magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
One of the metrics I track in my little home-brewed submissions tracker is what draft a story is on when I submit it. It's been occasionally useful – noting when I do revision requests, for example – but recently, I've noticed that almost everything I've been submitting (and selling) is on its first draft. Which I think bears some investigation, because it ends up saying a lot more about how I conceptualize "drafts" than it does about my first-pass writing.

I've mentioned before that I tend to write nonlinearly – a scrap here, a bit there, whole scenes interspersed with fragments of sentences as I come up with bits that stick in my head or in-scene ways to jot down what's happening. Here, I'll grab a representative sample of a story in progress:


the thunk-kah of a second car being latched to the back of the first.


You don't want to go back there, Ausar said.

She paused on the threshold, with her hand on the door. "Are you saying I shouldn't?"

No, Ausar said. But you certainly don't want to.


He was wrong, though. She did want to. It pulled at her, like the curiosity of an unopened but beautiful box.


The next car was dark. The paneling was black, and the carpet, and the cushions on the benches. The benches were wrought-iron. Even the chandelier was more like a shadow in which a multitude of small flames flickered. She stepped through the doorway, and the chill to the air hit her like a wall.


The >s indicate places where something is missing. That "something" may be two or three words, two or three paragraphs, or – in single-document works – entire scenes or chapters. I'll have bits from the very beginning and bits from the very end, with a certain increase in density around the juicy bits, but often not a lower frequency of > markers.

This means that as I'm writing, I'm constantly going back and forth like the shuttle on a loom. I'm constantly re-reading the written bits so that I can re-orient myself and add more on to the scenes. As I'm re-reading, I'm also wincing at the awkward bits and poking and prodding them to make them more presentable.

The other fringe benefit of this style of writing is that if I add something in at the end, the beginning is often still so unformed that I can go back and seed it with foreshadowing without disrupting the pacing or anything. If I decide to bring out another theme, I can shuttle back and forth and add in the supports it needs. I'm revising as I'm writing, and each section gets several passes – but not in a way where it's easy to tally them up and see how much revision I've put any one section through, let alone the entire work.

Which is not, to my mind, how drafting works. As I grok it, a draft produces a complete story at the end: possibly not an ideal story, or a functional one, but a complete one. One you can read through from beginning to end. And while I do sometimes do revisions after the first draft – ones where I split open the ribs of the story and muck with things and suture it back together into another complete draft again – it's not my primary mode of revising.

Which leads to an interesting question: is there a metric that would be more useful to track, if I don't make a lot of use of drafting? What are other ways to judge how much work went into a piece? Time spent on it seems tempting, but given that I tend to jump around from project to project and spend variable amounts of time each day even on the stuff I do focus on every day, it also seems like an accurate sense of that would require more active tracking than I want to invest.

Date: 2014-01-15 11:13 am (UTC)From: [personal profile] sholio
sholio: sun on winter trees (Default)
I often use word count, although I'm not sure if that's quite what you're going for. I do jump around quite a bit -- though not as much as you're talking about here -- so I note my starting document word count at the beginning of each day and then my final count at the end of the day, with some fudging along the way to allow for words cut out and, to the extent this is possible, words revised. Basically I am obsessive about tracking word count. But I know for some people, that's a total creativity killer.

While I'm working on it, I copy/save/renumber my document every time I make systematic changes to it, whether it's a major revision, changing a major characteristic of a main character, rearranging scenes, etc. I usually go through a number of 0.# drafts (0.4, 0.5, 0.55, etc), aiming to end up with 1.0 being my first "completed" draft (still with minor holes, but there is definitely a beginning, middle, and end) ... but sometimes I don't get there until 2.0.

Date: 2014-01-15 05:03 pm (UTC)From: [personal profile] squeemu
squeemu: Magpie holding a ring in its beak. (Default)
I'm trying to decide how well your approach would work for me. I tend to write entire scenes out, although often those scenes aren't in chronological order. I think part of the problem for me is that I don't often get flashes of fic (or when I do, it's when I'm doing the dishes or something and my hands are all soapy and I can't use the computer and then promptly forget the wording I'd liked so much).

...of course, I also don't have that many stories on the go that are actually whole stories, so. Hmm.

Do you use Scrivener and if so, have you used the snapshot function? It seems like it would be a bit of a pain to take a snapshot every time you open up a document/go back to it, but it might be a useful way to track your progress and/or look at how you change things as you go.

Date: 2014-01-16 07:20 pm (UTC)From: [personal profile] squeemu
squeemu: Magpie holding a ring in its beak. (Default)
Hah, I wondered why you were granting me access to your journal again. ALSO SERIOUSLY, mouseover popups can all die in a fire. ...maybe not all of them, but they're really damn annoying.

And... I don't think I get most of my ideas in tiny snippet forms, but on the other hand, my brain tends to not focus particularly well for long periods of time which can be problematic in writing longer scenes at a time. It's something for me to keep in mind, anyway!


magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)

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