ivyblossom: (Default)
I have not been writing. I have been reading a lot, and working. That's pretty much it. Swimming sometimes, but mostly just reading and working. I love reading, and I love my job, and I love swimming, so this isn't really a hardship.

But I've been thinking about taking up some writing again.

I have this idea for a story, well, no I have this idea for a setting, but I've been struggling with the story itself. And I know already that for me it's probably best not to start until I know what I'm writing about. The setting has to do with ubiquitous computing and deviceless access to digital information, ubiquitous libraries (where the information is in the walls of the location where its needed, w00t), online games that take place across city streets with superimposed digital interfaces, all very cyberpunk. But no story so far.

Then last night it struck me that what I really needed was some clones. In particular, a clone of Teresa of Avila.
ivyblossom: (Default)
I wanted to post again about software and writing. I probably won't say anything new.

Word: How Design can Screw You. I had an inkling that this might be true, but now that I've completed a draft of something completely outside of Word, I feel I can speak with a bit more certainty. Word is a problem. Well, a problem if you're anything like me, that is. Word looks too finished. It looks like you're working inside a layout program rather than a writing program. It's very cool that you can see exactly what it would look like if you printed it out, but that's the problem right there; it looks like the finished piece. You could even format it to look like it's completed and in paperback format. That's neat at first, but it only underscores a sense of doneness that doesn't serve you well. Word is designed to look like the final draft. Unless you are actually working with your final draft, I don't think word is terribly helpful.

Word Counts are Evil. [livejournal.com profile] mrissa said it just yesterday:
It's very easy to say, "Oh, I wrote 5K today, I am awesome, I am a book-writin' machine!" or, "500 words, that's a start." But then when you start revising, if you've gotten too addicted to statistics, you grasp at something else: notecards destroyed? Chapters revised -- but what if you have different things to be done to a chapter that ought to be done at different times? Pages gone through -- but again, one page may have a tiny red mark indicating that you mistyped "heart" for "hearth" while another says, "Fix this conversation so it makes sense." So I don't know. I think the best thing is to cultivate a sense of how much you've accomplished, calibrated internally somehow.

I agree with her. And to add to what she's saying; if you get addicted to your word count, what do you do when scenes just don't work? Cutting them out is the right thing to do oftentimes, but that might drop your word count by 2000 words, making you feel like you just failed yourself. And you can write thousands of the wrong words, or 200 of the right ones, and the latter would be the best goal. If cutting the scene, or drastically shortening it, makes the story work better, that should be the feelgood moment, not the current word count.

And this is why Word is once again an evil program. Because it keeps track of your word count so easily, and displays it where you can always just glance down and see it. I say this as a former stats addict; it's not helpful. It's the wrong kind of pressure. It's not actually measuring how far you've come; just how far you ran. Sure, you want to get the draft done, but likely not just any which way. You want to do it thoughtfully, not mindlessly. If at the end of the day you end up with your 100K words, but you just plowed ahead to get there, spending all your time on stage writing the action and not backstage working out the best direction to head in, are you likely to end up with something you can actually work with? (Unless you're [livejournal.com profile] matociquala, in which case you're so many miles over my head that my beginner proclaimations must be merely quaint and amusing.)

I agree with [livejournal.com profile] mrissa that we need to work out a better sense of useful metrics rather than mere numbers. This is like the "getting slimmer" game; you can fixate on the numbers, but if you're doing weights and running and trying to get healthier as well as slimmer, the numbers aren't going to look the way you want them to. So you need to judge it in another way. Do you look the way you want to? Do you feel the way you want to? The numbers on the scale aren't measuring what you think they're measuring. So what do you do next?

I have no actual answers to these things, but I can tell you my experience writing on a wiki. This is a really weird thing to do, and I'll be the first to say that. Wikis don't have the features you expect/want from a word processor, after all; no spell check, no word count, not even a hard and fast printable file, really. No easy font or style changes. No button to push to centre your text. I have to use mark up to add italics, even.

I had two things going for me in this project; one, it's not a manuscript project, it's a script project, and two, I'm not working alone. Since I knew in advance that I was not working on a project that I would be finishing, that every word I typed would really only be seen by one or two people and would never be seen in the finished work, there was a tremendous sense of pressure removed. It's not a writing project in the same way, not at all. It's only an ideas and plot project. I've never been able to separate those things out before, and trying to do so was, I think, a healthy experiment. It forced me to see the two distinct parts of the work involved; crafting sentences and paragraphs that are engaging and interesting on one hand, and building characters and a story on the other. Once again I would call these the one stage and off stage elements. Working on an entirely off stage project forced me to look hard at what's involved with one and what's involved with the other, and see what kinds of energy each needs. I sense now that I wore myself out trying to do both at the same time. I can walk and chew gum at the same time, but I'm a better singer if I don't try and dance as well. My collaborator is an excellent dancer, after all!

