Plotting Horse

Sprint Planning
May 5, 2009, 15:15
Filed under: Rewriting

There is a lot of writing help to be got online and I have also read a few ‘how to write ‘ or ‘how to be a writer’ type books. However, I have never come across any truly useable advice about rewriting. And I mean: managing the rewrite. Not, like: don’t put a comma there… (I like my grammar, but have on several occasions been admonished for it. Apparently it drives some people crazy…) The best rewriting advice I have heard is: Writing is rewriting. Hemingway.

But actually, this is not really true for me. My best writing comes on the first try. Just not all the time. Most of the time the first try is HIDEOUS and I have to go back and rewrite – but, it is then a complete rewrite, thereby again, being the first ‘write’… Hmm… Of course Hemingway could have meant the exact same thing I’m trying to get at, but considering his short, clipped sentence structures I would actually like to think that maybe he really meant editing. Like moving words and sentences around, cutting a lot of flab and getting to the essentials. Not all new words.

I don’t write like Hemingway! Surprised? Yeah, I know! Maybe it worked for him, but if I tried to just clean up my poor first tries, they would not be greatly improved. Maybe passable, depending on who is looking.

He of course, also rewrote from the ground sometimes, I’m sure.

What I’ve come up with that I need in order to rewrite is:

  • to keep my creativity up, staying connected to the material
  • To view my old writing like somebody else wrote it: complete objectivity!
  • A plan

The first two come and go, but I’ve found that having a plan is a wonderful thing that stays with me.

I use sprint planning. My husband showed me how, they use it where he works. I break the project down into managable chunks. For me that’s about a week, two tops. I have just finished my first plan today; it was supposed to take 11 days, but ended up taking 19. That is actually almost on target, because after you do your time estimates, you’re supposed to multiply them by 1,5. You take the first chunk you need/want to do, then break that down into tasks. You can get real specific if you want. Write a post-it with each task, stick it on something where it can be allowed to stay until you’re done. Take a piece of paper and write Burnpile on top, tape this up somewhere close to the post-its. Then each day you take the post-its you want to finish that day (according to your time estimates!) and keep them with you by the computer, only getting up to take each one successively to the burnpile (yeah, right, nevermind the coffee breaks, bathroom breaks, lunch breaks. Atleast you don’t have to leave the computer for your internet breaks). Then you are done one day, like I am today, and feel a great sense of accomplishment and willingness to make a new sprint plan.

This simple method has helped me a lot. Before it, I often felt like I was floundering. When I was writing the first draft and even the second (because there was so much rewriting to be done) I had a goal of writing 1000 words per day. This worked for me like a charm, but cannot be applied to the stage of the process I am in now. So I am happy to have found sprint planning!

I’m now going to go burn the burnpile! Or atleast forcefully throw it down the garbage shoot!


2 Comments so far
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I wonder how useful any advice from Hemingway might be. I imagine that Hemingway rewriting is an excercise in eliminating any extra detail; not really useful for novels which tend to relish all those extra wordy illustrations. Can you imagine Hemingway editing Faulkner? That would probably end in a fist fight.

I find that on the first try I get the best outline/ideas and concepts and often the best words; but they often just don’t come in the best order (which is what i fight with during my editing):)

I do like the idea of any sort of planning. Not for the actual organisation, but for keeping you on some sort of schedule. My biggest problem is putting things off… as you know. But 1000 words a day, thats pretty sweet.

Comment by Bobby

Thanks everyone for your comments and encouragement!

Bobby – I mostly use my planning for scheduling as well, I am also (unfortunately) a fearless
and persistant procrastinator.
I will have to add though, that actually using planning for organizing has also helped me out quite a bit. I found myself feeling swamped when I first started editing – and it helped so much to split the work into chunks based on difficulty.
Hope your writing is going well!

Comment by deakristensen

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