On Writing

Simplify

I’m super old-school when it comes to writing.  I write in a notebook with an Art of Ophelia pen while drafting (by this I mean during the initial writing phase; I migrate everything to the computer for revising and editing).  There are several reasons why I’ve chosen to do this and why I prefer it to writing digitally.  First and foremost is because when I wrote everything electronically, it was too easy for me to hit the delete key and constantly revise/rework text that I wasn’t happy with instead of pressing on with the story.  I kept getting in my own way by doing that. Suffice it to say, I accumulated loads of unfinished stories in the process. You might be saying, yeah, Jamie, but you can just scribble over stuff with your pen, too.  I totally can, but the difference is that it’s still there and can still be read/deciphered as long as I don’t tear out the pages, crumple them up, and throw them in the trash.  I used to trash entire chapters when I wrote electronically but for whatever reason, I haven’t torn out any notebook pages thus far.  I admit that I’ve done a fair amount of scribbling over text, but it’s nothing compared to the editing I did while I was supposed to be writing in electronic format; by making this switch, I’ve successfully managed to turn off my inner critic/editor for the most part.

I also write with a pen and notebook for comfort. I don’t like sitting at a computer or staring at a screen for lengths of time. When I spend most of my day at the computer working, it’s hard on my eyes and causes tension and muscle soreness in my neck and shoulders. I don’t want that experience while I’m writing. I’m much more comfortable curling up on the couch with my notebook and pen (sometimes with a blanket and cup of tea) and my headphones (everything I write has its own soundtrack). My new method feels natural, organic, to me.

I’ve also been unplugging from digital devices in general. I don’t watch a lot of TV, I quit wearing a fitness tracker watch a long time ago, and I keep my phone on silent most of the time (Do Not Disturb Mode is fantastic). I don’t like the distractions of these devices and the constant alerts, noise, and glare. This is a personal preference.

All that being said, I’ve found that with my current project (the first since my move away from electronic writing), I need some form of organization to help me keep focused on where I am with things. I’ve been periodically moving content over to the iPad to get a sense of structure/overall picture, but the time that I spend migrating text over is valuable writing time lost; once again, I’m getting in my own way. I also run the risk of editing text as I move it over, which I don’t want to get caught up in doing—that’s for later.

Thus, I sought an alternative to simplify the process. I considered a system of sticky flags in different colors to indicate sections about particular characters and a beginning note to summarize each scene I write, but ultimately, I decided a storyboard will work best for me. I’m a tactile person, so the idea of using an actual cork board with colored note cards appeals me. Different colors can indicate characters or events and each card will summarize a chapter or scene. I can move the cards around on the board to group them and to keep an eye on where I am (in other words, what gaps I still need to fill in). My husband made the suggestion that I not actually put this up on the wall as I might become overly focused on the structure/organization when that’s not super relevant during drafting (a wise suggestion!). Instead, I’ll stash it away so that I can take it out as needed and it will be a useful tool for when I’m done with the draft and begin revising and thinking more about structure. This will be an easy transition to migrating the content to Scrivener (my writing software on the computer) once I’m ready; my physical cards will become digital ones in that environment. I love it when a plan comes together! All I need to execute this simple plan of simplification is a cork board and colored some note cards.

I currently have a cork board on the wall of my office, but it’s full of my son’s artwork and things like a DC Comics collector card of Raven, my Potential Slayer button, a vinyl-lover sticker, and pics of my favorite Star Wars characters. So now comes the dilemma . . . Do I keep this board as is and find another to function as my storyboard or do I find a new home for all of these mementos and such and convert this board into my storyboard? It’s a tough decision, man.

While I mull it over, drop me a line to tell me what tools you’re a fan of and why, how you keep an overall view of your story arc, what you use to outline/organize, etc.

Update: I did away with the notecards and corkboard and ultimately decided to go with three separate notebooks since my story takes place in three parts (I’m going to be interweaving three threads here). I copied down the sections that I’d already written and have been filling in the blanks in between so as to get a more linear story and see the bigger picture of where I am. I think this is the best way forward for me, so from now on, I’ll jot down notes or sketch out particular scenes when they come, but I will also work on filling in the blanks to get to those given points so that I don’t end up with a disorganized mess that I can’t sort out.

Leave a Reply