Always Versus Never

Back in March, Lydia Kang had a neat post about writing habits; the Always/Never list.

My list goes like this:

In my writing, I Always:

- use pen and paper for the first draft
- have characters glance at each other
- repeat "and then" all over the place
- use the word "wondered"
- sprinkle meaningless modifiers (small, big, large, tiny, etc.) willy nilly

I Never:

- know the names of secondary characters until the third draft or so
- keep all the scenes I write (a lot end up as gangplanks or backstory, saved in draft folders)
- add dialogue tags in the first draft (the margin is always filled with notes like "but what are they doing??")
- write a story set in modern times
use contractions. Everyone's so formal all the time! I have to remind myself to be more casual in dialogue.

What sorts of habits do you have?

ROW80 going well! Still working on typing and editing the murder mystery short story. Hope everyone else is meeting their goals!


Julius Cicero said…
I used to always reread what I had written to edit on the go. I found it most hindersome and have thus cast myself into the wind. I can also identify with your 'always' and 'nevers'. I guess it's a common trait amongst writers.
S.P. Bowers said…
My characters wonder a lot too. Also I use, he/she knew. I keep all my deleted scenes and paragraphs too. At last check it was around 70,000 words. That's almost as long as my novel.
Michael Di Gesu said…
Hi Deniz,

I am lucky to have broken many of my bad habit. I used to use tons of adverbs, used hundreds of tags, and use REALLY a lot.

I still use really a lot, but it's because of teenage dialogue. They LOVE really. Really. LOL.

I am sure I do other no-nos but I keep a watchful eye. My first novel was so OVER written at 125,000 plus words for an m/g fantasy novel, it took me almost two years to edit. Now a shiny 62000 thousand words it still needs one more edit.

My second novel I went to the opposite extreme and wrote a slim Y/A contemporary economizing my words and descriptions. Well, now I've been told it needs beefing up by 10000 words. Do we ever win?
"Using a paper and pen for the first draft How does she do it?" Theresa wondered. Her small eyes opened wide in surprise. She glanced at her family and then decided to get up and finish dinner rather than continuing to use all of the things Deniz always does in one paragraph.

I'm guilty of most of these too.

I am the queen of not using contractions! See what I mean? I'm reading my 2nd manuscript, which has ZERO contractions. Half of my editing time is combining words.
Emily R. King said…
Those are good lists. I don't have many always and nevers. I mostly try to stick to getting it done, whatever works in my life at the moment because life is always changing. Oops, I guess there's my always: be flexible!
Zan Marie said…
LOL! I use contractions every time you can contract something. I'm still grinning about our opposite always/nevers. ; )
Deniz Bevan said…
I just can't seem to write that way, Julius. If I start editing, I lose the momentum of writing.

You know what else my characters do, Sara? They stare. And peer. And glance and look and watch and glare. Darn it!!

I hear you on the word count, Michael. At 131,000 or so, mine's way too long for a romance. Still trying to cut words out...

I like your personification, Theresa! It's hard to force myself to put in contractions. I got so brainwashed in high school on never using them...

Good point, E.R.! Flexibility is key.

I need some of your contractions, Zan Marie!
Wendy Jane said…
My characters wonder and glance a lot. I've noticed that lately. I have a problem with over-analyzing my WIP as I'm writing the first draft. I have to remind myself that it's ok to just write. Get it all out. Then come back and keep the meat of the story.

Keep up the good work. And thank you for your visit and comment on my blog. Much appreciated!
Deniz Bevan said…
Thanks for the support Wendy!
jamilajamison said…
I never write stories set in modern times either, and contractions are rare (my steampunk tale is the sole exception, and it's so freeing - so much slang!). I always write lots of "or something like that" in the margins of my first drafts, along with bracketed texts like "insert description here."

I love that you write your first drafts with pen and paper. I have to use a mix of the two, as I type faster than I can write by hand, but often crave the visceral feel of a pen gripped within my hand and scratching over the paper.
Al said…
My list would be a bit different.

