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December 20, 2012
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Reprobates Debate: Free Writing

Thu Dec 20, 2012, 9:05 PM

Exactly what it sounds like

—okay, not really. Most of you have lovely consciences and kiss your mothers every night before bed, I'm sure!

But the rest of us are gonna have some fun in the meantime.

No quotes necessary. Just debate.

My background isn't in literature at all, but being a hardheaded, opinionated bundle of joy, I get off to this kind of thing. I'm inviting all of you to chime in on an issue that surely has no right answer, regardless of whether or not you've studied it or experienced it or whatever. It's the Internet, dude.




So what the hell is free writing, anyway? Free writing, often confused with 'stream of consciousness' (think Faulkner and Salinger, among others) is the process of writing down whatever comes to your head without any sort of prior planning. While I maintain that some thought can go into the process as it's happening, some people insist it should be entirely the outpouring of one's emotions at the time.

But what's the debate? Okay, so you've got this thing that people use sometimes. Maybe when they need to vent, or when they need to get over a bout of not being able to write anything, or maybe they're just brainstorming. That free writing by itself has some utility, I don't doubt. (I've rarely done it, but it's been useful in getting out darlings I just couldn't bring myself to kill.) Anyway, the real issue comes when we question the value of the products from such an exercise.

Does free writing on its own have value, or does it have to be edited to be meaningful?

} the topic



the {
rules

Ad hominem arguments automatically get a :icondickkickplz:. Look, I don't care what the fuck you were thinking. It's not cool and it's not productive. The point of me doing this in a journal, instead of the forums as usual, is to create a safer space for those of you who are intimidated by the forums, or don't generally feel comfortable supporting an argument on logic alone when everyone else is going around citing their sources (like a boss).

That said, you can be as Wikipediatastic as you like. Dude, citing sources is awesome. I'm making this very informal so it's not necessary, but if you've got books or stories or poems to reference, by all means do so! Even better if you can link to a place they're available online, for those of us who spend all day staring at a computer as our brains slowly seep out, but whatever. I'll make that library trip if I have to.

Last rule: by posting here, you are inviting anyone to challenge your views. If you have a serious problem making conversations like a grownup when someone doesn't agree with you, this is not the place for you. See above, re: ad hominem dick kicks. I can and I will. But anyway, please don't be afraid to be the minority opinion! I'm planning to Devil's Advocate everything—to the point where I refuse to reveal what side I fall on here (I'm sure I've mentioned it before elsewhere)—so you've got at least one supporter. Maybe.

I'll argue with you, too. :eager:



Like to argue? Afraid of the forums, or your lack of literary background? WELCOME TO REPROBATE DEBATES. (If the title bothers you, you may lack the necessary levels in self-mocking to really get behind this. :ohnoes:)

Does free writing have to be edited to be meaningful? Define your terms, get your sparring gear on, and let's go!

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:iconthe-monoblos:
The-Monoblos Featured By Owner Jan 3, 2013  Professional Writer
And now my first opinion - if my earlier rant wouldn't be quite so annoying and when I press preview actually press add comment because my laptop has a rather big cursor issue. My bad. Also though because I was ranting I forget to take the said cursor issue into account - ahah, you terrible rant, why do you DO this! :D

Ranting is great: Without rants we just wouldn't be able to get all our problems out of our heads would we? We build up all this anger and infatuation and nobody likes being that angry. Nobody wants problems and society believes that if we tell our problems to other people we can get over them. So rant, tell the world your problems. Maybe better than that you can go and on about something you have a problem with, or love very much instead of having a problem. It's great for people to hear your voice and you should completely and utterly continue to go on and on and on about what you have to say because if you feel you have more to say about something and that other people should know this something as well - let them know it.

You know, after opinion #2 I think you should probably try and find a middle ground somewhere, to suit you you know (and your speaking/reading speed (you do need to breath between sentences remember)).
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Jan 3, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Ah, :lol: I was wondering where that had gone.

