Observations about my writing process.

I’m learning a lot about my own writing process. Headphones and isolation work nicely. But other than that…

Process drives both word count and quality.

I’ve tried dictating and transcribing. I like it, and can generate tons of text very quickly. It requires a lot of editing before it’s even up to first draft quality. My spoken humor is different from my written humor, so it often requires rewriting, and speaking the punctuation screws with my ability to improvise.

I’ve tried composing directly at the keyboard. This gives me the happiest first drafts, but it’s much slower than dictating.

Humor is hard to do consistently.

Depending on my mood (and probably the levels of various neurotransmitters), my humor levels vary widely. Some of my tips are, in my humble opinion, brilliant and funny. Others read like an encyclopedia.

At this point, I’m concentrating on getting through the rest of my first draft, and humor levels are dropping. I’m much more information-oriented. I’m hoping—really hoping—that on my first cleanup rewrite, my humor kicks back in.

I always wondered why famous comedians had staffs of writers. Now I know. It’s hard to generate that much humor consistently.

Writing a tips book is like writing many small 1-or-2-page books.

Writing a tips book is tricky. Since each tip is basically standalone, with a loose overarching structure holding the whole book together, it’s like my mind sees only one tip at a time. Today, I discovered I’d done essentially the same tip three times without noticing. I spent this morning trying to merge the three into one coherent whole. If you buy the final book, the tip about “Manage Relationships in all the Right Media” is the final version.

Thanks to everyone on Twitter who has been helping out with my pleas for feedback and assistance. I appreciate the support!

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4 Responses to Observations about my writing process.

  1. Jordan says:

    I’ve tried dictating and transcribing.

    Can you elaborate on this? Do you dictate into a recorder and then type things up? Do you use software for speech-to-text translation?

  2. Stever says:

    I dictate into a recorder and then use Dragon Naturally Speaking 9 to turn it into text. I then have someone go through and clean up the transcription errors and any really obvious problems.

    Then I begin massaging into first draft form.

    I’ve also had the audio transcribed directly, but that takes many more hours and gets pricey quickly.

    I’m not thrilled with the process. It’s better than nothing, but it’s still far from ideal.

  3. Erik Deckers says:

    It’s not that hard to write humor. You just have to know the secret humor formula.

    Laughter/humor is often created in three ways:

    1) Surprise. The writer has surprised the reader. For example: “If all the girls who attended the Yale prom were laid end to end, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised” (Dorothy Parker). The reader is expecting a reference to length or distance, not morality.

    2) Recognition. The reader recognizes something that requires previous knowledge, something you already mentioned, etc. This is why inside jokes are so funny, or “callbacks,” which is when you call back to something you’ve done/said previously. This is why Dennis Miller could be funny or unfunny in his standup. He was referencing history, philosophy, and literature. If you were familiar with it, he was funny. If you weren’t, he wasn’t. This is also why he flopped on Monday Night Football. Most viewers don’t tend to be familiar with history, philosophy, or literature.

    3) Exaggeration. Something is so wildly exaggerated that it goes beyond reality. Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy uses this frequently. “It (the bypass plan) was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard’”

    Of course, you have to write it all the time to make it instinctual.

  4. Chris says:

    Your discussion about humor reminds me of a scene in I believe it’s Woody Allen’s “Crimes and Misdemeanors” where Alan Alda, playing the pompous directors, says that humor is tragedy plus time. Go figure.

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