Thursday, July 25, 2013

Non-Linear Writing

As those of you who read this previous post know, I got the program Scrivener for graduation, which helped me to plan out my next big project; a novel based on my well-received short story.

Well I'm here to tell you, firstly, that the writing is going well! I'm taking this project very seriously, as I've not only been having a lot of fun with it, but I honestly think it might go somewhere (and certain friends of mine have told me the same). Secondly, and mainly, I'm here to tell you how the writing process of this story is very different than any story I've written before, and why that's a good thing.

Thanks to the aforementioned Scrivener program, I've got a rough layout of each chapter of the novel (in the form of digital note cards with brief summaries of that scene or chapter written on them), and the great thing about the program is that it treats the digital note cards as individual text documents. That means I can see my story laid out as note cards, easily find a chapter or scene that I want to write, click on it, and begin writing that chapter or scene. I can rearrange the note cards however I want and their content moves with them, so that when I'm all done, the program will save or print the whole story entirely in the order I've chosen.

When I wrote all of my other stories (including my first few attempts at a novel), I was using Microsoft Word, which doesn't really have any good organizational features, and I hadn't been introduced to (or just hadn't seriously considered) drafting out an outline of my story or using real notecards for organizing my thoughts. I wrote all of my stories the same way a person would read them; in order from beginning to end. I would then go back and edit it multiple times to tie scenes together better etc, but even that was a linear process.

This story is the first time that I've been able to write whichever scene I feel most prepared or interested in writing, regardless of where it takes place in the larger narrative. I once had an idea for a scene while driving, and instead of having to commit the idea to memory or write a note for later writing, I had the luxury of being able to go home and write out that entire scene from beginning to end while it was fresh and exciting in my mind. I've talked to writers who've always written their novels like this, so to them it may not seem like a big deal, but for me it's huge.

I honestly think that learning this new writing process could save the novel from being put on the backburner, as it means that if I come to a scene that I'm not sure about writing yet, I can put it aside and work on another. I've embraced the non-linear process so much that I've been writing in Scrivener, in Google Docs/Drive, and on a small legal pad depending on where I am or what I have access to. Each medium may have a completely different part of the novel than any other at any given time, but in the end I'll be able to put them all together in one place very easily.
It's so weird, but so cool.

In other news, I've been regretting not having my stories accessible on this blog for free, so maybe I'll get around to that soon.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Never Be a Statistic

Today I'm going to share something very personal with you. Today you get inside my mind.

For as long as I can remember (and I have memories that go back to my days in a crib) I've made a conscious effort to be unlike anyone else. This probably doesn't shock you at first, especially if you know me, because my high school quote was "to be yourself is all that you can do," but this mentality goes far beyond being myself.
This is about being something more. This is about being important.

Blame it on being the youngest sibling, blame it on not being athletic, or blame it on the kids who picked on me on the playground and chose me last for every sport, but I've always had the urge to become better than everyone else. I want desperately to prove them wrong.

I'll share a generic example, and then explain the relevancy of this mentality to my writing.

When I was in high school, I had to get some oral surgery, and I was given the option to go under "the gas" as they call it. I talked to my father and brother who had both experienced the effects of Nitrous Oxide, and they described it saying, "It was like a dream, I don't even remember it."
I chose the gas, and I went in with a promise to myself that I would stay conscious and remember every detail of the surgery and the effects of the gas. As soon as I got home I wrote everything down.
I still have that note. It says, for example, that the sound of the surgical instruments sounded like beautiful music to me.
While this example isn't so impressive, it exemplifies my point; that I wanted desperately to be different than the norm, and I focused my mind enough to overcome the forgetfulness that the laughing gas supposedly gave my family.

As I grew up and reaffirmed to myself that I wanted to be an author, I realized that my writing was the best way to separate myself from the rest of the world.

I took writing classes in which I took everyone's critique not as insults to my talent, but as the concrete reactions that I needed desperately to learn from as quickly as possible (in one of my favorite classes, I even set out to make the best short story in the whole class and spent countless hours perfecting the first draft, which wasn't even required to be complete).

While everyone else said "they didn't get my writing," or "it's okay you didn't like it, since it was just a first draft," I said "tell me what you hated about my story."

Many writers complain that they need to be in a particular atmosphere or mood to write; for example, originally, I had to write at night, with hours to spare, and only listening to wordless music.
Now I write at all times of the day, with whatever time I have, listening to whatever the hell I want to.

I then learned that many authors simply stop writing after college. They have no time, or their priorities change.
I promised myself to do more writing than ever, and so far I've done just that.
I get a half an hour unpaid lunch break every day at work, of which I spend only the first ten minutes eating, and then I sit down with a small legal pad and write for the last twenty, every day.

I will continue to strive to be different, better, in all these ways, and there's a new one I've got my eye on.
According to some light internet searching, the average age of a person's first published novel is 36 years old.
I'm going to beat that.

This post is dedicated to everyone who ever brushed me off as a nobody.
I refuse to be a statistic.