clues at the scene

clues at the scene

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Night Writing, Morning Edits

At left, some of my working area.

It's a busy time. I'm walking back through my USCG Navigation Rules,  my Chapman Piloting and Seamanship, and now a replacement copy of Basic Coastal Navigation as my old copy got away from me. My Annapolis Book of Seamanship is downstairs by my bed.

I'm planning on sitting my navigation exam in December and it has been ... er ... several years since I had to pass such a course.

So, a little bit each day.

Which is where we are tonight.

I'm in composing mode. I have several tools to share that help with this task.

Toggl ( here ) is a free time tracking app that is free, has a mobile app component for all you app folks, and is completely free form. You pick the category,  hit start, and time "butt in chair" effort. If you are a words-per-day sort of person this isn't something you need.

After a good decade back in the chair, I find I do better not focusing on the stress-laden w-p-d count. I use a time-on-task count. It worked in school ( you spend three hours a day on statistical thermodynamics and your grades will go up markedly in that arcane subject as well).

While we're on it, let's talk composition and words.

I use Scrivener. ( here ) I love it. It has scene/chapter/project word count totals. It produces a dozen formats. It integrates with Dropbox if you should like (I just do a manual drag to my local Dropbox folder after a writing session and select an option to allow new-to-overwrite-old on copy. Syncing happens quickly and ... cloud backup achieved! Good enough.).

I format my Scrivener output in a custom wash with a couple of post-production Powershell scripts added in and I'm ready for a couple of my favorite LaTeX typesetting production formats. ( LaTeX here ).

I compose into the evening. I try and keep from working too late because, like you, I have a day gig.  That's important.

I edit in the morning with coffee in hand. I read aloud in my library and fix the immediate issues from the prior session. Sometimes I make notes and set the new material aside for an "immediate revision" session in the evening after a little thought.

I stick with this process until I am in a hole from which there is no escape. There aren't many of those anymore because I am willing to cast aside large volumes of ineffectual text if the blind rush of impulse has lead to .... dull.

Time discipline and stability in the mechanics of the writing process serve me well to keep my creative energy "on the page" and not in tampering with what the hell I'm trying to do: write.

I have no idea if this works for other people. I think a lot of you might be like that to: we have some idea of what works for us sometimes but we don't understand why and we don't understand what other writers do.

I did know one fellow who wrote in pencil starting each session with three sharpened #2 wooded beasties. He wrote until the pencils were dull enough that his longhand -- he wrote quite small -- was filled by the large flat loops of his script.

I'm an ink fellow for longhand because ink's contrast shows better in poor light.

As to why this process of mine and these lovely tools will from time to time fail me and I will go weeks without working on a single composition, I don't know. Sometimes I can no longer bear to sit at my desk and face my own writing for one minute more.

I know that over time, I'll come back to it.

I keep very good notes now so I can pick things up quicker the next time around if a spell of "absent heart" strikes me.

Keep the ink flowing. Night when everyone is in bed and morning before they are up makes for some productive volume if one is manic enough to keep the interest in place.


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I love hearing about other writers' process. And I didn't know about Toggl...checking that out now. I'm a fan of timers and tracking, so it sounds up my alley.

Scrivener was a case of old dog, new tricks for me. I'm such a linear writer and it was extolled for its ability to move chapters around with ease, etc. I never have to move chapters--it would likely blow my mind to do that, ha! I found it a useful repository for my research (the very little that I have to do for cozies), character sheets, story bibles, etc, though.

jack welling said...

I have to admit that I like the corkboard feature of Scrivener when I'm setting things up; but, when I get to actually composing all of those features are abandoned. I'm a linear fellow too. Paragraphs get moved but chapters stay in place.

I don't know why after all of this time writing for me is still very much like sitting down on Sunday night to write a paper due in high school on Monday. It is never a sense of "wow, the ink on the page and the words from my brain ...".

The "having written" part is a good reward. The activity? Still very much like painting a fence.

Completion is its own reward. I envy the satisfaction you must have with your many titles and completed projects.