So of course word count didn't matter to me. Who knows how long a script is supposed to be? Who really cares? Given that I'm only describing what something might look like or what sorts of expressions characters might be wearing on their faces, the word count is meaningless. Working on a wiki didn't give me the option of seeing a word count in any case. So I just didn't think about it. I wrote until the scene was done, or until the chapter was done. I knew when a chapter was done by the feeling of it, or how that scene fit with the next one, not by its length. Though there were a few times where I felt that a chapter was too long and I whined about it, but in the end I didn't do much to change it. Because I didn't have a metric, and the feeling of chapterness overtook the nebulous and unverifiable feeling of too-longness. That made me realize that too-longness too often gets the upper hand when you're working with something like Word that provides you the unarguable proof that you need to feel that a chapter is too long; without the metrics, you have two gut feelings that can duke it out, and hopefully the stronger one will win. There is, of course, such a thing as a ponderous chapter that goes on too long; but the fix isn't to alter the word count. The fix is in the construction of the scenes. I've seen people read 100K in an evening; the word count does not matter to the reader. They're not going to sit there with a "words read" meter ticking; why should we write that way?

So all this is to say that I finished draft 1 of the graphic novel project, which is very exciting. For the first time it feels like a draft too. And because I spent my energy in plotting and characters and not in fine tuning language and sentences, I still have tons of energy to talk about what to change, what does and doesn't work, who we need to see more of or hear more about, and what doesn't make sense.

Finally! I learned how to write a draft! I shall now celebrate with iced coffee and english muffins!
ivyblossom: (Default)
I like to write about process. I find talking about what I'm doing helps me do it (metacognition and all that jazz), and it also invites and prompts others to share their process with me. And thus, I learn.

Because I like to talk about process, people occasionally ask me how I plot/world-build. My answer to this is that lately I write a lot in my moleskine notebook. Beyond that I don't go into a lot of detail. By just saying I write in a notebook, it makes it sound like I write meaningful things in a notebook, doesn't it.

I had some startling realizations today while on the train (and this is why i don't drive! You see? It's all coming clear now, isn't it!), and looking back over my notes, I thought it might be amusing to flip through my plotting/world-building moleskine and share with you some of the amazing insights I felt were worthy of notation at the time. These are all taken from the last two months.

K...oh WAIT. Hell. I think...SHIT. Hmm. Okay K. needs to...shit, no. Okay, he has...some sort of...he might need to...go home first. DAMMIT.

She isn't baking, she's a cook of some variety. Then a conversation, of sorts, where something important can come out. May need to change her name.

It's E. who says they should go to the drive in. She loves movies. Yeah, that will work. That's it!

It opens with the presumption that time has passed.

And then toward the end of the sce...or...no.

I wonder if it would be safe to say that the "threat" of sodomy becomes greater over time. My impression is that sex between men is more common the farther back you go. As you reach a point where sodomy is a thing you do, not the thing that defines you, there is both more and less stigma. Oscar Wilde got arrested for sodomy, after all. But you can probably do it once or twice as a taboo without having to ask yourself too many serious questions. D. can identify with whatever he wants.

I guess it could end with K. doing some other thing later, and seeing D. out of the corner of his eye, but not seeing him again. The disappearing guy. But at the moment: who is K? K, who are you?

Really struggling with this scene. Probably best to go forward and see what I need to find out at this point. Fill in later.
I'm sure you feel most enlightened now.
ivyblossom: (Default)
I love a good ending. In fact, I love a good ending that goes way past where it should. I want to know how everything turns out, every little thing. If it's a tenuous happy ending, I want to take it to totally happy. I want to see all the little domestic details that fall widely outside the plot and only serve to make me feel happy.

So what is a good ending? My gut instinct is not to trust my gut instinct, because I always want to know that everything is not only okay, but is fantastic and cosy and workaday, and that doesn't make a good ending at all. So to counter my own desire for these details, I tend to think the ending comes at the first hint that that future domestic bliss is possible.

For instance, let's say we have the movie Titanic, and the actual ending was that Leonardo Dicaprio didn't spoiler ). Say the ending actually was that Kate Winslet and Leonardo meet up again in the streets of Boston. Wouldn't the best ending for that scenario involve them seeing each other across a crowded street, and then move toward each other? How far do you go into the the happy ending? Should they kiss? Should we follow them to a local hotel? Should we get a flashforward to their joyous domestic bliss (maybe in the credits)?

To what degree is a good ending one that gives you a push off to imagine the rest of the story? I think I come at this from a fanfiction point of view, but I'm tempted to say that that's just what it should do, leave you with pieces to imagine. Good pieces. Not suspense pieces. So if you get enough details to know that they're going to be okay, and then if you're so inclined you can imagine the rest of the ups and downs and the bliss; that's what I'm picturing. As if this ending is just where this part of this story ends, and there's another story that comes later, but that's not one that fits into this book, or possibly into any book.

