Swooping and Bashing

I haven’t had a whole lot of time (or energy) this week to put up a blog post, so apologies for the delay! This one is going to be short and sweet, but I wanted to get something out there. My intent for this week was to get out a few related articles on the process of editing, but that’ll have to be pushed into next week, so stay tuned.

In the meantime: Swoopers and Bashers.

In the wonderfully quirky Timequake, Kurt Vonnegut wrote that there are two types of writers: swoopers and bashers. Swoopers are those who write everything all at once, just get it on the page, then spend an arduous amount of effort editing the work until it’s “right.” Bashers–Vonnegut identifies himself as one–prefer to labour over each and every sentence, getting it right the first time until it’s done.

I used to think I was a basher too. I’m the kind of person who will stare at a blank page, not because I don’t know what to write, but because I don’t know how I want to write it. I’ll have the scene or dialog all planned out in my head (or, occasionally, in an outline), but won’t put pen to paper until I know exactly how I want to say it. That way, in the words of Vonnegut, “when it’s done, it’s done.”

This is all very well and good, but what I’m finding out now is that it doesn’t work that way. Maybe for an accomplished wordsmith like Vonnegut it’s okay, but not for me. In looking over my existing work this past few weeks and deciding what I want to publish, I’ve been discouraged to see that the pieces I thought were ready for ‘print’ are far from it. Much of it looks immature, if you will. In fact, it looks very much like a (gasp!) First Draft. Which, of course, is all it is, because I thought I was the kind of guy to get it right the first time and never bothered to go back.

Lesson learned. Now that I’ve finished my first collection of short stories–which I hope to have published online in about a month or so, pending setbacks–I’m starting to learn how much work actually goes into writing. And more importantly, how much of the writing process isn’t “creating” at all, not in the sense once like to think of how a writer crafts their work. Most of writing is actually editing, revising, and frankly cutting stuff that doesn’t work. It hurts, it’s dull, and it will drive you crazy–but it’s necessary. I don’t know what kind of magic pen Kurt Vonnegut had that let him bash out the perfect novel on the first try…but I’m inclined to think even he had it harder than he let on.

 

Case in point: a wonderful blog post on editing from Mike Nappa on the Writer’s Digest website. I couldn’t put it better myself, so take a read after the jump: How to Edit Your Book in 4 Steps.

Now, about that collection I mentioned above: I’m in the process of getting an editor, and will be sending it off to be pored over very soon. This is my first experience with a professional editor, so I’m interested to see how my work pans out. And of course, I’ll let you all in on it as we go…watch for that coming soon!

 

 

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3 comments on “Swooping and Bashing

  1. jnicolini says:

    I still remember when I started writing in earnest, that I also believed myself a Basher, even though I didn’t think of it with this word. It took quite a while for me to realize that was not the way, that I had to reread and edit and make changes and all the not-so-fun steps we have to do to perfect our work, instead of just writing it out in bouts of creativity, and even longer for me to accept it as such; it was disappointing, at first, to do so much that wasn’t related to actually writing out fantastic stories. But, life’s life, and we all have to do it, don’t we?

    Good luck on the editing process!

  2. tobiasosir says:

    That’s the writer’s challenge; finding the balance between the fun creative part, and the slogging through typos and inconsistencies. It’s not easy.
    I’m fortunate in that I’m rather fond of editing. I treat it the same way as making chili: keep adding stuff and tweaking the flavours until it feels right. I’d rather be able to do that than try to get it perfect on the first try;;;I’m not that good a cook!

  3. […] honing that creative idea into something readable. That’s not an easy thing to do, whatever Mr. Vonnegut says. It takes a lot of attention to detail, a lot of time and effort, and–most especially–a […]

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