Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Sweating the Small Stuff

I'm OCD. Just stating that for the record. No, I've never been to a doctor about it, but I sort of know myself well enough to know that I have, um, issues. I'm like that really short insurance guy on the movie The Incredibles who lines up the pencils on his desk.

Or Monk.

Or something.

I know I like things to be "just so." I obsess over the smallest things. I plan events down to the minute. I live and breathe by a schedule in all that I do. You didn't think I actually got up and wrote my post and had it ready to go right at 7 AM every morning, did you? Ha ha ha! No. I plan. Execute. Schedule.

Somehow, though, this way of living has not spilled over into my writing. My life is not creative--writing is. So I let myself go and just write whatever I want. No outline. A vague plan. No schedule. Maybe a word count goal if I feel up to it. This "system" has worked for me. Until now.

Recently, I decided to change the system. I tried outlining. That was a Epic Fail of national proportions. I actually did some character sketches of the characters BEFORE I started writing. That was a mild success, one I'm not counting quite yet.

I did this for a couple of reasons. The first was to somehow try to reduce the amount of editing and / or rewriting I usually go through upon completion of a novel. I kept thinking that there had to be a better way to do it. And maybe there is.

For you. For your brother. For the best-selling authors.

But for me? I can't sweat the small stuff when writing a first draft. I just can't. I was so consumed with getting every little detail right, making sure I knew exactly who the people were, what the story was, that I couldn't do anything. I couldn't write a single word. The voices disappeared. So I abandoned my OCD, I gave up trying to figure out the "small stuff". Those details have always come later, and I'm more stymied now than I was when I wrote an "empty" first draft and then filled it up later.

So, I'm interested. Do you sweat the small stuff before actually sitting down to write? Or are those details revealed slowly as you go (like me)? How much rewriting / editing do you have to complete after a first draft?

Basically, how Monk are you?


Michelle McLean said...

LOL nope, like you, I try to keep my "real life" as organized as possible...and in my writing, anything goes. I actually have done much better in my creative endeavors now that I've let myself go wherever I need to - a scene from smack dab in the middle is in my head? Write it down! Don't worry about the fact that it is completely out of order....so far it's working great :D Now if you'll excuse me, I must go clean the upstairs bedrooms, because that is what is on my schedule for Tuesdays :D

Katie said...

I can't outline either. I've tried. I WISH I could. But no. can't.


Scott said...

Forget Monk . . . as far as my writing is concerned. No outlines, no character sketches (most of the time), just writing. Now, I do jot down notes about the characters as I write, so that later on in the manuscript I can make sure that Character A's eyes don't suddenly change from brown to green to blue. Hate, hate, hate it when I find those little things during the edit process.

I consider myself a free-writer, that is, I just write and hope to heck my writing goes from Point A to Point B in a coherent fashion. This is what works for me.

So, ye of the unibrow, toss out the outlines, the character sketches, and do what you do best . . . write!


Rebecca said...

I have not the least bit of OCD in me when I write. I just jump right in and let the words pour out. I write whatever it is that I feel at that moment and worry about piecing it together later.

Funny thing is wth my sequel I did write an outline and it's helped so far. I did sooo many revisions on my first novel that I wanted to know that I had the foundation right before I started. I shared the outline with fellow writers and my trusty sister and found out they loved it. Cool!

I think it's great to try new ways of doing things, but if it dosen't feel right you should totally ditch it and go back to what did work for you. I love that you said to 'hell with this' and went back to the creative approach. Good for you! Love this post Elena!!

Oh and - I'm not all that organized even in my everyday life. haha what does that say about me? Hmmmm

Danyelle said...

What small stuff?


I just sit down and write. Everything else will take care of itself in its own time. I'm OCD and a natural worrier in every other aspect in my life but writing. :D

B.J. Anderson said...

Haha, I've no OCD in me. My house is a mess, I'm unorganized, I drift from one thing to the next, and I'm easily distracted. So my writing is kind of the same way. I do character sketches though, because I LOVE the characters and have to know them fully before I get into the book. Sometimes I outline if it's a difficult couple of scenes. So, yeah. I'm kind of random with all aspects of my life and especially writing.

Jamie said...

My life relies heavily on my PDA and alarms going off throughout the day/night to remind me of things I need to get done by certain times. Before the electronic version, I lived by a paper planner. I like schedules, routines, a certain "order" to life (clutter is okay, as long as everything is basically organized).

Writing I need to start pretty much cold. I do eventually start a vague outline after the first few chapters, but it's more "thinking on paper" to figure out where I'm going next. And unlike most writers I've come across, I never actually know the ending before I've written to within a couple chapters of it. Otherwise, it just kills my motivation to finish.

I don't do character sketches either - they reveal themselves to me as we go. I need to just get the first draft out. How much work it needs afterward depends on how fast I'm writing (faster = more editing). :-)

jessjordan said...

I am SO OCD in real life. I have 3 calendars for work, everything has its own place and when it's not there I get confused, and I even do kind of creepy things like count my steps in sets of eight.

Writing? It varies. I always start with a prologue, even if I take it out later, b/c it lets me know about my character--where they're goiong to end up, what they have to go through to get there. It keeps me grounded and moving forward, rather than rambling on about tulips for 20 pages. I'm certainly not OCD about it, though; even when I outline, it's all over the place, and I change it regularly.

I do keep what I call "Character Notes" scribbled everywhere, b/c I, too, despise when my characters' eyes before supernatural feats.

H. L. Dyer said...

I'm uberMonkish with writing. I stop to research things or settle on just the right name for a town or a business.

I hate that I do it. But I can't seem to stop. *snort*

Nisa said...

Somewhere in between... I can't just sit down and write. I have to know where I'm going next and if it makes sense. Most of it does, but sometimes it doesn't and when I realize I have things to fix, I can't continue writing the story until I've made the changes... That's where I'm at right now. Making changes. I do outline, but it's very loose and I don't mind making changes to it as I go along.

Lisa and Laura said...

I'm such an OCD writer. I have to have an outline and know what I want to happen otherwise it doesn't work. But I'm not scared of writing total crap, because I always know that whatever mistakes I make, Laura will fix them for me. Ahh...the beauty of sister writers.

Eric said...

I honestly tried doing an outline. I actually wrote it all out too. I haven't looked at it since. LOL. Guess that shows you how little OCD I have.

Lady Glamis said...

Lovely question! I'm still learning what works best for me when writing a novel, but it seems that so far that I like to do a detailed outline first and then I write. The outline, however, is very loose although detailed. It has lots of room to shift and move and grow. I try not to sweat anything small while writing the first draft. NaNo cured me of that! I now just write and don't care about grammar and all that. Well, I try not to...

Jennifer Shirk said...

My writing, my Tupperware drawer, and the inside of my car are a MESS.
But I definitely have a touch of OCD in every other area of my life. :)

christinefonseca said...

LOL...love this post. You know, in real life I am amazingly organized (at least regarding work) - how else would I manage a 50 hour work week, two very active kids, a marriage that has lasted more than 20 years, being on way too many boards for way too many projects, etc AND writing a couple hours each and every day. Trust me - this only happens with a lot of organization and planning.

That being said, I do not apply the same quality to the rough draft of a story.

For me, I think that te internal editor has a place - which is NOT during the initial phase of writing. I think she inhibits the process too much.

That isn't to say I don't know the overall big picture of my story - I do...But I don't obsess over the details. At least not in round 1. Now round 2 through the story...that is a very different situation :D

Thanks for another great post :D

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