On the other hand, knee-jerk reactions can make one come off as a total jackass. A good example of this is the Complaints forum--badly thought out opinions will get called out there pretty fast, and the usual response is defensiveness.
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:iconthe-monoblos:
The-Monoblos Featured By Owner Jan 3, 2013  Professional Writer
no worries; I was kind of expecting any knee jerk to be problematic but in the specific instance it actually works quite well, especially for an article specifically like this.

My long promised poetry vs prose is up next in about 15 minutes (hopefully)
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Jan 3, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
It can work out, but I think you've got to have an opinion on the subject already.

Ooooh.
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:iconthe-monoblos:
The-Monoblos Featured By Owner Jan 3, 2013  Professional Writer
Yeah, I can tend to go off on quite long, usually absurd, rants of cynicism, off topic paragraphs and somehow finally get back to the point. It's like what the great comedian Groucho Marx said about his autobiographies. "The temptation to write about yourself is irresistible, especially when you are prodded into it by a crafty publisher who has slyly baited you into doing it with a miserly advance of fifty dollars and a box of cheap cigars". Amazing man ... here's another quote. "The Marx Brother's: One of them speaks Italian, one doesn't speak at all and the third speaks too much". Chico, Harpo, Groucho (Zeppo & Gummo as well): "Riposare in pace".

Now, my first opinion: "Ranting is great".

And my second opinion: "Ranting is terrible" (be very warned, this opinion comes in the form of a rant 'just' to juxtaposition everything and, rather frankly, because I also feel like it). Wow, I'm just going to rant, I don't to need worry about what I say, how I say it or who I said it too (mostly because people lose interest rather fast). I don't need to worry about purposely words misplaced because I'm just saying it, rather writing it, as I go. I wonder how mayn typo's I cna purposely gte in one sentence because I haven't actually thought ahead and, if I go any longer, I'll surely run out of breath and look like a complete numpty in front of everybody here! Either that or you've had practice at this. iT would be so great to go back to the start of this paragraph and just look at all the problems with it and fix everything and then sit back and then it will be great. And then it won't look like part of a child's language acquisition paper supposed to be handed in a few days back. "And then, and then, and then, and then, and then".
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Jan 3, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Bahah, that's fantastic. I should look into the Marx brothers more closely.

Hey, it is perfectly possible to write a rant that isn't a totally typo'd mess! Case in point: my blogs. Now, if I'd spent more time on them, they'd be more tightly focused. But they're not that rambly. I think.

Also, everything I've posted here gets sat on for a day even when it is rantier.
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:iconthe-monoblos:
The-Monoblos Featured By Owner Jan 3, 2013  Professional Writer
by the way the break was actually intentional - I thought it added something a little extra. And yes, The Marx Brothers are just classics. I can easily go quite rambly when I want to so I think this particular debate is quite nice - if you're ever doing more of them I'd be happy to comment, just as long as I've cleared the christmas & new years backlog first.
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Jan 3, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Oh, okay :P

I'm planning to! But I haven't solidifed what the next one should be yet.
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:iconthe-monoblos:
The-Monoblos Featured By Owner Jan 3, 2013  Professional Writer
I'll have to poetry vs prose elsewhere because the forum's been blocked btw. Not a problem though - I've had a basis lingering near the back of my mind for a while.
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Jan 3, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Oo.

The forum's been blocked?! :ohnoes:
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:iconthe-monoblos:
The-Monoblos Featured By Owner Jan 3, 2013  Professional Writer
I certainly can't get on it. Don't worry yourself - I did one on trust anyway
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Jan 3, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Woo!
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:iconbeeinthebottle:
beeinthebottle Featured By Owner Dec 24, 2012   Writer
With my prose (creative nonfiction), technically it's all "free writing." I start writing with no real plan, and they evolve from there. I do edit them when I'm done with them but usually not terribly much.

