I’m happily plugging away at my YA fantasy novel, An Eye of Heartstone (the primary reason I took a break from MW) and was talking with a writer friend about my writing approach when she introduced a concept I’d not heard before: Bashers vs. Swoopers. The idea originates with one of my favorite writers, Kurt Vonnegut, but I’d somehow managed to go forty some-odd years without so much as hearing about Bashers or Swoopers once. Here’s a more complete quote from the author himself (I researched it and it’s in Ch. 35 of his book, Timequake):
“Tellers of stories with ink on paper have been either Swoopers or Bashers. 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.”
Now then… A lot of ink has been spilled on the subject of plotters vs. pantsers, but that’s obviously not what Vonnegut is talking about. But given how much time has been spent here on MW on the idea of writing fast, it seemed appropriate to throw Vonnegut’s quote into the mix and add another set of options to ponder.
Personally, I think I’m more of a Basher, though not on a line-by-line basis. I’ll write anywhere from a few paragraphs to a few pages—a couple of chapters if I’m lucky—and then NEED to go back and tweak and tighten and generally upgrade the quality of what I’ve written. The text just pulls at me, calls to me; I have no choice in the matter.
I think part of the reason I do this is that I have a particularly hard time shutting up my internal editor. Editing is, after all, what I do on a regular basis. I also think some of my bashing tendencies stem from the fact that my brain often needs a little time to process what it’s written so that it can figure out what’s supposed to happen next. And lastly, it’s also a good way for me to get my head back into the story when I’ve been away for a while, sometimes even when it’s only been a few hours. Going back a chapter or three and editing forward again reminds me of where I’ve been and what’s going on.
The drawback with being a Basher is that if the story goes seriously astray and I need to jettison some of the text, I’m not just losing one draft, I’m sometimes losing three or four drafts—which represents a significant investment of my time. I still do it, but it’s often painful. I’m not just killing my darlings; I’m killing an entire tribe of shiny, polished darlings.
So I have three questions for the rest of you at this point:
1) The obvious one: do you think you’re a Swooper or a Basher;
2) Also let me know if you’re a Plotter or Pantser: I’m curious how Swooping and Bashing relates to Plotting vs. Pantsing. Are Plotters more likely to be Bashers? Are Pantsers Swoopers? Etc., etc.
3) For those of you swoopers out there, what are the pros and cons you perceive from writing the way that you do. I can speculate on the subject all day, but I’d like to hear from the folks who actually write that way.