By: Marilyn L. Davis
Are you a Swooper or a Basher?
“Swoopers write a story quickly, higgledy-piggledy, crinkum-crankum, any which way. Then they go over it again painstakingly, fixing everything that is just plain awful or doesn’t work. Bashers go one sentence at a time, getting it exactly right before they go on to the next one. When they’re done, they’re done.” ― Kurt Vonnegut
I like the sounds of both of those words and confess that I’ve been both. Writing higgledy-piggledy, all disorganized, trying desperately to get all of the words down. I’ve also been known to jot words on napkins, receipts and unfortunately, my hand. There’s so many clamoring for attention in my mind that I’m afraid that I’ll forget them if I don’t put them to page. Sound familiar?
For those of us who write like that, this free writing is without rhyme or reason. But we know that if we keep clicking away at those keys, we’ll get all of the ideas written.
Then we have to go back, revise, rework and wonder why we considered those particular words important at the time, or why we decided to veer from our main topic into additional material about one tangent of the topic. That is the inherent problem with swooping – it includes the kitchen sink.
Yet, some of those extraneous passages can also become another article so they have merit. Not all darlings should be killed, just relocated.
I’ve also been a basher; writing one page only. Correcting it, revising and editing before I move on to the next page. I tend to use this method when I include dialog; after all, getting the subtle nuances of conversation is important, and I can’t do it flitting from one idea to the next. Also with dialog, the emotional component is critical, so staying with whatever feeling I am trying to convey is vital to having the conversation flow correctly.
How often do you spend a day reworking, revising, and editing the typical 1000 word page? It can seem like no progress, just problem punctuation, word placement and striving for perfection.Yet, for the basher, it’s hard to move forward until that page is as good as it can be.
Can’t quite find yourself in Swoopers and Bashers? Then think about how George R. R. Martin describes two categories of writers.
“I think there are two types of writers, the architects, and the gardeners. The architects plan everything ahead of time, like an architect building a house. “I think there are two types of writers, the architects, and the gardeners. The architects plan everything ahead of time, like an architect building a house. They know how many rooms they’re going to have, where the wires are going to run, what kind of plumbing there’s going to be. They have the whole thing designed and blueprinted out before they even nail the first board up.
The gardeners dig a hole, drop in a seed and water it. They kind of know what seed it is, they know if they planted a fantasy seed or mystery seed or whatever. But as the plant comes up, and they water it, they don’t know how many branches it’s going to have, they find out as it grows. And I’m much more a gardener than an architect.”
Developing as a Swooper-Gardener
Each writer can find himself in these descriptions. If I combine Vonnegut and Martin, I’m definitely a Swooper-Gardener. I’ll put something in – and sometimes that includes anything and everything. Then in two or three days, I’ll go back and see how it’s developed. I’m not sure how the brain takes those seemingly compartmentalized, random words and musings and through some elaborate creative or lateral thinking process joins them into a piece. It just works that way for me. However, like any untended garden, there’s weeds, overgrown passages, and conflicting ideas.
So, I have to edit. I’ve always liked Larry Enright’s definition of an editor, “Editing is like pruning the rose bush you thought was so perfect and beautiful until it overgrew the garden.”
I also outline, which makes both types of writing possible. With an outline, I can frame the article using the following:
• Search Summary
• First Strong Point
• Second Strong Point
• Third And Weakest Point
Adding questions throughout my outline helps me research answers and also gives my readers some interactive reference points for discussion. An outline also helps me keep the thoughts organized, regardless of how many tangents of the topic I want to cover.
What’s Your Style?
Being authentic in your voice and style is critical to making your posts be yours. Sure, that sounds redundant, but none of us is going to write like our favorite author, no matter how hard we try. That writing ends up being bad paraphrasing. It rings false and contrived to you and the reader. Spend some time and identify which works for you: Swooper, Basher, Architect or Gardener. Or you may find that you’re like me and are the hybrid, Swooper-Gardener.
When we can identify a style that works for us, and then improve on that style, we become a better writer. We’ve developed a writing process that works for us. And in the end, isn’t that what we are all trying to accomplish?
Two Drops of Ink: The Home for Collaborative Writing
Whether you’re swooping, bashing or gardening, consider a guest post on Two Drops of Ink.