Jay Lake (jaylake) wrote,
Jay Lake

[process] Green and the New Model Process

I've been thinking about the process of writing Green, and I wanted to get a few things out on the page here, so to speak. As always, feel free to comment.

First, I've been challenged (politely) about why I track daily production so closely, why I post it here, and why I emphasize it all.

That stuff's just in my bones, basically, and tracking it helps me assess whether I'm performing to goal. If that sounds very bizspeak, well, it is. Writing is an art, a craft, and a business. My muse and I have a very good relationship. Applying a little management to my art doesn't devalue the art, and it improves my ability to manage my career.

The New Model Process has changed the way I approach the text in a art sense and in a craft sense, but I still need to be a good businessperson. Anyone who aspires to a professional writing career needs to be a good businessperson, assuming they want a persistent career arc. This is my way of doing it.

I post the word counts because it provides me with accountability. I am told fairly often that I piss some people off with my numbers. I am told sometimes that I inspire some people with my numbers. I don't know what to say about that, except that I have a commitment to openness about my career on this blog, and I'm not going to elide my numbers to spare feelings.

Second, the New Model Process had a number of effects. The quantitative experience of writing this draft of Green was somewhat slower than recently previous novels. My baseline writing speed was about 20-25% less. At the same time, my dedication to task was higher. On average I worked more hours per day, and I did not skip a single day, so my elapsed days and production days are the same — I've never done that before. As a result, the first draft wrapped quickly, even with the slower pace. At the same time, the no-excuses writing was an interesting experience.

The qualitative experience of this draft was also different. Under the old process, I wrote like a demon, with a strong no-self-editing rule. The genesis of this rule was watching other writers spend hours to produce two or three pages, deleting and rewriting every line dozens of times. (I have literally seen this done, at a retreat.) I've always believed that you can't know as the words hit the page whether they're good or not, and self-editing is a trap which can lead to endless production with no completion.

Under the New Model Process, I allow myself self-editing. This happens both at the words-hit-the-page level ("oops, that was a clunky sentence") and at a scene-and-structure level ("oops, if I have her do THIS before she leaves the palace, this later stuff I'm working on now will resonate much better"). I'm pretty sparse with it, and still prefer to use [bracketed change notes], but I went back a number of times and fixed stuff as I went along. Some of my slower writing days were a result not of reduced time commitment, but more time spent grodding around in the existing text.

At the same time, I'm also spending more effort with each word, line and sentence. That varies with how deep I am into the writing fugue, because at many points (especially later in the book) it begins flowing blindly off my fingertips. Right now I have no idea whether the considered prose is better than the in-the-flow prose. I'll discover some of that on rewrite.

The New Model Process will substantially affect my rewriting process as well. I'll be doing more read throughs, with attention to different levels of craft or detail on each pass. I'll be doing more line-by-line trimming, pruning and reshaping. It's still the case that I believe first draft voice is by far the strongest, but these days I have a lot more faith in my ability to non-destructively edit my work without filing down the voice too far.

No conclusions, really, just an initial post-novel brain dump. More to come as my thoughts gel. Feedback and follow-on questions encouraged in the mean time.
Tags: green, process, writing
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