What Does Editing-While-Writing Mean?

“There is no right way to write a book; therefore, every way is wrong.”
— Lester D. Crawford

What does editing-while-writing mean? I assume it must mean different things to different people since I can imagine many different potential meanings. Just as how every possibility is played out in various universes in the multiverse, each potential meaning of editing-while-writing must exist in someone’s mind somewhere.

I don’t worry about it. I just write.

“I am a word wright. I write words. The right words.”
— Lester D. Crawford

Over the years, I have tried every writing method suggested. I think I did this because I was insecure about my knowledge and skills, so I looked for the magic bullet to make me a success. I settled upon doing what is comfortable and natural for me with no concern for how other people say I should write.

I seem to have two prongs on which I stick my writing.

One prong consists of random ideas. I keep a voice recorder with me at all times, in all places; always at the ready for when those ideas spring forth (I wonder what people think when they hear someone dictating a brilliant idea from inside a bathroom stall). I recorded one last night: “Oh, good, my Dragon’s here.” Now I am excited to find a place to use it (and I am not concerned what the people in the bathroom thought I was talking about).

The other prong is more structured. I use a mind mapping tool (FreeMind) to help me explore ideas and to plan. When people talk about fast writing, I think that is equivalent to what I do as I mind map. I toss ideas on the screen, rearrange them, add, subtract, brainstorm, go crazy, and laugh maniacally. When finished with the mind map, I copy and paste it into a document as an outline. Then the fun of filling in the details begins.

I have a mind map of the overall story, beginning to end, with all major plot points planned. For each chapter I make a more detailed mind map that I use as the outline to write the chapter. Occasionally, I mind map individual scenes when I cannot quite get a handle on them. One time I mind mapped a single paragraph that I could not figure out how to construct.

As I write the details, I often find I drift from the draft in the mind map, but the mind map is just a tool to help me write in the right direction. As more story details, or story world details, or character details are revealed to me, I sometimes must go back and re-plan; however, I do typically find my way to my destination, although often by a slightly different path than planned.

As I write the details, I write as best as I can: proper spelling, proper grammar, proper sentence structures, proper paragraph structures, etc. At this stage, my compulsion for perfection drives me to do as best as I can. I am not saying I create the final product here, but what I write at this stage is something that pleases my inner judge of perfection (regardless of how imperfect that judge is).

I also make multiple passes through the story, retelling the story repeatedly, to ensure I have told the complete story, that all secrets have been revealed to me, and that all threads are properly woven and tied. Lastly, I do a final edit and polish thus creating the perfect gem. Then a real editor looks at it and we all know what happens — a portion of my soul is extinguished by editor marks.

Now that I have finished self-aggrandizing, I summarize by saying the following.

Do not fear experimenting with suggestions other writers make about writing methods, one never knows what one might learn, but ultimately you must create your own, unique process, a process that works for you. I find it remarkable how similar all people are, but within that sea of sameness, there is actually great diversity. Therefore, there is no right way to write; there is only your way.

(I posted this comment in response to a post on the Innocent Flower blog, liked it, and decided to post it on my blog as well.)

The Writer’s Subconscious is the Writer’s Ally

Occasionally I encounter a situation where I do not quite know how a scene should go. I feel a stupor come over me. I continue to perform routine activities (I can even continue writing other scenes, or a blog post), but I feel that a part of me is busy elsewhere, busy in a place that I cannot consciously reach, a place deep inside my head. The sensation feels rather odd. Sporadically, little ideas come to the surface of my consciousness like bubbles bursting from a mud pot. Eventually, a fully formed scene emerges, as did Athena when she burst forth from the forehead of Zeus. I am waiting for that moment now. The experience will be spectacular.

Becoming Published: The Process Focuses on Rejection

My goal is to publish my work. To help ensure my success, I read The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman. From this book, I learned about many pitfalls to avoid; however, the larger insight I gained was about the process of reviewing a submitted manuscript.

While agents and publishers may want to select books that will be great successes, the process focuses on rejection. An agent or publisher looking at a manuscript seeks a reason, any reason, to reject the work. When use of a question mark in the manuscript is grounds for instant rejection (according to Lukeman), it seems to me that the entire process becomes suspect.

The lesson learned is that rejection has nothing to do with the quality of the work or what success the work might have once published. Luck is the name of the game, and the odds are stacked against the writer. The only recourse is stubborn persistence.

Kathryn Stockett’s The Help was rejected 60 times. After three and a half years of rejections, persistence paid off; the book was finally published. The Help became a bestseller and a hit movie, but 60 different people found an excuse to reject the manuscript.

Tough tasks ahead I face, but I will succeed because I too am persistent.

World Building

I enjoy world building.

As a child, my fantasy play often consisted of world building. I made maps and diagrams, designed worlds and universes, and imagined all of the fantastic creatures that lived in those places and the adventures to be had there. In my writing today, the world building is as much a part of my work as it was a part of my play when I was a child.

As I build worlds, I find I use many -ologies, for example: anthropology, archaeology, biology, climatology, ecology, geology, meteorology, sociology, technology, and zoology, and a few non -ologies such as botany, chemistry, and physics. (These lists are not all-inclusive; I could add other disciplines.) I satisfy my desire for complete and accurate worlds by incorporating as much true science into my science fiction as I can even as I extend the science into the realms of speculation.

For my current project, one area of exploration has been time keeping: how would an alien civilization keep time. The cultures of Earth have calendars and clocks. The aliens on the world I have built also have a calendar and a clock. Envisioning these keepers of time leads me to investigate my own methods of time keeping and to ask questions such as, “Why do we have the calendar we have and why do we have the clock we have?” that ultimately leads to asking, “How would an alien civilization perform these functions?”

The alien’s calendar accounts for the seasons as the foundation of the yearly cycle, but their culture and their biology drives the clustering of the days. These people have hormonal cycles and reproductive cycles that guide much of their culture and their calendar reflects those cycles.

The daily cycle has more of an impact on the human protagonist. The length of day on the alien world is longer than the day on Earth, and the aliens use a base 8 numbering system to divide their day into meaningful segments and moments. The human finds it impossible to know what time it is. Exploring his coping method is interesting.

Earlier today, I was thinking about how much fun writing is, even though writing is the hardest thing I have ever done. Creating worlds, creating civilizations, creating speculative science is fun. As I write, I feel as happy as I did when I played these same games as a child. I feel I am reliving the best days of my childhood.

I enjoy world building.

Experimental Risirid Analog Clock Face

Example alien clock created to explore ideas about how aliens might measure the passage of the day.