Tag Archives: Process

Document management

My day job is all about electronic document management. That’s why it is so embarrassing to discover how bad I am at paper document management.

Before I got started on the next writing project I thought I’d pull together all the work I’ve done on it so far. It is not that there is a lot, but it is everywhere!!!!! Just when I think I’ve got it all, I find a notebook with a few random pages of scribbles.

What I wonder is how did I ever expect to use all these notes when I seemed to be doing my best to hide them so well? I know how it happens, I get an idea and I don’t want to lose it, so I write it down in whichever notebook I have close at hand. But that is the best way to lose ideas, not record them.

My recently finished project was started and finished in a short period of time, which might account for my extremely helpful decision to make all my notes in the one book. Everything I had ever thought about the story was in one place.

So I think I’m going to invest in an expanding file and rip out all the ‘novel notes’ from my different pads and put all the related story ideas together. Yes, it does sound like another excuse for some heavy duty procrastination, but I think it is necessary!

Now if I could just work out how to apply metadata to paper…

Random writing

After the success of my pantsing trial and subsequent lack of writing over the past month, I’ve decided it is time to try out another method. A lot of my writing friends regularly use this one, but I’ve always been too afraid to give it a go, until now. This is what I call the write the interesting bits method.

In this method writers write the highlights of their novel, not necessarily in order, and then go back later and write the connecting parts to turn it into a complete novel. I guess the theory is that you’ll be more inspired and they are the bits you can normally see more clearly.

I’ve always thought this was fraught with danger because if you wrote an earlier scene after you wrote a later scene, things may come out differently to how you expected, and that might have a knock on effect. But I also thought pantsing had too high a risk that you might never finish, but I did.

So I’m going in with my eyes open, I can imagine there will be some massive editing involved when I’m finished. The project I have in mind is pretty well mapped, so I can’t see myself going massively off track, regardless of what order I write it in. My biggest challenge is working out how to save all the parts I write in a way where it is clear about what scene comes before or after the other scenes.

I’ll let you know how I get on.

 

Breaks

A couple of months ago I was working on my novel nearly every night and each day of the weekend. Now I rarely ever turn my computer on at home. I’d like to try and blame it on external factors; work is very full on and stressful, I’ve been really busy… but I know that those things applied equally a couple of months ago too, but I worked around them. 

Is it possible that sometimes you just need a break?  

While I was in swing of things with writing my previous novel it felt like I had completely changed my attitude to writing and this new method was going to stick. I even blogged about it. The moment I finished the novel all drive dried up.  

A writing friend of mine was going through a non-writing period at the same time I was going through my burst, her energy was instead directed into a different creative pursuit. She is now writing again, and I don’t think it is just that we are sharing the same writing daemon and he can only be in one house at a time.  

I can feel the stir of anticipation as I start to get into the next project. Maybe this month off was necessary to cut ties with the last piece so I could dedicate myself to the next. Or maybe I just needed a break?

 

Habit

I know I have only recently written about habits in writing, but I want to give you my own recent example. With my pantsing novel I got into the habit of booking non-negotiable writing times, and that was non-negotiable with friends, family and me.

As much as I wanted to jump straight into the edit when I finished the first draft on the Friday night, I knew that to do it justice, I should let the novel rest for as long as possible. With the deadline I’m trying to hit looming, I set that rest time to be two days (but I’d normally recommend at least a month).

At first I was excited waking up on Saturday morning, knowing I had given myself the weekend off. My writing time on Saturday is normally 12-4 in the afternoon. I was getting antsy at 10:30 and I was sitting at the computer by 1pm. I wrote the novel summary and some related content. It was such a relief to be back at my desk.

On the Sunday I was determined not to write any novel-related content, I was to have the day off. That lasted until just after lunch as well. While I haven’t written anything to do with the novel I have just written all my blog posts for the month of August. Again, it feels like a huge relief to be writing.

I love that my writing times are now a part of my weekly schedule, and I will keep them going. I also am really glad that I have all my August posts written because I have just one little month to do all the editing of the entire novel. Wish me luck!

What I learned from pantsing – part 2

I was pleasantly surprised by my pantsing experience, but I’ve also hated it in equal measure. There were times when I thought I would not find an end for the book, and that made the thousands of words I had written feel like a waste of time. There were also times when I just had to write it out to see if it was heading in the right direction, knowing I might have to (and sometimes did) axe all those words.

The whole time I was writing I felt like I had no control. There were times when I got a glimpse maybe four or five chapters ahead, and then I felt comfortable, but there were just as many times I sat down at the computer with no idea what I was going to write. For a control freak that is terrifying.

The dislike of this out-of-control feeling but the love of the speed led me to look for the real difference between planning and pantsing, so that I might be able to find some kind of plantsing medium.

This is what I concluded; when you get an idea for a novel you turn it over in your head, you ask the question ‘what happens next’. If you are a planner, you write the answer to that question in note form in a book that you probably bought especially for the purpose. If you are a pantser, you ask yourself the question when you sit down at the keyboard to write the next chapter. That’s pretty much it. For the pantser the first draft is really just an elaborate plan. Likewise, the planner’s plan is their pantsing first draft, but significantly shorter.

I think the real problem for me comes from the type of story teller I am. As soon as I have the story documented I feel like it has been written, so the aching urge to finish it dulls. That ‘documentation’ might take the form of a 60,000 word pantsing first draft, or it might be a two page dot-point summary. And when all is said and done it is always going to be easier to turn that 60,000 word first draft/plan into a tight, finished novel than the two page synopsis.

So the next thing I will try is to think long and hard about my next novel. I will watch it unfold in my head and maybe note down parts but not the whole story, and certainly not the ending. I want to know the ending, but I will not write it down. Let’s see if that can help me get the good bits of pantsing, with the comfort of planning.

What I’ve learned from pantsing – part 1

I have just finished writing a novel which, when I sat down to write it, I didn’t know much more than what happened in the first chapter. I had faith that it would be a novel, and I had seen a lot of my writing friends successfully write novels with similarly no idea about where it was going, so I had support from them that I could do it too. This was my experiment with pantsing.

The first thing I was overjoyed to learn is that pantsing is fast, really fast. I started writing my novel on April 4th and finished it on July 31st. I have written a planned novel in a similarly short time, but it had about two years in research and note writing and quite a few non-starts over many more months in that time.

The next thing that struck me is just how much hard-core editing I’m going to have to do. I have to insert people into earlier chapters, remove stuff that never went anywhere, inject some foreshadowing and delete out foreshadowing for things that never happened. This is all stuff I rarely need to do when planning.

The last big difference I noticed was the drive to sit down and write. I don’t know if it was to do with pantsing, a wet cold winter, or the deadline of a submission period I wanted to sub this novel to, but I wrote about 3,000 words a week while working full time. Part of it was the excitement of seeing what would happen next and knowing that my mind wouldn’t head out into the next part of the novel until I’d written the bit I knew about.

After all this, I actually still feel very unsure about pantsing. Next week I’ll share my conclusions about the process and what I’m going to do next.

By the seat of my pants

I started writing the pantser novel; the one with no plan, no real end and only vague plot points for me to aim at. I’m up to chapter 5, the dreaded chapter 5. For me, this is the chapter where a novel normally stalls. This one feels like it is stalling.

I’ve spoken before about how chapter 5 is my insurmountable hill. If I can get past that I can probably write the book. In fact, two of the three novels that I wrote beyond chapter 5 are actually finished. The third is really close to finished.

So what is it about chapter 5 that chills me? I think it is because this is where the novel is really starting to take shape. You feel like you know the characters, you have a pretty good idea about what type of book it is going to be, and you start making your characters go in directions that are going to have massive ramifications on the book.

It is that last point that worries me with this one. It is a true pantser book, I don’t know where it is going and it has most certainly started going somewhere. What if that somewhere is bad, or wrong, or worse; nowhere?

The only thing I can think of to get past this is total immersion. I’m cutting myself off from the outside world this weekend and I’m writing chapter 5 and 6 in one hit. As far as I can see it is my only option. I have to break this chapter 5 curse, and I have to find out where this book is going to end up.

Wish me luck!

Priorities

Four days off work is a gift for any writer. You get to spend one day fulfilling all your family requirements, one day tending to your home and two whole, splendid days dedicated to what it is you keep telling everyone you want to do; writing.

But even with these four days you need to set your priorities, do the high priority tasks first. I know this might sound crazy to some of you, but on the days that I’ve got ‘booked in’ for writing, I get up at 6:30am to start writing. Experience has taught me that the day rarely goes as planned, and invariably someone will drop by, or call from out of the blue for a chat. If you start at 6:30 there is a good chance you’ve been able to get in some solid hours of work before you get side-tracked.

I know many of you are thinking you just tell those people to go away, but I can’t and in all honesty, don’t want to do that. These people are my support network and support is a two-way street. I know it might slow me down in my quest to get some novels finished, but it also means that when the world comes crashing down I always have friends and family to turn to. That is also a priority.

So sacrificing a few hours of sleep-in to spend some one-on-one time with my characters is an easy choice to make for something that is a priority. When the sleep-in wins, then I know that there is something wrong.

But how does it end?

Writers are generally broken up into two groups; planners and pantsers. Planners plan out what they are going to write, sometimes in very fine detail, before they get started. Pantsers write by the seat of their pants, discovering the story just a moment before the words fall onto the page.

I always thought I was a pantser, an idea comes to me which is normally made up of the beginning and the end of the story and I have to discover all the bits in between. The only time I ever write a ‘plan’ is when a story idea comes to me and I’m not ready to write it yet. So I’ll note it down in my plans book so that I can come back and look at it years later and go ‘what the hell did I mean by that?’

I have a story growing in my head right now which I’m really enthusiastic about. I can see the first, second and third chapter already. Every time I let myself think about it, more chapters fall into place. Only problem is that I have no idea how it ends. At last count I had seven ‘started’ novels, some with only 3 chapters written, some with many more.

For all those other ‘started’ novels I know exactly how they end, and yet I still haven’t been able to finish them. This novel I’m currently considering has no end at the moment, so I’m terrified if I embark on it that it will just end up being another unfinished novel. But the pull is so great. It is filling my idle thoughts; I’m seeing it like a movie in my head. I want to write it.

I think we all know what is going to happen. I’m going to start it and there is a good chance it will turn my seven into eight unfinished novels. But I guess I’ll find out if I am a true pantser and if somehow my subconscious mind will find an end for it somewhere along the way.