Thursday, December 3, 2009

Wondering How I Write

Perhaps I could use my time more efficiently by writing, but I've got a headache so instead I'll just think about writing for a while. I've read quite a few blog posts recently by authors telling how they create novels. It's comforting that there isn't just a single "right way" and the advice to "write the way that works for you" makes lots of sense. But what about writing the way that works for the novel? I'm only asking because as I head into editing all my current manuscripts again - my usual winter task - using Snowflake to organize myself, I'm wondering how I'd have used the software at the writing stage, and realizing that I approached the writing of each novel completely differently. Perhaps that just means I haven't worked out what works for me yet, but I felt like it was working at the time.

My first novel - Chasing Shadows - is about a character who kept invading my every feeble attempt at writing something serious. I gave up in the end and decided to write about her. Each chapter wrote itself like a long response to some question I'd asked. Then I glued the answers together, switched their order, tried to make a timeline, and eventually had a novel. Snowflake would have helped me avoid "losing" a chapter (which I did at one point - storing it in the wrong directory and forgetting it was already written).It would have made the reordering much easier too since I'd have used one-sentence scene summaries rather than sheets of paper all over the kitchen floor.

My second attempt - Divide by Zero - grew out of a rather large set of short stories whose characters kept reappearing. When one of the characters committed a crime I realized I wanted to turn them into a novel. Snowflake would have saved me all those endless files of story names, story lists, reordered story lists, lost files, forgotten names, switching eye colors, etc.

Third novel - Hemlock Edge. This started with a set of four short stories about magical teenagers. Then I planned the major events in the novel. Then I realized it was a series and planned the major events in the first novel. Then I wrote a synopsis. Half the scenes were written forwards, one after another, with those first four stories at the start. The rest were scenes that I wrote when I felt like it, threaded in as I reached the right place. Yes. Snowflake would have been great - not least because I would have had a record of all my characters ready and waiting for the second in the series, I wouldn't have accidentally changed someone's family dynamics, and the "right place" for each scene would have been ready and waiting instead of half-forgotten.

Fourth - Obituaries. This time I was writing forwards from start to finish, using Textnovel. And I changed the spelling of the main character's name. It needs lots of work - changing points of view - too much time spent in one character's head - scenes that I just wrote 'cause I felt like it. I think Snowflake would have helped me stay on track better; I could've written notes for where I was planning to go, instead of finding myself meandering.

Fifth - Hemlock Bees. That's the one I've just finished and am now editing with Snowflake's help.

Sixth - Resurrections. It's only got one chapter so far. It's the sequel to Obituaries, and since textnovel's not letting me post for some reason, I'm going to edit Obituaries first. Probably a good idea anyway. Snowflake will give me a character list with jobs and places of business and house descriptions to keep me on track.

Of course, there's the kids' books too. Do they count as novels? I'm certainly going to use Snowflake with my stories about a first-grader called David. Trying to remember which friend is gluten intolerant, which one hates reading, which one always jumps off high places, etc. is driving me up the wall. Probably the fact that I only write it when the sun's shining in the right direction doesn't help.

I think my conclusion is I'd've used Snowflake differently in each novel - keeping a record of scenes as I wrote them, then shifting them round - making a record of stories and reordering them, keeping track of changes to names and locations etc - actually writing a synopsis and a planned scene list for Hemlock - making notes as I went along with Obituaries, and keeping track of what direction it was heading - listing ideas ready to turn them into scenes when the sun shines the right way...

And now I really should start using it for my edits. Headache improving. Time to get to work.

4 comments:

Amy DeTrempe said...

I don't think I've heard of Snowflake before. I've never used any type of writing software, with the except of Word, but I don't think that counts :). I would like something to help me be a bit more organized. At the moment, they are index cards taped to the board above my computer so I can keep everyone straight. I am going to look into Snowflake more because it seems like it may be a good choice.

Helen Ginger said...

Before you started writing about Snowflake, I had never heard of it. You certainly make it sound great.

Helen
Straight From Hel

Sun Singer said...

Snowflake might help as long as it doesn't turn into a crutch or a task master.

Malcolm

maryrussel said...

I have notes for three separate novels in a big pile near the computer. Every time my husband goes near them, they threaten to fall and he gets yelled at. Sounds like Snowflake could save our marriage as well as my mind.