Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Defining Writing

Merriam-Webster's online dictionary defines Writing as:

  1. :  the act or process of one who writes: such as
     a :  the act or art of forming visible letters or characters; specifically :  handwriting
    b :  the act or practice of literary or musical composition
  2. :  something written: such as 
    a :  letters or characters that serve as visible signs of ideas, words, or symbols 
    b :  a letter, note, or notice used to communicate or record 
    c :  a written compositiond :  inscription
  3. :  a style or form of composition
  4. :  the occupation of a writer; especially :  the profession of authorship
 The question is not how the dictionary defines writing, but how does a writer define writing. This has been a sticking point for me for a while. For the longest time when I said I needed to carve out writing time, I meant I needed to sit down at my keyboard and write. And that is what was meant or at least how I interpreted it when I heard that piece of advice.


Except, there is more to writing than that. Regardless of what you write.

So, I made a list of writing related activities.

1. Working on the story - writing it
2. Characterization
3. Plot development (I'm a pantser, so this is not something I sit down and plan, but some do and it's a writing related activity)
4. Updating Series Bible or other Story Details sheets
5. Research (This is very NON inclusive list)
  a) Setting
  b) Careers
  c) Laws and Law enforcement
  d) Military
  e) Cultures 
  f)  History
  g) First Responders
  h) Medical
  i) Architecture
  j) Creation Myths
  k) Mythology
  m) News reports/articles
6. Setting Construction (what places are you going to use or are you part way through and decide you actually do need to know the layout of the apartment, office, fire house, bar, or whatever else is needed)
7. World Building - This is different than the locations where the story takes place - this might be the actual world, or just different cultures that need to be developed - and that isn't always an easy process because of how inter connected everything in a culture is.

Some decisions are made as you write, but sometimes you need to stop the writing to research something to go forward. For me, this is especially true any time I am developing a new culture or exploring a topic that I'm not as familiar with.

Regardless of when a task gets accomplished - maybe the goal is to finish all of the pre-writing - characterization, plotting, set construction, world building, or anything else - before sitting down to write the first word of the novel, it still falls under the topic of Writing. Therefore, writing time is not just for putting the words on the keyboard - that's important , if you don't do the actual writing of the story part - all the rest of it is wasted time and energy - but also for all of the pieces that make up the process of writing a book.

A book is a project in the sense that that there are dozens of pieces that need to be accomplished individually to create a final product. All of those pieces require time - time that needs to be carved from very busy days.

Why is this important?


Good old fashion guilt.

Guilt because I should be writing the story and not wasting time doing the research or working on characters or sketching apartment layouts or looking at pictures of mansions or even watching a documentary or three on a topic. But, there are no minor details in story telling. None. Because there is a reader who specializes in one of the things I write about - I don't know them, I can't ask them, but if I'm asking them to spend time in the story I'm telling, in the world I've created, then I owe it to them to create the most accurate and believable world I possibly can.

To me it's like someone saying an airman flies jets/airplanes. No, they don't. An airman is the lowest ranking enlisted person in the US Air Force, pilots fly jets and they are always officers. It's not a general term used in the service, it's a generalized term sometimes used outside the service by non-service personnel or for inter-service rivalry. It's a seemingly minor detail, but one that will pull me out of the story where I may not get back into it completely or may not finish it at all.

Guilt gets in the way of writing. For me, it's probably at least one of the reasons I put off writing, because I know that I'm going to be writing during that session but working on developing a culture or figuring out if I can make the bad guy who I want and if what I want to happen can actually happen.

Writing time is precious. It's carved out of a day filled with family, a day job, mental/physical health issues, and broken water heaters. So, writing time is for everything I need to do to make my story real, to make it as good as it can be.



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