Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Speedy writing cont'd

Now that I’ve blown my own trumpet about my new book coming out on Friday – Good Friday! – I’ll get back to thinking about speedy writing. They say that when we write, we produce sentences in a burst-pause-evaluate, burst-pause-evaluate pattern. Stop and think right now – do you do that? I suppose I do, and sometimes I get hung up in the evaluate bit. Writers who’ve been writing for a long time produce longer sentences, but the pattern is the same.

Writers have been heard to say that the promise of money stimulates their word flow. They also claim that a crazily long session to meet unrealistic deadlines is bad, and often results in depression  because the deadline is not met, and at worst can result in writer’s block.

Kellogg tells us that creative writing is a serious business with huge cognitive demands. Naturally, authors pounce on this, and hug it to their manly chest or heaving bosom, because so many people who've never tried it think it must be easy to write a book. Writing is a thinking task, a language task, and a memory task, and requires the same kind of mental effort as a high-level chess match or an expert musical performance. Now there’s something to tell those people who think writing is so easy!

“Knowledge-crafting,” he says, “is a state in which the writer’s brain is juggling three things: the actual text, what you plan to say next, and –most crucially-theories of how your imagined readership will interpret what’s being written. A highly skilled writer can simultaeously be a writer, editor and audience.”

Before we begin to think we’ve bitten off more than we can comfortably chew, let us reassure ourselves that there are ways to make things easier. We all develop our own strategies to speed things along. It’s altogether easier when we no longer have to worry about penmanship (or keyboard skills), or consciously think about subject-verb agreement or where to place that apostrophe. Reading and practice usually takes care of those two things. The old adage comes walloping in - the one that tells us to write about a subject we know well, because then we won't have to keep all of the facts in our working memory, which frees up more attention for planning and composing.

So there we have it: read widely, write often, get rid of distractions, study your writing habits until you know when and how you do your best work, and manage your working practices rather than letting them manage you.


Anita Davison said...

I can manage the 'burst-pause' part, but the 'evaluate' has to wait a few days, or weeks or I don't see the mistakes clearly.

virg_nelson said...

Mine manage me...I write the most at night. I don't know why...probably because that is the quiet time when the kids are down for the count. Great blog...I had no idea that writing was the mental equivalent of chess!!

Jen Black said...

I'm learning to change the obvious things right away, but not to get bogged down in the evaluation, otherwise I "forget" what I was going to write next!
And later, on a second draft, I can really get my teeth into evaluation - that's whenit works well for me.