have to retype it. I now see that a lot of problems I encounter come from reusing old text.

This is hardly a new idea, but I think it's worth highlighting for anyone who grew up with word processors from the get-go. I don't think I'd have become a writer if word processors weren't available to make the typesetting feasible. But I see a crutch in my process now, and this simple technique of redrafting from scratch is proving valuable.


  1. First off, congratulations on hammering out that draft. I completely understand the back pain issue when typing. I need to make myself take breaks to stretch out more often.

    As far as the starting with blank files bit, do you print out the previous draft and then type that in, or do you open the previous draft in one window and the new draft in a blank window and re-type it that way.

    The print and retype method would quickly get too expensive for me. The other way would be more feasible. But I think that all the retyping would slow me down.

    Do your wrists hurt after a lot of typing? My right hand was going numb frequently until I started writing more stuff in my notebook by hand to transcribe later.

  2. Yes, congrats indeed! And I like the strategy of re-typing. I'll likley give it a try; but from reading aloud, I know what you mean about how that can make you have to face and deal with the parts that suck.

    Interesting to hear about your hand numbness, Doug--I think I have been spending too much time in front of an un-ergonomic set-up, as I was having this too. So these coffee breaks and times-to-get-the-dog (which give me excuses to stand up and get away from the keys) are more crucial than I realized!

  3. My wrists sometimes hurt after a lot of typing, yes.

    And I mean open the previous draft in a separate window.

    I was surprised by how the retyping didn't slow me down. And that it had value even when I retyped the same stuff. Last night I worked on my last 3 paragraphs. I ended up keeping them the same but adding a new one. Retyping forced me to reread in a way that I can't always do when I'm not retyping.