Wednesday, April 4, 2012

it's not the way that I want it - it's just the way that I need it day after day

I have a somewhat distinct memory from when I was about seven or eight. I'm sitting in the library at my elementary school, and there's a TV on in front of us with an author talking about writing. I am 98% that the author talking was Gary Paulson, because I remember that we had to read Hatchet and I didn't really care for it, but I think he had another book that I did like.

Anyway, what I remember the most is Gary Paulson talking about his writing process. He mentioned something about outlining and taking notes, to which I went, "Pfft. I'll never outline or take notes. Those only slow me down." He also talked about how much he originally loathed the computer, but how he'd come to love using it and it made his writing and editing so much easier, to which I went, "Pfft. I'll never use computers. Those things are awful."

I actually remember having a conversation with another student about how stupid computers were and how I refused to ever own one. We had Macs in the computer lab in school, and I was required to taking computer classes a couple times a week, but I hated it. With the exception of Carmen Sandiego and Number Munchers.

(Side note: I had Keyboarding from like Kindergarten until sixth grade. I hated it so much. Now I love typing, and I'm grateful for the school for forcing me to do it. Way to be on top of things Blooming Prairie Elementary School).

Back to my main story: I was basically an idiot when I was seven or eight. I was so wrong about things, and Gary Paulson was so right.

I didn't really start outlining and taking notes until I was about nineteen or twenty. I was working on a story, and I didn't think I could write fast enough to come up with all the ideas, so I started outlining out of necessity. It ended up being the second novel I'd ever finished. The first novel was roughly 70-80K words and took me nine months to write. The second novel, the one I outlined, was over 100K words and took me about 6 days. (I'm pretty sure that I wrote that book in some kind of manic episode, but that's a story for another day.)

So from then on, I was hooked on outlining and taking notes. The way I outlined hasn't changed much over time. I've discussed it in a previous post where I showed an example from an unfinished novel that I have no intention of finishing. (You can check that post out: here.)

The way I take notes has changed. The Watersong series is the newest series I'm working on, and the notes on it are so ridiculously intense. I have pages and pages of handwritten notes (I hand write all my notes and outlines). Then I scan them into the computer so I can't lose them. I have physical files full of notebook pages. I had do research for the book, so I even printed off the articles I used from the internet or photocopied pages from the books, so I know exactly where I got my information so I can double check it.

And that's made my life so much easier.

I'm working on something right now, a little fun something, and I want to go back and check notes from a previous project, but unfortunately, my notes weren't always so great. So I'm having troubles trying to figure something out, and that's really impeded what should be a very quick, little project.

So here's a tip: Before you start writing a book, name everything. Every character, every city, every street. Anything you think might possibly come up. Even make up extra names on the off chance you might need a minor character somewhere in the book to say a few lines. Get their first, middle, last name, date of birth, physical appearance, fun facts, etc, and write it all down.

Because nothing sucks worse than being in the middle of groove, the words are flowing and everything's going good, and then you have to stop and go, "Wait. What's their name?" And then you spend the next three hours trying to pick out a name or find a name or an eye color or birth date, and then the whole mood is lost and you just give up and go upstairs to watch reruns of Chopped on the Food Network.

P. S. I'm still working on ideas from yesterday's post. I should have a concrete idea of what I'm going to do and how you can participate by Monday next week. Thanks for all the ideas!