• Tag Archives process
  • Writers, Writing, and Fetishizing the Process

    I am still–and continually–reading Page Fright, which means I have become more obsessed with the process of writing than usual. It also makes me think of how both writers and non-writers fetishize the process, giving birth to the idea that ‘real writers’ write longhand, or only use typewriters; that ‘real writers’ must have certain conditions met–perfect silence, a particular type of paper, a certain brand of pen or colour of ink. It can lead many budding or potential writers to believe that unless they also adhere to these ideas, they cannot possibly write and will never be ‘real’ writers.

    Yet this fetishizing of the process comes with a grain of truth.

    I’m leery of the idea that a ‘real’ writer must do anything but write, but I also recognize that I have my own process that I find difficult to deviate from. When I write by hand, I could use a ballpoint pen if that’s all that’s available, but I vastly prefer my Sharpie pens because I like felt tip pens and Sharpie has everything I want in a felt tip. I can write in a typical word processor–OpenOffice, say–but I’m only truly comfortable with a Scrivener project where everything is set just so.

    I have my preferred formatting (Times New Roman, 12pt, 1.5x line spacing when drafting; Andalus, 12pt, 1.5x line spacing, printed with a 2″ right margin for editing and rewriting) and my preferred setting (on the bus or train; in a coffee or tea shop, or in a diner; at the front desk at the motel where I work; and always within speaking, texting, or tweeting distance of fellow writers). My Moleskine notebook–where all manner of notes both writerly and practical are written–must be black, and so must the Sharpie pen I write in it with. I edit in green Sharpie pen, and my critique partners get their critiques written in purple and orange Sharpie pen, respectively.

    I have these rituals which surround my writing, but they have all developed as the result of squeezing the most writing time possible out of a very busy schedule. I write longhand at work because it is more practical and edit longhand because it gives me a fresh look at my work; I write and rewrite in Scrivener because the labels and folders help me keep track of where I am in my writing or revisions. I save and compile redundant copies all over the place because I don’t ever want to lose the work I’ve done. Everything I’ve incorporated into my writing process is there for a purpose.

    And that is the most important consideration for any part of the writing process. Writers write; how we accomplish that must be there to help us continue writing, not tie us to conditions we won’t always have the luxury of meeting. So whether you write longhand or exclusively with a computer, and whether you use fountain, felt tip, or ballpoint pens, find a process that works for you and keep on writing.

     

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  • Plotting and the Importance of Having a Time Line

    This half-pantser may be slowly being converted into a plotter. Either that, or making a time line when I’m part way through writing the third act is just another example of my half-pantsing ways. Write a bit, pause to plot. Write some more… repeat. Whatever the reason is, I’m finally getting around to making a formal time line for this story.

    It starts with the Big Bang.

    Ok, not really. That’s just back story stuff for my own future reference, dates I think might become important in future books. I have a time line from the Dawn of Creation to 1083 AD on the short wall, taking up as much space as June-September 2011. Looking at it now, I could probably have spent less space on that part of the back story. Well, if I need the space, I can move things over.

    My time line (incomplete)

     

    Of course, the fun thing is that I have to keep track of the passage of time in two different places where time passes at different rates. And, of course, the time difference between the two is not consistent. This appears to have its advantages and disadvantages. If I need a month to pass there in the space of a day here, I can do that. If I need to slow things down for a while, I can do that too. But I still need to keep track of it all, particularly when characters keep travelling between the two places.

    It’s crude, I know, but I’ve taped up a bi-level time line on the wall behind me. This of course means that I have to stand up to consult it, but standing regularly is good for me. Anyway. Underneath the taped line, I have key points here posted in black ink, and above the line I have key points there in red. Cross-over points are often double posted, one for each place to reinforce the idea that this is where the two time lines interact, regardless of the time discrepancies from one point to another, in one place or the other. With all this, I’m just glad I don’t write for Doctor Who, honestly. There’s enough timey-wimey mess in my life already.

    It seems like a lot of hassle when I could just be writing, but already it’s helped me to get a better idea of setting and season, what things must happen before when, and where. What will be going on with this character when that character shows up? How long does it take for this to happen before that can occur? When will this sub plot that’s been hanging around come into play? Important things, especially where I know what needs to happen, but I’m still fuzzy on the order. This way, I can line it all up and stick a pin in it where it works.

    Now that everything is as under control as it can be, perhaps I can get back to writing, yes? And how about you, how do you put together the time line for your stories?