Process vs. Event
No, this isn’t a NaNoWriMo post. Well, not really, though it touches on that. This actually started when my darling and I were discussing the need to reshelve books. In our house, this can become a big deal – not just because we like to pull out old favourites to read, but because Peter pulls out lots of books to check on facts while researching (Many things for his westerns are much easier to look up in the right reference book instead of spending hours searching on the web, and same for military history research that gets transmuted into milSF.)
Peter has stated that he doesn’t have time to reshelve all the books, in addition to everything else he’s doing… and when I expressed puzzlement about what’s so time-consuming about picking up two books while waiting for the tea kettle to boil, he was as confused as I was. To him, “reshelve the books” means to sort by shelving category and alphabetize all the loose books, then start slotting them in while pulling entire shelves of books off and stacking them on the floor to make sure each shelf has room from A to Z, and culling any excess books that he can let go without breaking his heart or needing to replace, so the whole collections still fits on the bookshelves…
So, basically, two to three days of work, solid, with no writing getting done.
This is the utter divide between process (just reshelve a couple books when you have time, and when you find you don’t need or care for a book, add it to the charity donation pile) and event.
Neither is wrong, per se, and both have their place. Process keeps things from getting out of hand instead of having stacks of books the cats are knocking over and empty shelves, but eventually it’ll get harder and harder – until you find you’re wasting lots of time looking for a place to put books on overstuffed shelves, and not getting books shelved. It also rarely arrives at a state of completion, because you’re only making incremental progress. Event is great at getting everything done at once, reset and giving you a fresh start – but it’s very expensive in time, effort, labour, and space.
Unless you’re married to someone who believes in the opposite style from you, it’s an individual choice, and neither is “right” or “wrong.” For us, we’ll probably work out a compromise (marriage is like that.)
How about writing?
Again, it’s a question of individual style. For example, Larry Correia goes to his office every day, five days a week, keeping regular office hours, and spends the time writing or editing. John Ringo, on the other hand, tends to not write for quite a while, followed by sitting there in the dark and pre-writing in his brain – assembling the story and bringing it to life. And once it’s there, whole, in his mind, he binge-writes the whole thing down onto paper, pouring out wordcount that is awe-inspiring until it’s done. Process vs. event… and both of them are great writers,
In our house, Peter plugs away at stories every day, and writing the blog, and the nitty gritty of being a one-man publishing company. I tackle each book blurb as an individual event, where I have to read the thing, then try to write a blurb, and after batting it back and forth a couple times, call it good. And sometimes I stare at the same book for weeks while my brain has nothing but static roaring between the ears, and nothing comes out for the blurb put doodles on the page margins. I often worry that I just won’t be able to come up with anything at all… (which is one of the reasons that I don’t charge. Because I’m not sure I can deliver.)
My book writing is a muddled mix. If I try to sit down each day and write a thousand words, I usually end up with a blinking cursor on an empty notepad, or a bunch of ink doodles all over a word-free page. The days I have something, I write it. Eventually, a bunch of short scenes and snippets and a character or two start coalescing, and from that muddle comes the actual story. And once I have a key handful of scenes and the characters, I can then sit and spend a couple months plugging away at it, every day, until it’s done.
And then there’s NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) – the epitome of writing your book as an event. This is not a bad thing; it helps a lot of people actually accomplish writing their story. Process writers tend to dislike or be puzzled by the whole thing, but there are a lot of writers who use it as an aid to actually getting a backburnered book written.
(Interestingly enough, I’ve met several authors who started off doing NaNoWriMo to write… but then as they start writing more often, it slips to “finish That Story”, or NaNoEditMo. They’ve moved from event to process.)
Then there’s editing. Some writers write the first draft straight through, and then go back and edit everything, one giant pass at a time. Other do what Dean Wesley Smith calls “cycling” – every time he comes back to a draft, he looks over what he wrote the session before, and cleans up typos & do line edits if necessary, while using that to get himself back into the mindset and flow of the story. This, whether the break is a couple hours for a nap or dinner, or overnight or longer. This tends to produce drafts that may need editing at the very beginning and very end, but the rest is fairly well-edited already when you hit the end.
Do you prefer event or process for writing or editing? Or both?