Then again, I was one of those annoying kids who, when required to have an outline, wrote the report first and then the outline. I sort of organize as I go; it comes naturally to me. (I think that's why I'm an editor by trade.)

Now stream of consciousness? That's a different thing. I can be as scattered as the next person, and rarely are those pieces worth saving. Sometimes there's a thread of something to them that makes them worthwhile, I think; those I post. But I don't expect to foist them on the broader public. They're rarely publishable, nor are they meant to be.
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Dec 24, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Haha, I used to weasel my way out of submitting outlines at all.

I could see stream of consciousness being a wholly deliberate process, though—it's not the same, but I think the bit in 'Murders in the Rue Morgue" (I thiiiink) where Dupin deciphers the narrator's train of thought offers an example of how to set that up.
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:iconbeeinthebottle:
beeinthebottle Featured By Owner Dec 25, 2012   Writer
I weaseled whenever I could. :)
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Dec 25, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Weaseling is fantastic.
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:iconhavetales-willtell:
HaveTales-WillTell Featured By Owner Dec 21, 2012  Professional Writer
Free writing is (in my arrogant opinion) good for only two things: emo-venting, and inflating word counts during Word Wars.

I've mentioned this before: I'm so much of a perfectionist, that this very post took two rewrites, three editing passes and nearly forty-five minutes to post. Now imagine the planning that goes into my poetry, even something as supposedly short and simple as a haiku.

Brainstorming is not the same as free-writing. I brainstorm a lot: jotting down random bits and phrases, drawing circles and arrows to interconnect possible ideas. For now, this is best done longhand; though I'm sure that within a few years, paper and pen will morph into tablet and stylus.

Do I ever post a first draft? No. Do I put something up the same day that I wrote it? Other than journals, once in a blue moon. Is everything I've ever written still a work in progress? Very much so; you can thank Walt Whitman for that mindset.

Is there value to stream-of-consciousness? It's a style, cleverly crafting one's writing so as to appear uncrafted. And in the right hands (Whitman, Eliot, Salinger et. al.) it works as it's supposed to: the written equivalent of an intimate conversation, with inside references and hidden interpretations galore.

But it's not necessarily everyone's cup of tea, including mine. I'm a plain speaker: give me Hemingway, Hammett or Heinlein any day of the week. Faulkner's long-windedness is the very antithesis of the kind of writing I enjoy: in college, I once took an F rather than finish suffering through Light In August.

Which is interesting, since Hemingway and Faulkner themselves had a lifelong feud based on their opposing writing styles: the former was considered a simpleton, while the latter was a pompous ass.
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Dec 21, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Haha, I hadn't even though of Word Wars, but free writing is exactly what I do for those. Because it's fun.

I think that might be longer than I spent editing this post!

Some people do use free writing to brainstorm, but yeah. Not necessarily the same.

Wow, hardcore! I'm not a fan of Hemingway, and I've yet to get to page 100 of something by Faulkner.

Right, I promised debate: since you spend so much time planning, do you think this is going to result in people missing out on valuable stuff just because it's rougher? Are we in for a stack of unpublished manuscripts after your lifetime? :O
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:iconhavetales-willtell:
HaveTales-WillTell Featured By Owner Dec 21, 2012  Professional Writer
A stack of unpublished manuscripts? Only if I turn out to be Salinger after all.

A series of works-in-progress, at various stages of readiness and completion? That's more likely, though I try not to have too many irons cluttering up the fire: once a given work reaches a tipping point (usually the completion of the first draft, no matter how rough) I start doing my best to pretty it up for display within a reasonable amount of time — before the spark that fired it gets too blurry and out-of-focus.

But one of my rules (except for something like a timed prompt) is to always give the piece distance: at a very minimum, sleep on it; better yet, wait several days (or even a week) to approach it as an editor with as fresh a set of eyes as I can muster.

