On writing process

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

In The Millions, Kevin Hartnett talks with Hannah Nordhaus, author of The Beekeeper’s Lament, on writing nonfiction. She has some interesting comments on her process:

I have made it a point of pride to write my first draft as quickly and poorly as possible, without consulting my notes or laboring over it. It makes the editing work a little harder, but by writing from memory and not belaboring all the minutiae in my notes, I tend to remember only those facts and points that are most salient to the narrative.

Before hunkering down to write that first draft, though, there is the necessity of checking Twitter, Facebook, and googling yourself. Once the writer is settled in, Nordhaus notes, comes the enormous task of organizing and synthesizing the mass of collected information. She goes on:

People don’t want to read every word that emerges from your brain just because you’re brilliant and you wrote it; there has to be a reason behind every chapter, every paragraph, every sentence. Every word you write should serve your overall narrative and thematic structure.

Another author discusses her process in Writer’s Rainbow. In a guest blog, Mignon Fogarty, creator of the Grammar Girl podcasts and books, says she also has to start off with getting the fascination of social networking out of her system. Then, the work can begin:

That settling-in time can take a couple of hours, so if I only write a little bit every day, I’m spending half my time getting ready to write. I can’t get to that writing “happy place” every day, and once I do get there, I want to stay for a good long time. Instead of writing for an hour every morning, I end up writing for four hours every third day or so.

Do you think it’s non-negotiable to write every day? How about reading, on or offline?

Hope you are happily immersed in our new issue. Comments are welcome.