Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Zoo

*Okay, first off, you all gotta go check this out . . . Just in case you didn't see it on Miss Snark. Go Pat! You totally rock!!*

Back to our regularly scheduled blogging.:)

I took my kids to Hogle Zoo yesterday. We got a family pass from my mom for Christmas this year and it has finally been warm enough to go. My daughter in particular loves the Zoo so much! We go every year on her birthday because this girl eats, drinks, and breathes animals. So we had a fun time: saw rhinos and elephant and monkeys and zebras. You know, the typical zoo experience.

Do you remember going to the zoo when you were little? I do, and I seem to remember having boundless energy and staying for like five or six hours. (On field trips mostly.)

Well, we got there at 10:00 AM and were all funned out by 12:30. So we went home.:)

What does this have to do with writing? Well I'll tell you . . .

Absolutely nothing!!!

No, I'm kidding.:)

At the zoo, my daughter walked at least three times as far as I did because she would do that thing where she runs ahead to see what's next, runs back to tell you what's next, and then runs ahead again to make sure it hasn't gone away. On top of that, she ran around the playground for almost an hour while I sat and rested. Now, it's not just at the zoo that she does this; she does this all day every day. This girl has infinite bounds of energy that just flow from her.

Me, I have to have breaks.:)

But the difference between her and me is that she's not generally getting a whole lot done--and certainly not efficiently--she's just running around and having a great time doing it.

I may need to sit down every half hour and rest (less often when I'm not pregnant, thank goodness) but in those half hour stints I am doing dishes and making dinner and cleaning the toy room and kissing hurts and brushing hair and any number of tasks. Trust me, I know how to squeeze the most chores possible into a half-hour period . . . usually the half hour before my husband gets home.:)

This really did get me thinking about writing. When I wrote my first book (and I'm going to call the book that is currently out on submission my first book even though there's a very confusing story about how it's my first, third and fourth book . . . I won't go into that here.:)) I would get up in the morning and type furiously. When I couldn't put off being a mom any longer I would dash from the computer, take care of my kids, and generally plop them down in front of an educational video. (My kids watched tons of educational shows while I was writing The Chain and the Sword, did I mention my three-year-old reads and my two-year-old has known all the sounds that all the letter make since he was 19 months old? See, I wrote a lot.:)) Then it would be back to the computer to write some more.

So I wrote a ton! But I wasn't very efficient. By the time the whole book was "finished" (and I really thought it was) it was 210,000 words long. That's about 850 pages. By the time I got done trimming all the excess, it was a sleek 142,000 words.

Did you do the math? Almost 70,000 words.

That's a whole book! A short adult novel or a kind of long YA novel. I wrote a whole book's worth of words I didn't need. Talk about the literary equivalent of running back and forth between my mom and the next animal up ahead. (I felt a little better when Jodi had me put 10,000 back in . . . but that's another story too.)

But I've noticed an interesting trend lately. I'm writing new stuff again while waiting to hear back from editors on Chain, and I thought I had turned into a major slacker!! I used to write 3-5,000 words a day. Really. I was Ms. Prolific!

Now I feel really good if I clear 3,000 and 1,500-2,000 suits me just fine.

And you know what? I go back and read what I've written, and it's good. I don't have to cut, I don't have totally wonky POV, I don't spend paragraph after paragraph saying, "And then he thought . . ." I've got some quality work there.

Not polished. But quality.

I'm getting more efficient.

Have you found this in your writing? Do you get slower but more efficient or do you get faster? Are you the three-year-old at the zoo, or the mom trudging along with the wagon?

Maybe it depends on the book.




Anonymous said...

Congrats to Pat! That is very exciting!
I'm not surprised you get more efficient in your writing. The more you do anything, the better you become...most of the time. :) I bet it helps to be talented in the first place.
I'm glad you guys had fun at the zoo. The playground is great!
It was a great way to spend a Monday...... ;)


Corbett said...

Wow, I loved your analogy. Experience is our friend. So much is learned as we go along that is so valuable. Wow, not haveing to go through and slice and dice and read aloud saves you even more time, and energy. I'm with the trodding along pregnant mom.

Holly Kennedy said...

I have to admit, I'm a missle, singularly focused on a solid 3rd draft the first time out with every book. It's highly annoying. Ten steps forward, eight back, three sideways. You get the idea.

But I need to say something here - YOU CUT 70,000 words!!!! OMG, I just slumped in my chair, feeling like a loser. I FIGHT to write a total of 80,000 words (I went over once with my 2nd novel, The Penny Tree, which I think ended up at 92,000 words).

I soooo envy writers who can churn out 180 to 210,000 words. You've got so much to work with; all that extra clay to sculpt with, so to speak.

So... I'm the mom with the wagon, watching with admiration as everyone else around me scoots all over the place with boundless energy. :)

Maprilynne said...

"Ten steps forward, eight back, three sideways."


Isn't that just how it is?

Demon Hunter said...

I'm with Holly; my eyes grew large when I read that you cut 70,000 words. Wow. I'm not sure which category I fit in, Aprilynne. I have to think about it.

adrienne said...

I think the big change in my writing has been the whole having a deadline thing. Since I have to meet it I have no choice but to write relatively quickly and well. I also think that now that I know the mechanics behind publishing a book, that it is near impossible to write something perfect, there will always be changes to make. Oddly this is a very freeing discovery for me. It makes me feel like most authors books, you know the real ones on the shelves, are not as perfected as we think, that this was "the best they could do at the time" not some text delivered down to them from on high.

Okay I am sure there are a few authors out there who have achieved what they consider perfection, hence the years and years before the next novel. But I bet most of the rest of them are pretty content but still cringe now and then. Hmm . . . i like this topic, I think I'll go blog about it.

Therese said...

This is a great post--you are so entertaining!

And obviously becoming a more efficient writer. Your dedication is impressive too, wow.

I do find I'm more efficient with each effort...which partly has to do with doing lots of pre-writing before I start to do much with the actual work itself. The rest, though, is just experience--learning from past mistakes.

Best wishes for landing a publisher for your current (first) novel!

CelticLove said...

Great to read about the zoo. I am very excited to take my kids there again this year.

Kari Diane Pike said...

I feel so left out! The zoo with the grans is one of my favorite things to do.
I enjoyed the analogy. It reminded me of the story I heard recently about a pottery class that was divided into two groups. Group A was told to produce as many pots as they possibly could. Group B was told to come up with one perfect pot. Interestingly, the most perfect pots ended up coming from Group A.
So is writing any different? Do we get a better manuscript by spending all our time on the one...or do we benefit more from writing everything we can?
Mom Pike

Maprilynne said...

I think it really depends. Some people have ot write a ton of words to get those few good ones and some people just BAM! write great stuff.

I guess I'm floating in between right now.:)