Managing My Writing: Part 2: Organising Writings

With my inspiration jottings and snapshots all organised, there was another thing to sort out - my actual writing.  That is a more onerous task.  Let me explain.

When I was at school, one of my favourite subjects was English (along with Art and Physics). I was constantly scribbling stories (I even went through the obligatory teenage-angst-poetry phase - no that will never be revealed), doodling pictures and reading anything I could hold of about time, space and astronomy.  I had a bedroom filled with stuff.  I was constantly being asked to tidy up my room. But I knew where everything was. I was happy. I am comfortable around organised clutter.

My creative brain could also be described as creatively cluttered. This influenced my early writing process, which was developed during my senior years in high school. This process still persists to some extent today - for better or for worse.

High School: We would be given an assignment or essay, with usually one to two weeks to complete. For about a week, I would mull it over in my brain. Writing and rewriting it virtually - in my head.

About two days before the essay was due, I would transcribe all the ideas and paragraphs onto actual paper. It was a form of pre-planned  free writing . What ever popped into my head was scribbled down - in what ever order it spewed out.

Back then, I did not own a computer, let alone a word processing programme. I had acess to a communal photocopier, and used a cut and paste regime. (Literally! Ah, the joys of creating student club newsletters. Thank goodness for invisible sticky tape!) Inevitably I would be up into the wee early hours, cutting out each paragraph and sliding the word-covered rectangles around until they were ordered in the appropriate way.

With the bulk of the essay now organised, I had only to write a few sentences (or paragraphs) to allow for smooth segues..  I was often seen, speedily handwriting out the final product, as I sat waiting to go into class - first thing in the morning. I never did miss a deadline. I did get bemused looks from my teacher who patiently tried to instill a less frantic approach to my writing.  (but I did always scored over 90% for my essays. The process worked for me.)

Over the past year I have tried to get some semblance of organisation and better preparation for my stories. I used to be a 100 per cent pantser. This was not an issue when writing short stories.

Now I am writing novella and novel-length stories, this is has been more problematic.  I still free write a lot of my ideas, as discussed in Organising Inspirations, but now I commit them to paper (or computer) as soon as I can. To make this a success, I have salted writing notebooks in several rooms at home, my handbag and by the bed for those dream-induced sparks of inspiration.

I now write information on my characters and try to plan the direction of at least some of my storylines.  So now I am a 70 per cent pantser/ 30 per cent planner. However I was still shuffling around pieces of writing, now using cut and paste on the word processor instead of literally.

In my many readings on writing techniques, I came across a recommendation for Scrivener. I made use of the free trial. It was perfect for my writing mindset. I can set up a virtual cork board and shuffle around scenes to my brain's content - all within the same programme. Hooray! A word processing programme that can accommodate my shuffle method!

Another organisational technique I have developed is to have set aside time specifically for writing. I try to write three to five days a week (as I work part-time for two days at the moment). Times are flexible and vary depending on family and health issues but I always write on Wednesdays and Fridays. I try to write for at least a few hours.

Part of this dedicated writing time, involves Wednesday night Writers' Race, run on Facebook by the Australian Writers Marketplace Online, making this a very productive day for my writing.

With a dedicated computer writing programme, copious notebooks to write down notes - sometimes complete paragraphs and scenes, and dedicated writing schedule I have felt more in control of my writing. I have found I have been more productive over the last year.  And that is what it is all about really - getting that first draft down in some form so I can start on rewrites and edits to give my ideas life.

Of Cameras and Their Point of View.

I have commented previously on how invaluable I find my writers' group.  We meet once a month, at the local library. Last week I took a break from writing Doctor Jack - to enjoy the company  of my fellow writers and discuss the final scenes of The Department of Curiosities's fifth chapter  (my novel length manuscript work-in-progress).

chapter51strewritesThese scenes of Chapter 5: Of Resurrections, Discoveries and Assassinations/Eliminations (still being decided) - follows the despicable acts of the antagonist's henchmen. No spoilers. From the start, I envisaged the henchmen as almost faceless non-individuals. They do not speak. We never learn their names. They act almost as one. We do not get any insight into their thoughts, feelings or motives. Nada.

This has forced me to practice writing from a new point of view (POV) - that of the 'Camera'. Not an easy task! Personal descriptives kept sneaking into the prose. One sentence that had to be culled was:  'This had been expected, and planned for.'  How can a camera interpret their motives or intent?  Smells, vision and sound need to be self-explanatory - or suggestive. Gone was also 'With all secrecy lost'. The reader must interpret for themselves.

This has been a great learning experience. If I can pull it off, the henchmen will be just that little bit more detached and hopefully produce some discomfort - like emotionless robots. My take home lesson this month has been: The camera does not think. It does not interpret. The camera only sees.

Of Lessons, Practice and Satisfaction.

I often say - "I learn something every day." In fact if I don't learn something new, I sometimes get disappointed. There is a wonderful world out there - so much knowledge, so many talents and skills that are to be found in our Earth's inhabitants. If I can but glean just a miniscule amount from any of them, then I am happy.

Though our writing group only officially meets once a month, it is one place where I always learn something (and not always about writing). Last month, I had very useful constructive feedback on Chapter 3 - of The Department of Curiosities.

  1. on dialogue, setting out dialogue and associated action
  2. building tension, plot and storyline - specifically within a chapter.
  3. culling, minimising or spreading around 'information/background dump'
I finished the rewrite to both chapter 2 and 3, spreading out background where it was more appropriate - and to reduce boredom.

This month, I proffered the first part of chapter 4 - Of Diaries, Ghostmen and Despicable Acts. I steeled myself for another long list of rewrites. In the end I had less than 1/4 of the rewrites as last month.   I was complimented on the improvement in dialogue and pace of the story.  I came home and finished the rewrites on the same afternoon.

It is extremely gratifying when I get constructive feedback. Without it I could not learn more of the craft of writing. Without it I could not gain the confidence to try new things. There is a comforting sense of satisfaction when I realise that I have actually learnt something - and even more when I have put it into practice.

Tomorrow I look forward to writing more - and learning more. I love this writing gig!

Manuscript Word Progress: Total Words:   Revised Words:  At 1st draft only: