This is also where I spell check. My spelling is miserable, so I’m grateful for the technology. Except when it doesn’t work. What do you mean Word Not Found? It’s a damn word!
The distinction between the researching, the thinking, and then the writing. A lot of people don’t take the time to do that. So they think, OK I’m gonna sit down and write. […] They kind of thought about the idea, they’re not thinking about it like a lawyer would, which is you need to have case law on your side and precedent and you need to know all that before you marshall your argument. […] What sounds weak is when you say: “You know, my friend Susie had this problem…” or “Let me tell you about my high school girlfriend…” or whatever. […] They’re not drawing from timeless material and so it dates and so it doesn’t serve the argument well.
I make the distinction between the research and the work, and then the writing is really the stringing of the words together. I have the book laid out and done to let’s say 70% done before I’ve written any words. Then the writing … is about putting all the pieces together in the order that you want and there’s a lot of moving and adjusting and you actually do know what’s in your head.
Writers know the great pleasure of the perfect phrase. We can even see it on other writer’s behalf. God knows how satisfied with himself Shakespeare was when he first jotted down “full fathom five thy father lies.”
Anything you do can be fixed. What you cannot fix is the perfection of a blank page. What you cannot fix is the pristine, unsullied whiteness of a screen or a page with nothing on it, cause there’s nothing there to fix.
It’s a sort of computery thing: if you’re typing, *putting stuff down* is work. If you’ve got a computer, adding stuff is not work, *choosing* is work. It sort of expands a bit like a gas, if you have two things you could say, you say both of them. If you have stuff you want to add, you add it. And I thought I have to not do that, otherwise my stuff is going to balloon and it will become gaseous and thin.
So what I love, if I’ve written stuff on a computer and I loose a chunk, it feels like I lost work, if I delete a page and a half I feels like that page and a half just went away, and that’s a page and a half’s worth of work I’ve just lost. If I’ve been writing in a notebook and I’m typing it up, and I can look at something and I can go “I don’t need this page and a half” and I leave it out, I just saved myself work, and it feels like I’m treating myself.
It emphasises for me that nobody is ever meant to read your first drafts. Your first draft can go way off the rails, your first draft can absolutely go up in flames, it can change, the age, gender, number of a character, you can bring somebody dead back to life… Nobody ever needs to know anything that happens in your first draft. It’s you telling the story to yourself… And then I’ll sit down and type and put it down in a computer. As far as I’m concerned, the second draft is where I try to make it look like I knew what I was doing all along.
A solid rule for writers:
You don’t have to write, you have permission to not write. But you don’t have permission to do anything else.