And for the record, let it be noted that in terms of video games, I vastly prefer turn-based over real-time. It's the same principle, if you think about it.
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Dec 22, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
I'm not following you around, I don't know! It's perfectly possible. Except for the part where you talk to people.

Ooh. I like doing that, but generally when I revisit a concept I liked enough to write out (10k words+) more than a year later, I've a lot of good ideas on improving it.

Yes, absolutely!

I have a huge preference for real-time, myself. I'm not sure what that means, since I don't do anything with free writings. :P
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:iconhavetales-willtell:
HaveTales-WillTell Featured By Owner Dec 24, 2012  Professional Writer
:lol: I have to wonder what Salinger thought about the internet. Especially since he made Howard Hughes look social.
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Dec 26, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Didn't he live too far out in the woods to get it? :P
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:iconhavetales-willtell:
HaveTales-WillTell Featured By Owner Dec 27, 2012  Professional Writer
At the time, probably. Broadcast internet wasn't anywhere near as ubiquitous as it's getting to be now.

But he was wealthy enough to afford either satellite or cable access, even back then, had he so chosen. So I doubt that was the deciding factor.
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Dec 27, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Haha, yeah.
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(1 Reply)
:iconsaintartaud:
saintartaud Featured By Owner Dec 21, 2012  Professional General Artist
Thank you for not conflating free/automatic writing with stream of consciousness.

Since I think it might help to clarify, here's an excerpt from the most strongly SOC chapter in The Sound and the Fury
The train swung around the curve, the engine puffing with short, heavy blasts, and they passed smoothly from sight that way, with that quality about them of shabby and timeless patience, of static serenity: that blending of childlike and ready incompetence and paradoxical reliability that tends and protects them it loves out of all reason and robs them steadily and evades responsibility and obligations by means too barefaced to be called subterfuge even and is taken in theft or evasion with only that frank and spontaneous admiration for the victor which a gentleman feels for anyone who beats him in a fair contest, and withal a fond and unflagging tolerance for white folks’ vagaries like that of a grandparent for unpredictable and troublesome children, which I had forgotten.
This is one rather long, rambling sentence that takes some effort to parse, but it is apparently crafted, each word carefully chosen. I don't know exactly how many drafts the novel took Faulkner, but I would guess at least a couple. Like Joyce, he heavily embedded the work with allusions to literature, religion, and so forth, which is too big of a task to tackle of the top of your head. This is also conveying a lot about the particular character/narrator's voice and psychology.

Anyway, as far as free and automatic writing goes, I think it is a perfectly valid way of producing raw material. Whether it usually works well on its own with only slight cleanup is another matter entirely.
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Dec 21, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
I'm working on it! And I'm totally going to link people to your post if they need it.

You added so many qualifiers to that last bit, I'm thinking you have an example of free writing you like?
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:iconsaintartaud:
saintartaud Featured By Owner Dec 27, 2012  Professional General Artist
Glad to help! I think actually seeing an example and making note of the work put into examples of the style might clarify somewhat.

And I've read some Surrealist literature purportedly written automatic that wasn't bad. Not a fan of Breton's Nadja, but he claimed it was written automatically, and it's fairly readable (weak on plot etc., but readable). Benjamin Peret reportedly wrote a lot of work using the method, and it's pretty good. I'm not sure how much the other Surrealist poetry I've read, like Desnos and Artaud, makes use of the method, but it's certainly similar stylistically. A lot of this stuff probably reads as "brain vomit" to some, but I find it quite orderly in poetic terms. You might need to be on that wavelength, though.
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Dec 27, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Yes, absolutely!

Haha, surrealism has a limited appeal anyway. I guess it's more popular in art, but still, takes a certain mindset to appreciate.

