Friday, April 1, 2011


I'm making a renewed commitment to blogging. It's not easy with no internet access at home, but here is my pledge and my meager attempts.

At the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group The Write Stuff conference, several fellow writers and I had what could be termed as a brief conversation about process.

How do you write or edit when you haven't any time?

I've heard the stories of writing on napkins at traffic lights, and that it one legitimate (though unorganized) way. I propose three mindsets that can help take those random fifteen minute writing spots and turn them productive...

1. Have a hard copy of your manuscript. It's "old-fashioned" but it can help conquer some of the fractured mindset. This won't help with the writing process but it could jump-start your editing. If you're excited about edits but don't have a large block of time OR have large edits, I recommend the printed manuscript as a first step. Here's why: Before doing any big edits, you need to read the entire manuscript to make sure what you think is already there IS already there. And I don't care what anyone says. A manuscript reads differently in print than on screen. Not better, not worse, just differently.

If you make hand-edits, you can do them in bits and pieces because every time to open that manuscript your scribbles will make it obviously where you left off and what you were thinking. When we delete and add words on the computer, we don't have the benefit of always seeing the starting point. There's no delete on the page. Merely editing symbols.

When you have a big block of time, then you can go back and make all the changes you did by hand. And you will argue with yourself, just like you argue with critique partners, about which changes are warranted. In the end, this will have a strong impact on your edits.

2. Write in your head. Those of us who have worked (or are working) menial jobs have mastered the art of perfecting sentences or paragraphs in your head. Yes, a few words might be the only gain you make this way, but if you fill some of those down moments in the grocery line with playing with a sentence or two, you may find that the environment spurs unusual word choice or comparison. It's a good exercise in memory, especially if you can't write anything down. The best part is you have a starting point when you can sit down and write.

3. Have a plan. If you only have 15 minutes, don't waste too much time reading the last few paragraphs. Hopefully you have some "head-writing" to get you started and write a sentence or two. When you burn out the initial energy of what you had in your thoughts, pause, daydream and write your next immediate thought. This becomes the basis of your next bout of "head-writing" as you debate with yourself whether or not you like it...

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