Wednesday, October 5, 2011

ROW80 Update - And My Writing Tools

This is the first update for The Round of Words in 80 Days Challenge (in which we are required to post Wednesdays and Sundays). The story so far:

Sunday, Day 0: Planned to do some organizing of notes and other things to prepare, but ended up just getting some blogging done ahead of time. Had a vision about how cool it would be if I really got off to a really really great start with bazillions of words and minutes on Monday and Tuesday.

Just a note about what I'm doing: Here's my Goals Page. Also, most of this book is done. I have 82000 words, and I don't think it will be more than 90k when it's done. However the middle is a mess. This is a comedy mystery and both of these require extremely tight timing and such. (At least the way I like them.) And I tried a couple different versions (which you can read about here).

So Chapters 12-19 were a major mess. And 12 was the nightmare -- and it's done. Which has cleared the way for the rest. Now, the New Challenge Begins, we shall see how quickly we can actually get this done, hmmm?

Monday Day 1: 158 minutes! Woo hoo! I was hoping for a little better, but that's still over the 90 minutes I have set for an average day. I got momentum up by going back over Chapter 14, then made a run at the multiple versions of Chapter 15 and straightened all that out. I got a little bit of prep work done for Chapter 16 -- but that's going to be harder. It's partly new and partly old. And I have to decide Tuesday, once and for all, whether Rosie takes part in it all. Unless I chicken out and skip to Chapter 17 (which is also a mess, but it's a good mess.)

Tuesday Day 2: 188 minutes! While I was hoping for 200, it's still over double the daily average -- which will be necessary, because Wednesday through Friday are going to be hectic at the day job.

In Today's efforts, I dug deep and did some tough but fruitful work. I didn't get as far as I wanted, but I like what I did. (And Karla took the bit in her teeth and when she was introduced to Zero, she blurted out "Are you a good witch or a bad witch?" Which, frankly, has stymied both me and him for an appropriate reaction.)

We'll see how it goes from here. The next update will be on Sunday.

In the meantime, here's a post about the tools I've been using to help me with this dare....

Shovels and Rakes and Implements of Destruction
or, My Writing Tool Chest

We all have our favorite pen, or notepad or even our favorite writing application on computer.

I myself am prone to gadgets. Always have been. I can't afford to buy lots of them, but somehow I manage to acquire them anyway -- some new, some used, some hand-me-down. Gifts.

Over the years I've put together a set of gadgets which seem to suit my writing style, and they have been particularly helpful in my writing dare efforts. Keep in mind that 1) I like to get out of the house for at least one writing session a day, 2) I don't like to take my laptop, and 3) I don't like typing long passages from scraps of paper any more.

So here is my Portable Writing Kit:

Ancient Asus Eeee netbook:

It's little enough to port around in a large purse but has a keyboard big enough for my typing. In a pinch, its wifi will work -- but unless I'm traveling out of town, I don't use it. I use this puppy for one thing only: typing. It has an SD card slot, and so does my home computer! Hallelujah! The return of the floppy disk!

So I write raw material on the Eee, and transfer it easily to the hard drive when I get home.

The one problem with using the Asus is organization: I do not believe in keeping more than one "current" copy of the manuscript - the rest are all backups. I don't like to even OPEN a back up copy, because I'll accidentally start editing on it, and then I end up with multiple versions of the manuscript. What I need is a read-only reference copy for when I'm on the road.

Which brings me to....


Every couple of days I create a reference copy of the manuscript and put it in the Kindle. Easy peasy, and I don't have to worry about editing it, because even the annotation feature is such an incredible pain in the tuchis that I hate doing it.

(I am experimenting with using annotations for marking those last few typos, by marking them in Gutenberg books. Typing, as I said, is a pain, so when I find an error, I type one letter, and save that as an annotation. I haven't gone back to make use of those annotations yet, so the usefulness of his is To Be Determined.)

The other thing I do is put my writing "to do list" on the Kindle, so that I have a reference without creating too much more paper litter.

Paper litter is beloved of my middle cat, Maude, but she need not worry, I create plenty of that...

Steno Book

I used to write EVERYTHING in steno books, and I bought them in bulk. I use them for non-linear outlining and note taking and brainstorming. They're also useful for quick notes when I don't have time to pull out the netbook and wait for it to boot up and then wait for the app to boot up. Steno books also never run out of battery power.

But lately I've found a way to edit while I'm away from home -- even with my "the only REAL copy of the manuscript is the one on my harddrive" policy. I do not edit on my netbook. Never nohow noway.

So, instead, I read the current manuscript on my Kindle, and I write notes in my steno book. Those notes might be anything from "hte = the" to a rewritten paragraph, to a reminder to lay a clue in a particular scene, or to double-check the spelling of a name.

Because I'm not actually editing (i.e. making changes in the manuscript) this is a creatively painless process. Really easy to do. I do not have to make decisions, I just have to take detailed notes.