Is Artaud where your username is from? :eyes:
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:iconsaintartaud:
saintartaud Featured By Owner Dec 27, 2012  Professional General Artist
I probably sound like a snob when I say it, but most people only know Dali and have probably never actually read the manifestos. Therefore their understanding of Surrealism is limited to vague ideas of the work being dreamlike and trippy, or not realizing that it goes beyond painting (the core Parisian group was started by Breton and contained many other writers). Then again, I was in the same boat 15 years ago, so I can't get too mad.

I think you could argue that aspects of Surrealism influenced the Beats and that magic realism and other Post-Modern lit share similar aims and stylistic qualities. There is plenty of speculative and horror fiction I would call Surrealistic as well. So I would argue whether its appeal is really that limited. It's more a matter of how far the works goes in terms of style/content.

And yeah, Artaud is the source of my username.
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Dec 27, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Nah, it's pretty much true all around. We studied a little more of the underlying stuff in my art classes, but most of my experience of surrealism is Dali and then some Magritte.

I meant pure surrealism! I don't think surreal elements in a text count as surrealism—there's not so much of a philosophical drive. There's certainly a lot of appeal in incorporating elements of the surreal, but the rest of it?

Oooh.
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:iconsaintartaud:
saintartaud Featured By Owner Dec 27, 2012  Professional General Artist
Depends on what you mean by "the rest of it."

Anyway, you broadly stated Surrealism tended to have limited appeal, so I thought it worth pointing out that elements of Surrealism do seem to hold some appeal, and it was one of the more influential movements in 20th century art/literature. I'm not sure that the theoretical aspects are what readers have a problem with. I think it's a combo of lack of exposure and difficulty of the work in terms of style, narrative, and formal unity. I'll even concede that much of the work is pretty weak compared to some contemporaries that are more widely taught.
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Dec 27, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
The non-visual, surface layer stuff, really. I don't think it's as appealing to deal with the Marxist and Hegelist ideas (and yeah, this is the point where I went to Wikipedia because I haven't read Hegel in about six years), or with the notion that sudden segues or endings or odd juxtapositions is meant to actually be a criticism of society. At least coming at it from the perspective that people are looking to be entertained.

Yeah, it's so conceptual that I could see the most devoted followers not producing the best work.
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(1 Reply)
:iconndifference:
ndifference Featured By Owner Dec 21, 2012  Professional Writer
My mother-in-law visited Faulkner in Oxford years and years ago. He was a friend of her parents. He greeted her at the door naked.
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:iconsaintartaud:
saintartaud Featured By Owner Dec 27, 2012  Professional General Artist
Awesome! And not exceedingly surprised--the guy was an alcoholic, after all.
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:iconndifference:
ndifference Featured By Owner Dec 27, 2012  Professional Writer
I've read that didn't drink while he was working on something. He binged afterwards. All the more reason to wrap up that novel, eh?
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:iconsaintartaud:
saintartaud Featured By Owner Dec 27, 2012  Professional General Artist
I've heard the same. Hey, gotta reward yourself somehow, right?
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:iconndifference:
ndifference Featured By Owner Dec 28, 2012  Professional Writer
Naked binge drinking. Sounds fun.
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Dec 22, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
This makes me want to give him another try, except now I'm imagining this wrinkly skinny dude sitting in front of a typewriter naked.
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:iconndifference:
ndifference Featured By Owner Dec 25, 2012  Professional Writer
That was one of her favorite stories. She pretended to be shocked and offended, which I'm sure she was at the time, being a good Southern belle and all, but she loved regaling people with it.
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Dec 26, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
It is pretty much the best story about an author ever.
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:iconndifference:
ndifference Featured By Owner Dec 26, 2012  Professional Writer
Yes. And from now on, I shall greet all my house guests naked.
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Dec 26, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
:salute:
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:iconskysongma:
SkysongMA Featured By Owner Dec 21, 2012  Student Writer
I think it's valuable as long as you don't plan to show it to anyone--or, if you do, it's in a classroom setting where you plan to immediately have someone critique you or help you find the useful ideas that might be inside it. I mean, I'm not going to stop anyone from doing something that will get words down on a page, and it can be a genuinely useful technique to generate ideas.

