As a procedural step for the design and construction of physical products, evaluation has a certain…”Well, duh.” quality to it. We can’t help but examine our creations, photograph them, make mental notes about what satisfies us (or not).
For writers, the process of evaluating the final product can be daunting, far more so than for woodworkers (though I’m not suggesting craftspersons get off easy in this respect). Michael Fortune suggests:
[A]lways review the steps you took and look for ways to make the process more enjoyable and productive. Next time…revisit the files for successful pieces to see how their designs developed.
This is music to any editor’s ears, and should be for writers as well. If you’re not seeing the wisdom in evaluating your work, let’s break down Fortune’s advice.
Look for ways to make the process more enjoyable and productive
So you’ve written a novel (Hey, November’s almost over. You should have close to 50K words saved by now, right?) Remember that part you struggled to figure out? That plot point that kept eluding you and wouldn’t let you get a fix on it? Remember how you had to draft and revise and draft and revise the final fight scene, and then decided to watch a slew of martial arts flicks to get some choreography in your head before you went back to re-draft and revise yet one more time?
Those are the notes you need to make as you write. The things you did and the steps you took to improve the process for yourself. Much as the world may still be given to viewing writers as alcoholic shut-ins, the truth is that I wouldn’t be doing this gig if I didn’t love it. And I suspect you feel the same way. Of course, that doesn’t mean there aren’t times when you and I love it least.
Because the plot points keep running around like over-excited children waiting to trip us up on the way to the kitchen. Because that character just won’t cooperate and keeps inviting disaster when all we want is to inject some calm into the manuscript. Because any number of other reasons that we get frustrated with our stories and want to crumple up our laptops and heave them like paper wads into the bin.
It’s those times that threaten to bring the whole enterprise down around us like so many tomes tumbling from splintered shelves. To minimize such low points in the future, it’s best if we note when, during construction, enjoyment was furthest from us. Evaluation of the finished product is a good way of re-digesting those moments as we read over our notes, make new notes, and re-experience the struggles we faced and the steps we took to prevail.
What did we do that helped us through those times? How did we find the desire to push on? Was it simply that we did push on, despite feeling that nothing could be more enjoyable than the aforementioned laptop crumpling? Did we develop a procedure that we could apply broadly whenever trouble struck, or were our solutions unique to each problem?
This brings my series on Michael Fortune’s design tips to a close, which began here, ICYMI. Next up is a fun little vamp on a piece I read at the Popular Woodworking blog at the beginning of this month. I’m off for the Thanksgiving holiday first though. If you’re celebrating, too, have a wonderful time with family and friends!