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Sunday, June 1, 2014

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.

Managing My Writing: Part 2: Organising Writings

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