23.4.13

Time


This month I'm participating in the A to Z Blogger's Challenge, found here. Every day of April (except for Sundays), we are posting a blog with the theme of A to Z.

T is for Time.

"More than a half, maybe as much as two-thirds of my life as a writer is rewriting. I wouldn't say I have a talent that's special. It strikes me that I have an unusual kind of stamina."


John Irving 


Everyone has a limited about of time in their life. Some of this goes to responsibilities, some to hobbies. Some to plain ol' fun. It all comes down to how we spend our time.

I don't know about you, but when I waste an entire day watching TV or running around doing errands, I don't feel productive in the slightest. It may have even been a fun day, but it wasn't productive unless I did something worth doing.

We can go through life and have a great deal of "fun," but not end up leaving something behind. As a writer, I want to accomplish something. I want to leave something of my writing behind every single day. So I was thinking about time, and how there's a limited supply of it, but also about what I do with the time I spend writing.

I can break my writing time into three parts: 
1. Planning
2. Writing the First Draft
3. Editing

But where does the majority of my writing time go? 

1. I'm not a huge outliner, so my planning stage tends to be brief, and usually mental (as in, unwritten). However, for the sake of argument, I'll include the mental outlining time in my calculations, because it is time on the novel. I'd say this is maybe 10% of my time.

2. I can type pretty fast, and NaNoWriMo helps me to put a first draft on the pages in about a month, month and a half. I spend from 1-3 hours a day on those days pounding out the first draft words.

3. Personally, like John Irving, I believe two-thirds of my time on a novel is spent editing. 

Allow me to rephrase: at least 66% of my time is spent in the editing phase. Perhaps this goes back to my perfectionism (see post here), and my desire to get every sentence perfect before sharing it with someone. That can be crippling. 

So it leaves me with a dilemma of when to stop. I could spend a lifetime editing and re-editing a novel (and, who knows?, maybe I will). But where's that moment in time when you stop doing good for the novel and start doing harm instead? I wish there were a timer on each of my novels. They would be just like those little plastic pop-up timers on the turkeys you cook every Thanksgiving. When the novel is prime and juicy, ready for consumption, the little red sphere pokes out and says, "Bing! I'm done. Send me on to a publisher, I'm not getting any better than this!" 

Okay, that's a bit unrealistic; let's get back to time. 

I think most of our time working on a novel should be spent in the editing phase. A first draft is crap.

For example, every NaNo month, the NaNo supporters and the NaNo haters pop up with their blogs, either encouraging or discouraging people to try their hand at writing a novel. Both have valid points. 

A first draft is crap. It's inedible swill, it's raw turkey. Maybe half-baked. And consuming it will give you food poisoning. Beginning writers must remember this. It's something that has taken me many years to learn. Looking back at my first novels, ones that I chose not to edit much, I know a first draft is not ready for a reader's eyes.

So the NaNo haters have a point: don't write a first draft and expect it to be awesome. Unless you're willing to do the work editing, you aren't going to make it as a writer. "Everyone has a novel in them," is an oft-quoted bit of encouragement for the wannabe writer. Yes, everyone may have a novel in them, but not everyone has the perseverance to make that novel the best they can make it.

A writer must accept that writing a novel is not just putting the words on the page. Writing a novel is rewriting. And that, my friends, takes times. And it's hard, sweaty work.

"There is no great writing, only great rewriting."Justice Brandeis