Friday, October 23, 2015

Personal scales.

I've always made up personal scales to gauge my writing. I don't know if they bear any relation to reality, but they are useful tool for me to feel like I'm making progress.

So when I started writing this time, this was my scale:

1-4. Better off doing something else.
5. Minimum necessary to continue writing.
6. There's something there, but pretty amateurish.
7. Worth reading. Something that is pretty close to competent.
8. A book worth publishing.
9. A good book.
10. A classic.

Now the later numbers shift into a more of a kind of logarithmic scale. So the difference between a 7.5 is higher than the difference between 6 and a 7, and so on. A 7.8 is higher than the previous difference, and so on.

So I felt when I started this time around that I was probably a 6.5 to start with, because of my previous experience with writing. (Back in the 80's before I took classes and wrote a lot, I was probably a 5.)

Now, looking back, I think Led to the Slaughter went to an 8 right off the bat. I think it was a book worth publishing. At the time I published it, I probably thought it was a 7.5, so I admit I've been influenced by the reaction to it. I think Tuskers is a good solid 8.

If you think that's being hard on myself ("What, you don't think you wrote a good book?") my definition of a "good" book is a high one. It's the book that everyone just has to tell everyone else is a good book, the kind that best-sellers are made of, and so on. Classics are on another level altogether.

So, anyway, put that to one side.

Lately, I've been trying to gauge the effectiveness of rewriting.

Most of my stories comes together in the first draft. My feeling is, if I don't get at least 70% of the way there in the first draft, I probably don't have a book worth pursuing.

So assuming that I get 70% of the way to a competent book, I can get to 80% of the way there by paying mindful attention, making sure it all works.

So how do I get to the final 20%?

I have to spend at least as much effort as the first 80% -- and take about the same amount of time.

The arduous task of rewriting, of sending it to an editor, and then rewriting again.

All for just 20% of the result.

But on a Five Star Review system, 20% is the difference between a 4 Star and a 5 start. More importantly, it's the difference between a 3 Star and a 4 Star, and most importantly of all, it's the difference between a 2 Star and a 3 Star.  (Any less than a 3 Star -- I get it, you don't like me.)

It's hard when you know that you're 80% of the way there for half the effort, but I told myself I would make the extra effort this time, and I think it's the right thing to do. These books are going to be out there with my name on them forever, so taking the extra times makes sense.

Again, these are personal scales -- something I use to try to improve. I don't know if they are real or not, but they seem to work to motivate me.

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