Then later on, I sit at the computer with the notes and type them in -- and that goes quickly and painlessly too, because while I was taking those notes I actually did make all the decisions, even if I didn't have to. I just have to implement them. Plus, in this two pass process, it goes fast -- but it's as good as two full writing passes as I review the notes as I go.

iPod Touch

I use my touch as a PDA more than anything. I call it my "brain," and its main job is calculating how the bill will be split up in restaurants. And like my old PDAs, it was my main ebook reader before a friend bought me a Kindle. And I still use it to read while waiting in line somewhere. But it's not much of a writing tool. The screen is too small.

However, the other thing I use it for is a pocket watch and clock, and that brings us to the new cool use I've found for it....

I'm measuring my Dare progress in minutes, and that makes the Touch my favorite writing tool of all time. It has a stopwatch built into the alarm clock! And when I hit "stop" and turn it off, it holds the time for as long as I want. So I can just accumulate minutes all day long -- measured to the microsecond.

The only problem (and this is a problem with a time-based dare no matter how you measure it) is that I sometimes forget to turn it on when I start. But because it's a spiffy gadget, I forget it less than I used to forget to look at the clock.

Other stuff:

I have used 3x5 cards and postit notes for outlining. I don't use them most of the time -- they're too much trouble -- but now and then when I have a knotty problem, I like to work with them as physical objects.

A set of Happy Meal Toys (the Disney ones in particular) for staging complicated scenes. Again, not something I do all the time, but knotty problems with too many characters finds these a wonderful tool.

Job Jar: this I've never used for writing, but it really appeals to me. I'd like to use it as a randomization tool of some sort. Instead of filling it with tasks, I'd fill it with brainstorming questions -- even generic things like "Why?" Or with adjectives or other loaded words. Then, whenever you get stuck, or if you want to start a brain storming session, you reach in and grab one or two cards, and let it inspire.

Pens and Pencils: I never use good pens any more because you can never get proper refills for them. (I don't like fountain pens -- but if I did, those would be easier, of course.) Instead I use mechanical pencils. I collect them, I love them.

Some people like simplicity, but I find that the right tool doing the right job is a joy.

See you in the funny papers.


ModWitch said...

The Happy Meals toys thing is classic - thanks for my morning giggle :).

And glad to know I'm not the only one with the middle of the manuscript a mess, although it's not comforting to know it might continue even as I get better at this :-P. Tackling my "chapter 12" in the next couple of days. Not sure I have the brainpower for it today.

The Daring Novelist said...

Hey, toys WORK!

As for the sticky chapters, I find that sometime you have to give it a big push, and then skip over it, give it another big push and then skip over it again, and so on. Eventually it will either fill itself in, or the chapters on either side of it will expand to fill the space and you'll realize you don't need it.

That's my story, anyway.

Elizabeth Mitchell said...

Good job on the goals! I love your list of writing tools--I hadn't thought of the MickeyD toys, but they would totally work!

As for sticky parts--I do the same thing--push, go do some other part, come back, push again, rinse and repeat!

The Daring Novelist said...

Yep, it's almost like rolling out pie dough....

Anonymous said...

Love a couple of your throughs w/ the steno pad...making notes, but not revisions...this may be very helpful for me, as I'm prone to strip away a clue or some other valuable bit in an overzealous session.

And I love, love, love the job jar...going to find a way to implement that. Maybe

Ghenet Myrthil said...

Sounds like you're making progress on your goals. Nice job. :)

ModWitch said...

I like the pie dough thing. I think that's more or less what's happening with the WIP - I have ch 1-10 and 21-25 done and working well. Ch 11-20 are a mess. I like the idea of taking one pass and flattening some of the worst lumps, but not necessarily trying to fix it all at once.

The challenge for me is that book one, I wrote from beginning to end. Book two, I wrote from beginning to end. Then book three had a mid-book meltdown. Cleaned up nicely, but I ended up parachuting in to lots of chapters to fix things up. This book, it went off the rails mid-book, but I knew exactly how it needed to end - so I finally gave up and wrote the end. Now I need to hook it up. But in my head, I'm still the girl who writes beginning to end :-P...

The Daring Novelist said...

I often leave the middle to be hashed out last. Especially with mysteries or anything with tricky plotting.

I usually pin parts of it down with scenes here and there, but I write like I dream -- often skipping critical stuff that I have to fill in later. (And sometimes the problems are just as insoluble... so HOW did I end up in the parking ramp with the three frozen avocados and the lost cat who looks like my cousin?)

ModWitch said...

Yeah. I think what happened is that my books usually aren't very plot driven. So I can drive them pretty much wherever the characters needed to go.

But book three in the series, I have two big storylines that *must* happen - and they started off fairly independent from the book three story. When I finally wrote the end, I realized that DUH, they're not independent, and I know how they tie together. But wow, was it ugly swimming through the middle, trying to juggle three storylines, without realizing that.

I did a big pie roll in the last three days, and now the middle's got shape. Lots of missing scenes, but I can see the circle now. I'm going to start editing from the beginning and write scenes as I hit them. Maybe some momentum will help :).

So thanks. You helped me dig out of quite the hole. Good luck with the frozen avocados :D.

The Daring Novelist said...

Glad it helped.

And yeah, momentum helps as you roll over and through all those lumps. Back up, make another go, back up again....