Monday, June 2, 2008

Getting to Terse II

Getting the words on page is the trickiest thing for me when I start a project. When it's in my head the writing presents itself in beautiful 3D (with surround sound) – full color, textured, touchable.

So, that's good, right? I have ideas that get me out of bed in the morning. But here's the part that most always has me reaching for the snooze button. I like my writing clean, tight, and terse.

How can I translate that beautiful, touchable, believable image into something as linear as a sentence?

I start by whining -- no matter how small the project is (like a blog entry). I don't do this out loud to any human being, but occasionally I will whine to my brainy dog, Cooper. (That's okay. He does his share of whining, too). I can't do this! Please, don't make me do this!!!!!

But my boss – my inner boss -- is relentless. You have to write this, she says. No one else will tell this story. Who will give birth to these characters anyway? And tell me honestly, Janet, do you really think you can not write?

No, I can't. I've tried. And so, since I must meet my own deadlines (yes, I do set them for myself) and other deadlines, I write.

In the last couple of years I've come upon a technique that really helps folks like me who find it hard to start. It's called the Zero Draft, and it really works.

A zero draft is basically a brain dump. Before I begin any project, I start by putting everything I'm thinking on the page. For this small blog entry, I typed several paragraphs, including the following:

Kids in school – don graves. They start out trying to write. perfect
paragraph. heavens, they don't want to have to rewrite anything.
This was back when kids didn't compose on computers. It was by hand.

found the idea of a zero draft online made so much sense to me. Brain
dump. Wordy. Time to be verbose. The really fun part revising of
the piece. I'm the finish carpenter. I love to come in and cut,
rearrange, sculpt, fiddle, play

Of course, I haven't used any of this in the blog entry, but the point is that I got something on paper. I wrote fast (it helps to be a fast typist) and wrote every word that came into my head. I've started most zero drafts by just talking to myself on the page: so janet what are you going to write today? you know you have to write something. get going girl. The bird feeder needs refilling call sheree don't worry about not being able to write just go.

Before I know it, I've suddenly launched into the day's work.

More tomorrow on how I've started a novel (my first) using this technique.

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