I love the fact that, back in the early 80’s, Isaac Asimov supplemented his writing income by pimping for Radio Shack…
I’ve been writing novels for most of my life, but the last few years have been more prolific for me than ever, and I think it’s because I’ve found a method which works perfectly for me.
I have ideas for stories and I write them down, but besides keeping idea notes or bits of random scenes, I won’t actually start writing on a manuscript until I know how I want it to end. This forces me to know what the point of the story is, and to foreshadow clues to the ending all the way through.
I will create a loose outline of the story, and I’ll have some notes on the main characters — all of which are subject to change. As new characters introduce themselves I keep notes on them after they appear that I can refer to later if needed — this becomes important later.
I use my phone’s camera a lot to take pictures of interesting settings I wander into in daily life. I may never use them, but they go into a stash which I can pull from later.
As the story progresses, I will face blank pages where I don’t exactly know how to get the characters from point A to B, or more likely A to G, because my outline is so open and vague. I’ll draw inspiration from my actual surroundings or, if I’m sitting at home at my desk, I’ll either draw inspiration from Google Maps street view (in the case of something set on Earth) or from where I teleport to randomly in virtual reality (Second Life or Open Sim, etc.) or, more often than not, I either use a memory from my own life, or I pull from the stash of settings photos I’ve taken with my phone camera.
I will also pull actual events from my own past, modified to fit the context of the story, so that there is always autobiographical bits and pieces included. Conflicts and sex scenes especially. This way my so-called misspent youth was not entirely misspent, and the story is well and truly my own.
As the writing progresses, usually at about the 2/3rd point where I used to bog down, I throw away my outline and create a new one that is more in line with what I’ve actually written. By this point the ending may have also changed — though by now I have fully established a theme, which I do not change. It used to be I’d always bog down at the 2/3rd point because I would be struggling to reconcile the direction of the outline, which had grown stale, with the direction my story was trying to go. Now I go back through the manuscript and and refer heavily to what has transpired to inform my new outline and new ending. This keeps it fresh and exciting for me, as writer, as I expand on what is now familiar territory. Also I’m now no longer forcing anything for the sake of plot. The flow remains natural, and it makes sense.
The ending of the story will jump out and tackle me as I write it, much like a cat leaping out from around a corner to grab my feet. And then, I’m done. I type “The End” and feel really good about it.
I let the manuscript sit for at least three months without looking at it, while I work on other things (lately, it’s while I work on the next manuscript). But after I’ve let it sit for those 90 days, it allows me to forget many of the details, so that when I go back and do the rewriting I can be more objective, as if I’m refining someone else’s work — because, really, I am. None of us are the same person we were 90 days ago. We’re very similar, but we’re no longer the same person. Time changes us.
Huh … there’s a new story idea right there. The God of Time changes us into new people. Hmm…
I think I’ll put that in my notes.
It’s about time I shared this…
This one will be easy to track, as far as how long I work on it … being that I am beginning on Christmas day, 2014.
This will be the forth and probably final book set in the same universe as Eleven Days on Earth. It’s also the third book I’m going to write as a first draft without going back to rewrite it. I want to rewrite all three of these first drafts all at once, so that they’re all well integrated into each other — also when they’re all finally done I’ll be publishing them quite close to each other, hopefully building on the momentum of each other.
This one is going to be called Forever and For Always.
When my ADD is in full swing, like it has been over the past week, I fall back to using a method called the Pomodoro Technique. It really works for me if I can force myself to do it.
The practice is very simple. Using a timer, you set it for 25 minutes and work on something (in my case, a novel) without allowing anything to interrupt. No email, no checking Ello, no texting my girlfriend — nothing in those 25 minutes but work on my novel. After the 25 minutes is done, I set the timer again to 5 minutes and can do whatever the hell I want. This is my payoff. Then it’s another 25 minutes followed by another 5, etc. After four periods of 25 minutes (these time periods are called pomodori) I give myself 30 minutes to do whatever I want.
The big payoff.
Somehow, knowing you’re getting these payoff time periods helps circumvent interrupting yourself to check email, etc., while trying to work on the thing your ADD is trying to keep you from working on.
I thought I’d share this in case anyone else has this problem, and hasn’t heard of the technique.
There’s a plethora of apps for it, by the way, many of them free. It helps automate the process.
I guess I jinxed myself with that last post about crossing the 50,000 word line on the manuscript. I’ve suddenly lost interest in it — again.
Time for a break. This morning I’m working on something I haven’t worked on for a long, long time … a short story.
I’m wondering if I can remember how to do it. Short stories and novels are two entirely different types of writing.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Here’s a very well researched article refuting the Slate article: Why two spaces after a period isn’t wrong
UPDATE: Nearly two years ago I made the switch from two spaces after a period, to one space. It was not easy, and it took a long time, but its finally reached the point where it feels natural and I don’t think about it. I thought I’d bring this blog post up to the top to, I suppose, commemorate this feat.
About an hour ago I finished reading an article on Slate called “Space Invaders” that calls for the death of the second space after a period.
It pissed me off and I wanted to write a scathing rebuttal, but thought – no, someone in the comments must have beaten me to it. Everyone in publishing knows that there are two spaces after a period. It’s standard form. Strunk and White said so. Right?
Wrong. I’m glad I checked. No one brought up an example from The Elements of Style in the comments that showed proper spacing after a period, and so I had to go and look myself. I went through the book front to back and came up empty handed. So I consulted my other handy writing guidebook, the Yahoo Style Guide for online writing.
Nothing. I have nothing to back me up, but Farhad Manjoo – the author of the Slate article – has plenty to back him up. And so I am wrong.
This sucks. First my astrological sign changed (apparently I’m no longer a Scorpio) and now I find that everything I’ve ever typed is wrong?
Including this article?
So I thought, and thought, and thunk and thunk, kind of like Winnie the Pooh wandering back and forth trying to remember where his secret stash of honey is, and finally came up with where I learned the golden rule of “two spaces after a period.”
1974. Webster Junior High School. Typing class.
Oddly enough this came to my attention a few weeks ago, because I’d noticed that on one of my websites if a line breaks at the end of a sentence, the next line has an errant indent from the second space. I’d assumed a problem in the formatting, but now I have to come to accept that the problem is not with the website template. The problem is that I’m using typewriter rules in a world where typewriters all sit unused behind glass museum displays.
This is going to be hard. Over 35 years of touch-typing reflex tells my thumb to bounce twice on the space bar after touching the period button. Like just now. And here too.
The funny thing is that if I type a period in Microsoft Word and follow it with only one space, Microsoft helpfully puts a squiggly underline below it to remind me to add the second one. I found the setting in Word – it defaults to two spaces.
With some sadness I set it to one.