I never use a pen for writing. (Except to mark editing)
I do have my characters glance at each other.
It's funny my secondary characters usually have their names from the start. My main characters often refuse to tell me their 'true' name until after the first draft.
Liz Fichera said…
I never know secondary characters names either until future drafts. I can see their faces, but not their names.

I never use a pen for any draft anymore. It's all on my laptop these days.
Cate Morgan said…
I always end up changing the name of my protagonist, and the my first chapter gets reworked numerous times. I also ditch the first draft two or three times midway through the first third or so, until I can streamline down to the core story--I always start with too many characters! I never write in contemporary times either.

Also, I never, ever give up! ;-)

Good luck with your goals the rest of the week!
Anonymous said…
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Nadja Notariani said…
Deniz ~ This is such a great post, and a fun one, too.

Nadja's Always/Never List ~

I always:
Write with a pencil and paper

Have margins full of notes/re-writes

Read over what I've just written (hence the margin scribbles)

Use those darned meaningless modifiers....and too many of them

Have characters wondering/staring/peering/glancing/observing/studying/.....until I want to scream - or laugh

I Never:

Write on the computer

Use contractions until I'm in edits and realize that I have the most properly speaking characters in the universe

Fail to find a sentence that sends me into fits of this one..."...would be the propellent for his explosion in the cage." - I read it and then realize that if he 'explodes' - he will be dead - and it will be quite messy. Ha! After wiping the tears of laughter from my eyes..I rewrite...,"....would be the propellent for his explosive performance in the cage." - and all's right in the world again.

Too funny.
~ Nadja
Anonymous said…
Sorry. I did what writers shouldn't do: I didn't proofread my comment carefully enough. Here goes again:

I remember I used "then" too much in my memoir. And there were other repetitions, too! That's why we keep revising, and revising, and revising, hoping in the end ....

Thanks for stopping by and wishing my daughter well. She had a VERY good day yesterday but then a bad night last night (though she rarely wakes me up, thank goodness). So she'll take a nap today. I tell her she has that luxury, unlike many who work day jobs. So much in life is a trade-off.

Hope your revisions are going well on your historical novel, and that you'll soon find an agent for your MG fantasy.
Ann Best, Author of In the Mirror, A Memoir of Shattered Secrets
Yaya' s Home said…
I've never thought of making a list quite like that, but I think it would make a lotta' sense to do so. P'rhaps, I would learn somethin' 'bout myself, eh?

~ Yaya
Talli Roland said…
I very rarely see my characters in my head - even my MC! My editor is always asking me to put in more detail. :)
J.L. Campbell said…
Using pen and paper for a first draft would feel like torture to me. The strange thing is, I used to do exactly that years ago.

I probably spend too much time editing as I write, hoping I won't have to do hundreds of revisions.

You do have an interesting way of writing.
I watch very carefully the use of the word "was". Sometimes it can get away from me.

Also...writing the first draft in pen and paper would kill me. How do you do it?
Deniz Bevan said…
I'm getting really attracted by steampunk, Jamila - hope to write one someday!

That's interesting, Al - wonder why your main characters get named later? I guess there are more layers to them, and naming is harder.

Lucky you, Liz - I'd probably finish books faster if I could draft on the computer.

You're right, Cate - we should never give up! No matter how many drafts it takes :-)

Thank you, Nadka - loved your list! I'd forgotten about all the scribbling I do in the margins.
That's a really funny sentence! I find a few when I'm typing up scenes, too.

Glad to hear it was a good day, Ann! You're right - I've got piles of "and then"s all over the MS...

I like lists of all kinds, Yaya. Love your contractions :-)

That's interesting, Talli. I sort of do the same. Especially at the start; I only really know hair and eye colour and not much else.

Some days I think I'd like to try your way, Joy - editing as I go. It might save lots of time later?

I can't seem to do it any other way, Michael. With pen and paper I'm ready to draft anywhere, whenever inspiration hits!
Tia Bach said…
A great list... I may have to use this on my own blog sometime with due credit to your post of course.

I always read out loud to edit and never write while drunk. ;-)
Deniz Bevan said…
Thanks Tia! I can write only after a couple of drinks. But real drunkeness never leads to creativity...