Re: Attn JMS: Question on writing

 Posted on 8/25/2001 by to

>When you write, do you just go full tilt boogie stream of conciousness
>and that's it? Or, do you write stream of conciousness and then go
>back and edit and re-edit, adding subtle shadings until the words
>paint the picture you want?
>If the latter, how often do you find yourself going over a story until
>it's right? Perhaps that isn't a fair question, as it probably depends
>on how well the first draft came out of your head. But I ask because I
>want to know your answer, not merely guess at what might be your

It depends. By and large, it breaks down as follows:

Scripts I tend to write once straight through and that's it, minus last minute
production changes (sets and the like). I hate outlining and avoid doing it
whenever possible because then the story's written, and I lose interest in
writing it. I like to find the story in the characters as I write them; I like
to be surprised by what happens, on the theory that if I'm surprised, then the
audience will be surprised.

The longer I take to write a script, invariably the weaker it is. Conversely,
the ones written in one pass, in one sitting, in white heat, tend to be my best
stuff. Sleeping in Light: written in under two days (though I'd thought about
it for years, so that may not be the best example). Gethsemane: one day.
Signs and Portents: two days. Chrysalis: one day. I could site others. Grey
17 took three weeks. It shows.

The thing about writing fast, for me, is that it forces me to get out of my own
way. I don't second-guess myself, I just listen to the characters and write
down what they say without questioning it or over-analyzing it. And I try to
avoid rewriting because I think it leeches life out of a script.

Fiction: here I tend to write and rewrite ceaselessly. I'm about 200 pages
into a novel I've been writing for the last year or so, and I've rewritten the
first 100 pages at least 20 times, because it's a different's
about creating a mood on the page, handling description differently from a
script (which is fairly straightforward) so that you create word pictures. I
also trim and snip and cut and tidy until there isn't an inch of fat on the
thing, it's lean and mean and ready to go. Fortunately, fiction allows that
kind of detail work, which TV does not.


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