However. I write all my stuff--first drafts of novels, stories, etc.--expecting that no one will ever read it because it will not be good enough. This gives me freedom to experiment, but it also gives me an obligation. I am not shouting into a void; I am writing to be read. Therefore, I must edit.
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Dec 21, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
So as long as your purpose is to do more with it?

Nice. :nod:
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:iconskysongma:
SkysongMA Featured By Owner Dec 22, 2012  Student Writer
Yep, that's the idea.
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:iconvfreie:
VFreie Featured By Owner Dec 21, 2012
I was a big fan of free writing and the inherent sacredness of every fart from the creative mind, once.
Then I grew up and realised it was all tit-pissery for the lazy and the coward to justify half-assed efforts. Just like I refuse to eat a cake that is only half-baked and am likely to complain with the cook, my standard answer to reading a half-baked written something - unless I'm specifically doing it as a beta reader - is a middle finger raised. (Although I feel more forgiving, unexplainably enough, when I know the author died before getting to the revising phase. Bulgakov is as good an example as any other: Hella is the only member of Woland's retinue who's not in the scene of the last flight. According to Elena Sergeevna Shilovskaya, Bulgakov's third wife, it was because he could never finish his novel properly. Vasili Lakshina remembers what happened when he draw her attention to the fact that Hella was not at the flight: Elena Sergeevna looked at me with confused eyes and suddenly she cried out with an unforgettable expression: "Миша забыл Геллу!" - "Misha forgot Hella!")
Angry reader mode aside, free writing might be meaningful for the writer, and the writer alone, because vent art has a right to existence and we're all human and blablabla all that sentimental jazz; useful, for whatever processing and brainstorming reason. But of course, is that stuff worthy of being shared with the rest of the world, raw as it is? Can it really stand on its own legs in the wide mean world? I doubt it. To elaborate with another metaphor, I pay the cinema ticket to see a finished movie, not just a bunch of concept art whose prettiness has even its ups and downs.
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Dec 21, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
"tit-pissery" is my new favorite line.

Oooh, I did not know that about Bulgakov. Actually, thank you for that website in general, I'm going to read it all. That book is friggin' fantastic (and I'm inclined to forgive his small errors—he also lists the wrong wine in the second scene with Pilate. Thank you, translators' notes.)

What if it's a really good author who writes at a level that would be revised for most people, and the only difference now is it isn't as planned?
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:iconvfreie:
VFreie Featured By Owner Dec 26, 2012
Re-reading that book was one of the best life choices I've made in 2012. The initial terror I wouldn't find it as enjoyable as at the time of the first attempt was soon drowned in chuckling.

I can - and very much do - appreciate the bits o' shine, but an incomplete or unrevised work will always leave a bitter aftertaste, as slight as it may be: the better the author, the higher the standard, and my expectations vary accordingly. This is why I feel sort of wary about posthumously published works.
One of my favourite examples is this novel. I love it, love its use of language, the ideas and the terrible picture it paints - and then, BANG, missing chapters and continuity holes everywhere and one of the abruptest endings ever recorded. Ironically enough, it has its charm, too, but... well, this guy's finished stuff is better.
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Dec 26, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
I got over it because I figured I'd missed stuff, it's a rich book. Good life decision!

Yeah, mine too. I think it depends on the editor, though. The back and forth is important, but if you've worked with them for a long time and know their voice really well, you might be able to pull through. The alternative, though, is not trying to be the exact author, as is happening with the 'Wheel of Time' series.

Bummmmmmer! It sounds totally interesting.
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:iconbeeinthebottle:
beeinthebottle Featured By Owner Dec 24, 2012   Writer
That last question is the one I was trying to drive at. I'm not under the illusion that I'm a "really good author," but I am good at organizing words on the fly. There's a huge difference, I think, between that and literary vomit.

At least, I hope so.
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