INTERVIEW: LEWIS SHINER
Many moons ago you told me you tried to barrel through a first draft, get anything down you could, and then go back and craft. Is that still how you go about things?
Yes, pretty much. Rather than do a detailed outline, I prefer to let the characters and situations develop organically within a very rough structure. From this "finished" product I can finally figure out what the story's really about and who the people really are. The second draft then involves digging a lot more deeply into motivation and moment-to-moment events. That leaves the third (and subsequent) drafts to work on the language.
Have you ever tried outlining? If so, what did you discover?
I did a lot of outlining early on, but really it's too left-brained an activity for me. It tends to lead me more toward contrivance than toward honesty.
What sort of advice would you give a young writer about the actual writing process?
Retype. It's the best advice I know. I write on a computer, but when I finish a draft I go back and retype the entire thing, then (in the case of novels) retype it again. It gives me a chance to get tired of the sound of my own voice, and forces me to keep the writing as fresh as I can to keep my own interest alive. When people tell me it sounds like too much work, I wonder what they think writing is supposed to be.
LEWIS SHINER's novels include Glimpses, which won the World Fantasy Award, and Slam. This interview first appeared in Rebel Yell (1998).