In her post today, Kettle talks about all the writing programs we’ve been looking at. She mentions how I didn’t like PageFour because it wouldn’t let me type in pink. I’m sorry to tell you that this is essentially true. (ETA: I have been just been informed that the latest version of PageFour does allow one to write in pink! Woohoo!) But also, I’m very comfortable in Word, and while PageFour bills itself as a word-processing program without the corporate frills that creative writers don’t need (and this is true), there were a few things missing that I…missed. But I LOVED having all those tabs and the list on the side with all my files in their little hierarchy.
But I figured I’d just stick with Word. The way I usually work is this: I write one scene at a time. When I sit down to write, after the procrastination stuff, I open up a blank Word file and save it under WritingStuff/[Name of series if applicable/]/Name of Book/Draft X scenes/Chapter#Scene letter Brief descriptive title. So imagine when I get to that last folder, I have a list of scenes with descriptive names and they’re ordered by chapter and scene 1a, 1b, 1c, 2a, 2b, 3a…. Make sense? Well, it works. I can look in the folder and scan over the files and see at a glance where I am and what’s come before. Also, within the folder named for the book’s title, I have folders for notes, for reviewed drafts (when I send something to Kettle and she marks it up), and things like that. And I have files for the drafts. So after I save my scene, I also copy and paste it into the current draft so that I always have the whole thing running along somewhere. Anyway, I think if you’ve taken a look at PageFour, you can see its appeal for me. I, however, probably would need to buy the full version because I’d need a lot of pages.
I tend to lose things. In life in general, but mostly in my head. It’s entirely possible that I am “getting to that age”. The other day I told someone that I had meant to check up on them and see how they were doing. But it’s like Post-its in my head, only mine are the off-brand ones with the substandard glue and they’re always falling off and slipping under the furniture or sticking to the bottom of someone’s shoe and they never get seen again. I’m always having stray thoughts about something a character might do or a detail of the world or something, and I don’t have the peace in my life to let it develop into anything huge. It’s just a scrap. Even if I do manage to write it down, the scrap tends to get lost. I’ll write it in an email or chat to Kettle and it will be lost in the incredible flood of communication that passes between us, or it will be just a few lines in one of my many files of copious notes to be forgotten, overlooked, and never developed.
I’ve been sort of jealous of Kettle’s storyboarding. Not that I really wanted to write out all those index cards (although I am fond of them). Maybe I was more jealous of how she could lay them all out on her living room and no child took them and threw them in the air, ran away with them, ate bits off them, and then scribbled all over them with purple crayon. I then started to imagine having all these cards pinned to some giant corkboard wall on my non-existant fantasy office. I would always write those little bits down when I thought of them, and then I’d tack them to the wall and be able to see all sort of stuff at a glance and I could make connections and get new ideas by seeing how it all worked and… In my fantasy office, no one came and took the cards down and left tacks on the floor or thought about putting them in their mouths. Do I need to tell you, then, that I do pretty much zero work with pen and paper?
Anyway, long story short (too late!) I went looking for virtual index cards, found Text Block Writer. I spent all yesterday playing with it and had a blast. You might remember that I had been revising PBW’s Novel Notebook to suit myself. I got a lot out of having prompts that made me think through things I was possibly too lazy to think through otherwise. And even things I thought weren’t relevant, sometimes, just thinking about them anyway sparked new ideas. Anyway, yesterday, I revised my revised Novel Notebook into blocks for TBW. I have it set up so that I have pages to develop different elements of the story in the brainstorming phase. I have a pages for Characters, Settings, Action/Suspense Elements, Romance Elements, Timeline, stuff like that. On some of those pages, I have template blocks for generating and solidifying ideas. Like in the character pages, I have your basic lists of things one often records for characters like physical attributes, personality traits, backstory and personal history questions, that kind of thing. I have them broken down into bite size portions so my eyes don’t glaze over. I have a place to list relationships between characters and talk about how events in the story might change those relationships. And for anything on the character pages that is also a definite plot point, I just copy that information to another box and stick in on another page (for now I put them on the Action/Suspense page, but I think I might make a Plot Points page). At some point, I’ll be outlining, moving these bits of idea information into some semblance of order. I’ll combine them into sections and make up scenes. I’ll group the scenes onto pages by chapter. And then, when Nano starts, I should (hopefully) be able to look at the blocks for each scene, know what I’m supposed to cover and why, sit down with Word and write.
That’s the plan, anyway. In the meantime, like I said, great fun. Yesterday, in addition to making the template, I did a bunch of work on my H/H, and got some plot points covered. Not a whole lot of progress, but when I was out running errands this morning I had three new ideas, so it seems like I’m finally getting going on this thing. !!
So go check it out. If you download TBW and would like to play with my template, let me know in the comments, and be sure to include your email addy.