A Swooper's Art

Hey! My kickstarter just ended and though it's only tangentally related to the podcast, I figured I'd write about the process a little bit here. A quick headsup: some material in the next few entries of the backerblog might end up in a backer update via kickstarter as well. I imagine there's a lot of crossover between those two audiences in either case.

This isn't the first time I've written a book. I wrote a book when I first moved to Portland, a sad adventure story called Concrete Good. I've gotten half way through revisiting it several times, though I haven't touched it in a while. I suspect it's actually a mess and there's a chance nothing will ever happen with it.

But having done this twice now, I've learned a lot about how I like to write, how I work, etc, which is what this is about. First, I'm what's described as a swooper. One of the first and best pieces of writing advice I've ever seen was an old VHS tape of Kurt Vonnegut teaching the writer's workshop at the University of Iowa. I haven't been able to find a youtube of this tape, sadly. But the two pieces of advice that really spoke to me:

1) Every sentence must either reveal character or advance action. I don't follow this strictly in Souls of Darkness because there's a lots of setting, background and jokes that need to breathe.

2) Writers are either swoopers or pounders. Swoopers write a story quickly and go over it again and again, striking out all the mistakes. Pounders carefully consider each word so that when a sentence is finished, it's finished.

As I said, I'm a swooper, and probably to my detriment. I've written a lot of things I've never gone back to revise. I imagine my swooper tendencies come off in all my online communication. A lot of what I write for casual mediums, such as tweets and slacks and this blog, are rife with errors. I swoop once. If something is important, I polish.

So, the first swoop of the book is done and today is the day I start fixing it. Honestly, I don't think there are a lot of problems with it and it should only take a few swoops to get it into fighting shape.

I write at two times during the day and they both produce different things. I write in the mid afternoon, after I've had my coffee and breakfast, and here's where I move things forward. It's easy, during this time, to make things happen. If I go to sleep knowing what has to happen next, afternoon writing is where I can put bricks on bricks and build it.

My favorite time to write is late at night. This is where I make mistakes but I also make jokes and solve problems. The two biggest problems I had to solve in Souls of Darkness were regular plot problems you'd have to solve in any book. Why is this character that needs to be here, here? But the other problems, the more fun ones, were how do I underline the Soulsness? Souls of Darkness is about a game based on Dark Souls but I wanted some of the theming of the games to carry over into the book. I like to think I did OK at that but I guess time will tell.

I feel like a real douche bag talking about writing like this but I'm trying not to. The specter of imposter syndrome looms large and has been part of my life since my band days. Actually opening up about this stuff is part of fighting off that shitty cliche.

In a way, and this is a random observation, but podcasting is kind of a swooper's art. There's little time to pound while recording a podcast and all the time in the world to polish the experience. Maybe that's why I took to it?

Next time I do one of these, I'll probably talk about revision because I will be Done Revising. Talk to you then.