Monday, April 23, 2007

Cory Doctorow's Writing Advice

Information Week's blog posted an article with author Cory Doctorow's tips on increasing writing productivity.

Here are some excerpts:

Writing every day, he said, creates a smooth communication channel to your unconscious, where all the real writing gets done (he didn't use the word "unconscious.") For example, he said, he described how he worked on a novel for several years, only to have to put it aside for a long time because he couldn't think of an ending. One day, he thought of one, wrote it up, and then set out with a heavy heart to do the unpleasant task of rewriting the novel so that the ending would make sense and was properly foreshadowed. But when he re-read the novel, he found that no revision was necessary -- the ending was already foreshadowed; he'd been leading up to that ending all along, without being aware of it.

He suggested you should "park on a hill" -- stop writing each day just before the end of the scene, or, even better, in mid-sentence, so that when you sit down to write the next day, you know how to begin.

My discipline in keeping to a daily schedule is shabby, but when I have done so, it's true. You seem to get clearer, better ideas when you stick with something day in and day out, your whole imagination getting caught up in the premise/scenario and with the characters, so that your subconscious does seem to bubble up more stuff. Can't disagree with that.

And I'd heard the "parking" suggestion before, though, honestly, when I did that, I just came back frustrated. Hm.

A bit more frm the blog article:

If you miss a day writing, don't compound the problem. Just get it done the next day. It's like your job: If you come in late for work one day, that's done, you can't undo it, but you should be on time the next day.

He doesn't go in for elaborate outlining or formulas of story construction (like Algis Budrys's seven points). Instead, he writes what he calls "treatments," descriptions of things that should happen in chapters, not necessarily in any order. And his basic formula is to write likeable characters who do intelligent things, but at every turn the situation keeps getting worse through no fault of their own. This is, he said, tricky because it's easy to dig your characters in so deep that they can't ever get out of trouble.



Bonnie Calhoun said...

Ugh...I tried that approach...once...left off in the middle of a sentence...never did remember what I was trying to say *snort* Old age!

SolShine7 said...

Cory Doctorow was a panel speaker at my first (and so far only) Sci-Fi Convention last year. He was the wittiest guy there.