Nov 29, 2010

Re Visioning

I used to be a fly by the seat of my pants writer gal. When I let myself go is when my creative process truly engages and my work becomes infiltrated with inspiration. I can not work out plot problems / issues by thought alone. I have to write. Only then do I see it won't work or will or come up with something better. My characters will tell me who they are and I get more clarity about them. I do have general ideas about them, but the specifics do not come to life until I write. I have a plot worked out. I have to know where I'm going to end before I start and I usually have major plot points along the way I want to hit. I have to have a goal I'm writing toward. Where I have trouble planning ahead is the more minute detail and the happenings between the points. Those do not come to me unless I am writing.

So, this free-wheeling writing style has to fit into my process. It fits in perfect during the first draft. I realized my first drafts have to go much faster and I need to give up the need for perfection during the initial writing phase. [we'll see how this goes when I start the third novel] Perfection comes in during revision.

I used some organization when doing the revision for the first novel. It is a complicated story, so it was necessary. Then over the last few months, I've learned I need to be even more organized. The same needs to be done for my short stories.

I purchase a fat, segmented blank travel journal. I love journals. This is the first one that is actually organized. It helps. As now I can find what I'm looking for.

I have a section for setting and world building. I draw out my solar systems and universe. I write a character study for all the major characters and the pivotal minor ones. When I do this at the revision stage instead of the beginning, I come up with further connections for my characters, which I never would have seen at the draft stage. I can see them now as I know the story and the plot.

Then I have another section for riffs. Riffs are letting myself write without filter or censor from any source. For each chapter there are different things I want to riff about. Sometimes it is character. Sometimes action or setting. These help me enrich the story and create emphasis, mood and emotion where I want them. The whole riff will not make it into a chapter. I edit down to the best and most essential. All this background work makes the story better.

The character studies make even minor characters more three dimensional. Everyone has a history. Everyone has a goal. It's not all going to make it into the novel, but me knowing this information will make my word choices juicier and the scenes more important and interesting.

I have pictures I gathered off the internet during the first draft which I used to inspire characters and setting. I have those organized in a folder for reference and I keep those on the computer. I will look at them before starting a chapter or character study or description. There's often something moody about the images I pick. It's often the mood I want to capture on the written page. I used art as a writing prompt when searching for something to write about. So, it makes sense to me that art remains part of my creative process.

Besides the works of art and notebook, I started doing chapter sheets with the last novel. I color code them with post-it tabs as to whether the chapter impacts the main plot or a subplot - different colors tell me which one. The sheets at a glance tell me chapter number, who's point of view [pov], overall mood, place, scene, characters, plot impact, subplots, what my goal of the chapter is and what the scene question is.

This time I am also sticking post-its to my wall. They start with the story question - to keep me on track, tell me what the chapter scene is, what the question is, maps the conflicts & points to cover and tells me how to end the chapter. It's a quick & visual chapter outline.

Tip - generic post-its do not stick so well. So, I saved no money. I asked Santa for a magnetic board one can also stick pushpins into. And post-its. That's my most-wanted x-mas gift. I'm so exciting. Although, I wouldn't complain about jewels none. :D I could also use pens, Santa. And a ream of paper. The one I bought last year is almost gone. Could probably use an ink cartridge for the printer, too. Hmmm, go to OfficeMax, Santa. Then the jeweler downtown.

There is a lot of overlap with the chapter sheets and the post-its. But I've come to realize, I'm a tactile and visual person. Writing these planning and organizing tools out is now part of my process. It helps me think. I like being able to look at my post-it wall for a quick reference then refer to the notebook or chapter sheets for more detail.

Does this mean, this is what you should do? No. We're all different. The process will be different for everyone. How to best organize is individual. However, at some point I've come to believe planning and organization are a must.

I am a reluctant convert, but convert I now am.

Yes, this means revisions on novel#2 have finally begun. My break was longer than anticipated, but I gathered a lot of knowledge these past few months which will make this novel all the better.

How do you organize? What are your favorite methods?