dalecoz (dalecoz) wrote,

Workflow and Writing

Sorry about the long hiatus. I'm still battling some kind of cold or flu that is knocking me on my butt and trying to edit my 2012 NaNoWriMo novel into an acceptable entry for the Amazon contest (ABNA).

I've talked a little about writing workflow here. Mine is still evolving. Fair warning, you may find this more detailed than you need it to be, but hopefully you'll notice a few useful tricks if you're an aspiring writer. The big trick with writing for me is to break the process down so I can set a bunch of goal, each of which I can achieve in one day, while keeping the overall goal in sight. I don't know if this would work for anyone else, but it usually works for me. At the start of a project I set up a spreadsheet with daily word count goals and overall word count goals. I don't bash myself if I fail to meet the goals. I just reset them if I get too far behind.

A novel is a big enough project that I need to organize the pieces so I can find them easily. For the 2011 NaNoWriMo I used the Windows version of Scrivener pretty extensively, and before that I use YWriter to organize character and location descriptions for a couple of NaNos. Both pieces of software let you organize a novel by chapters and scenes, and keep character and location descriptions in the same database. That's helpful but it also has a learning curve and some overhead. This NaNoWriMo I did virtually everything in Word and the desktop version of Write or Die.

I wrote my 2012 NaNoWriMo novel totally seat-of-pants, which was a scary experience. I'm not sure if I did a better or poorer job of plotting, but pantsing gave me a lot of anxiety. For the writing, I set up a spreadsheet with daily word count goals. I rarely met the goals before and after NaNo, but exceeded them all but one or two days during NaNo. The routine: Do a twenty minute Write or Die session, aiming for 450 words (and usually falling short by 50-75 words). Cut and paste the results at the end of my Word document. Spend maybe five minutes doing minor edits to correct obvious misspellings and grammar errors. Take a five minute break, then do it again. Result: around 800-900 words/hour. I would usually do a morning session before breakfast, and an evening session right before I went to bed, with other sessions squeezed in as I could.

As the document grew, I marked the beginning of each scene with three brackets followed by the POV character's initials, and then closing brackets. That let me navigate through the scenes quickly. Want to bounce through the scenes? Just do a search on the brackets. Want to find the scenes with a POV character? Do a search on the brackets, plus character initials. That isn't as elegant as what Scrivener will let you do, but it works.

For editing, I set up a spreadsheet with a schedule--how many segments I wanted to have edited by what date. I broke the novel into 4000 to 7000 word segments, each in its own file. For each segment, I set a goal of reducing the word count by 15-20% in two tightening passes. It's weird, but the two tightening passes reduced the word counts by between 11 and 12 percent almost like clockwork--in all but one or two of the segments. I'm finding that tightening much more than 12-14 percent tend to blur the individuality of my voice, so I'm backing off on that a little.

I then ran each segment through Editor, from Serenity Software to catch as many of my comma and other grammar errors as possible and let it suggest more tightening. That usually gave my another couple of percent drop in the word count.  Once I finished with that, I put the segments back together by creating a new Word document and doing Insert-->Text file for each of the segments in order, holding down the CNTL key to keep selecting them.

That gave me a reasonably decent-looking manuscript, still in need of polishing, but ready to send to beta-readers. From beginning to now, the process has taken a little over four months. The rest of the polishing will probably take another month.
Tags: abna, nanowrimo, science fiction, scrivener, serenity software, write or die, writing, writing workflow, ywriter

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