Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Making a Mess.

I’ve made a HUGE mess with my WIP. I’m not usually messy; I usually pre-write in my head before I put fingers to keyboard. This time, however, the story sputtered out a little backwards, in pieces and scenes all out of order.

Yesterday, I wrote: It’s kind of fun, like thrusting your hands in a big mess of dirt and clay and rain, like getting the gook all over you as you try to make something coherent and fun. I feel like I’m a kid, taking my shoes off and stomping through puddles, letting the mud squish through my toes and delighting in getting as dirty as possible.

Today, I wrote: I sure prefer my old process. Playing in dirt is much more fun than cleaning up the mess it makes.

It doesn’t matter how many stories you write, the process always seems to evolve. I thought I had my process down pat after sixteen novel/las, but that’s not how it works, LOL. Each story has its own challenges, you know?

A wise woman once told me that if you’re uncomfortable, then you’re growing. Let’s hope I’m hope I’m growing.

You know, the hardest part for me, when I’m mired knee-deep in the mud of my own project, is seeing the whole thing, the big arc, the whole project put together. I have such a hard time getting my brain to see it all at once. My brain is way too compartmental.

I’m sorta playing around today. (I really don’t have the time, but tough.) Have you heard of Mindola SuperNotecard? Well, you can spread out a bunch of virtual notecards and play with them, like a storyboard.

Each notecard can be given a title, then a summary ... or, in my case, each notecard can be given a title and then I just paste the text of each scene into the body. (Only the first snippet shows up on the notecard; you have to click it to see your whole text.)

This has been an interesting exercise.

First, by laying out the titles, I can see the whole project at once. Then I can sort the notecards into "decks:" into three acts, into chapters, even.

Although I did this so I could lay out and see the project as a whole, I was surprised by the second benefit: having each scene set off by itself makes my compartmental mind very happy. I can see the goal of each scene--and how it serves the big arc--a little more clearly. Now I can tweak a little here or there so each scene fulfills its purpose in a stronger way.

So what’s up with you? What are you uncomfortable with/growing with? What’s the hardest part of writing, for you? What part of your process have you fiddled with, lately?

14 bonus scribbles:

Angie 11/07/2007 05:58:00 PM  

My biggest problem is, and has been for a long while, finding the discipline to write every day. Doing NaNo helps with that, but I tend to go in cycles. Staying focused, following through, actually finishing things -- I have a hard time with that.

I'll sit here with my story file open (like it is right now) and find something else, anything else to do. Like read blogs. [cough] Or read/write e-mail. Or read my Flists on LJ. Or post an update on one of my blogs. Or work on edits. Or whatever. It sounds lame, but just getting going and then staying going is very difficult at times. Other times it just flows and I can bang out a few thousand words in a day and feel hyped and boingy doing it, but keeping that up is tough. I feel uncomfortable when I know there are things I should be doing, but I'm not. :/

Angie

Erica Orloff 11/07/2007 07:18:00 PM  

Hmm . . . outlines freak me out. I like just feelign unconstricted as I write, as if it's unfolding organically.

But I totally have to write in order.

E

Edie 11/07/2007 07:21:00 PM  

I'm diving into my discomfort zone, lately. This summer I gouged out huge parts of two different books, one the middle, the first half of the other, and rewrote. Maybe that's why this last book was easy to write. I was looking out for all the problems with my previous books. When I read it over, I'll see if it worked.

I can't do the card thing. I'll write down ideas and even dialogue for future scenes on scraps of paper, but by the time I get there, something always changes.

Aimless Writer 11/07/2007 08:43:00 PM  

I do this with index cards. Also helps me with the timeline. Sometimes I forget what day it is...kinda like real life!

Jennifer McKenzie 11/07/2007 09:46:00 PM  

See what you call messy? I would call to organized. LOL.
I believe that saying too. If I'm uncomfortable, I'm growing. Complacency leads to so so writing for me.
I can't wait to see the finished product.

Liz Wolfe 11/07/2007 10:20:00 PM  

I've written 6 novels, have 2 more that I'm in the process of writing (and 2 that are contracted that I haven't started, but that's another issue). Every single one has required working in a different way. The first one I wrote without an outline, then I had to have a scene by scene outline for another one. One I started and stopped about a dozen times. Now I'm working on one with a complete outline and on another that refuses to be outlined. One thing that seems to be consistent lately is that I want to totally immerse myself in the manuscript when I'm working on it. I don't want to clean house or do other work or see people or even read anything else. It's like I get some weird tunnel mind thing. It works but it's exhausting. Alienates some people too.

spyscribbler 11/07/2007 11:55:00 PM  

LOL, Angie. That's hard. That's why I go to Borders. If I had access to the internet, I'd never get any writing done! Even still, I have to work hard to focus and stay in the chair (and not wander around the store).

So much of writing is a mental game. A very hard one, for me!

spyscribbler 11/07/2007 11:58:00 PM  

LOL, Erica. I can only outline once it's all written. I generally go in order, too, but I'll jot down snippets ahead of where I am, so I don't forget those flashes of story.

But I can't remember a time I've ever been so gosh-darned STUPID and made such an insane MESS in my entire writing life. I swear, I want to shred the thing to pieces and start all over.

*sigh* You know, it felt really good to write that, even though I deleted most of the curse words. :-)

spyscribbler 11/08/2007 12:01:00 AM  

LOL, Edie. Yeah, I wouldn't be able to do the card thing that way, either. But it's illuminating to do the cards after it's already written.

Or else I'm just procrastinating fixing what I know needs fixing. It's a toss up.

I hope all the books come easier for you, Edie! One would think that it would get progressively easier!

spyscribbler 11/08/2007 12:02:00 AM  

Aimless, me too!

*sigh* That's another thing I need to fix. Gosh darnit, I really have made a mess of this stupid thing.

spyscribbler 11/08/2007 12:05:00 AM  

LOL, Jennifer. But the cards are an after thing. The mess is there, trust me. No one could call it organized. I've got half-arcs of characters, I've got characters knowing things before they know them, then not knowing them in the next scene. I've got them saying things are three weeks away then about five weeks pass before those things happen. I've got a character, the hero, who I didn't even know until yesterday. Yesterday! And I was just about done!

Oh, gosh, Jennifer, I promise. No one can call this organized. I don't know where I was when my fingers typed this one.

spyscribbler 11/08/2007 12:09:00 AM  

Liz, I totally prefer that tunnel thing, too! It helps my memory, too, to hold all the little pieces in the forefront!

And I totally agree about different processes for different books.

(Gosh, I sound so negative today. Sorry. It does, for some insane reason, make me feel better to yell and scream at my muse, then yell and scream at myself. I never said I was normal.)

Carrie Lofty 11/08/2007 10:05:00 AM  

I write the messiest damn first drafts. Really awful. Characters come and go and die at will, and then I have to pick up the threads of plot in the rewrite, just to find a coherent story. The one time that didn't happen (my short story, "Sundial,") freaked me out. But I'm beginning to trust that this is just how it works for me.

spyscribbler 11/08/2007 02:27:00 PM  

Carrie, that's fascinating. It's terribly scary to make a mess, and I feel like I wasted time writing some scenes and having to clean up, but I'm starting to see that I'm going to have a cleaner, tighter, more focused manuscript.

Not a bad process at all. Isn't that how Nora does it? The POS?