But then, is that a terribly unsatisfying ending? Is it a good or a bad thing if you have a conclusion that makes people say, awww, that's nice, but what happens next? What does he say? What does she do? How do they talk about these dramatic events? Do they tell other people about them? Do they have post traumatic stress and eventually break up because of the pressure? Do they have kids with weird nautical names? I'm fighting with my instincts here. As a person I would like to write a story forever, into the insipid details afterward, but my fear of doing this by accident makes me cut an ending too short, leaving too many questions unanswered.

I'm working on my graphic novel project, and I know roughly where it needs to end, but I'm not sure how far into the scene to go. I'm tempted by the tease of having it all end moments before a reunion, where you can guess what will happen from that point on, but you'd have to just guess at the details. Like if Leonardo Dicaprio spies Kate Winslet across a busy street, looking in a different direction, not knowing he's there, and him just smiling and about to leap forward. I'm debating about actually showing the reunion, though. Is it enough to just know that the star-crossed lovers are about to meet again against all odds? Or is that not enough?
ivyblossom: (Default)
I have conferred with my artist friend, and she approves of the graphic novel plot idea. What a relief! If she didn't like it I'm not sure what I would have done. I'd grown so attached to it, I might have tried to write it as a regular novel...but I'm not convinced it would have worked. Knowing the point of this story was for it to unfold in a visual way, I'm actually not sure I could have told it at all without the visual. I find it very interesting that I'm even capable of writing a very visual story; I don't think about visual things often. I have a tendency to forget to describe characters because I spend so little time thinking about what people look like. But outlining this story (it's really hard to say I'm "writing" it) is very different and a lot of fun.

I tried something new with this project. At first it was all sitting in my moleskine and in a new avenir document, but that didn't seem right. Now that I had shared the idea with the other critical player, I wanted to share all my work on it with her directly and as immediately as she could take it. So I set up a wiki for the project, and created only two accounts, hers and mine. Otherwise it's a completely locked down wiki.

I always figured a wiki would make good writing software, just because you can keep moving things around and arranging things so easily inside it. What I really love about it at the moment is just that I feel like I've done something when I add to it. I've got some rough character details and sketches in there, some space to note down plot points and details as they come to me, and I've got a page for each chapter, where I'm keeping the dialogue and the rough descriptions of the action. So far I'm partway through chapter 3. I absolutely get the sense that I'm going to need to go back over it all at some point to take out any heavy-handedness or infodumping, but it feels good to hammer through it like this. It's incredibly fun to live with. And this way, on a wiki, the artist can drop in on my progress at any time, and can upload images to post in the relevant spots whenever she feels like it. I guess on some level it's weird to show off your outlining when it's so incredibly crude, but it's her project too, and I feel like she has every right to see what I'm piecing together. I want her to see the evidence of the story's growth and change.

We talked some more about the idea of collaborating on a graphic novel and what that would mean for us, and she said she really preferred that I do the plottish writing bit, and didn't feel cut out by me doing that. Her area is the drawing, which she is extremely good at. (As usual) I failed to describe anyone in these rough sketches and outlines, but visuals leapt into her head anyway (lucky me!). She knows which character is the burlier one and which is the slight one, a question I had not even started to formulate. So she will decide absolutely everything about the visuals, even though some of the time I'm writing out fairly script-like directions. Not frame by frame by any means, but a rough sense of the motion that moves through the scene, and the sorts of things that we see. No particular details, no fancy writing, no lingering. I mentionhow people feel inside the script, only because I suspect it may show on their faces.

It remains to be seen whether I can manage to pace a graphic novel properly, but I figure we can work on that once the first draft is complete.

My initial thought was that I would end up writing short stories about the characters in order to give the artist a sense of who these people are, but I'm starting to feel like that might be unnecessary. I might have to do it only because I want to. :)

It's quite a process, I'll give it that.
ivyblossom: (Default)
Yesterday I was fine. Today I am sick, just like a friend of mine at work, but about a day behind. She told me this morning that she was completely incapable of getting out of bed today, so I don't have high hopes about tomorrow. I took some dayquil a couple of hours ago, and while it's helping a bit with the aches and running nose and the acidic throat, the caffeine is making me a bit manic.

Sigh.

I asked a few weeks ago about how a person goes about writing a graphic novel, meaning, the part that isn't the artwork. And I got many fabulous answers, I'm grateful for every single one of them.

Casual plotting, graphic novels and the Uberstory )
ivyblossom: (Default)
Once again, I need to preface this by saying I have no idea what I'm talking about. Not one single idea. I just bumble around in the dark and once in a while I imagine that I have an idea about what's in front of me. But it's probably just the result of too many pringles. So take all this with a grain of salt.

I've been thinking about this one for a while.

In order to tell one story, I've determined that I need four spaces. These spaces are sometimes physical (or digital), but sometimes they're metaphorical. In order for something to grow, be cultivated, and, you know, "cook", you need to have a space to put it in. If you want it to grow in particular ways (say, if you're like me and it doesn't all spring fully-formed from your skull), you need to give the story different kinds of spaces to grow in. So far I have identified four separate spaces that have proved useful to me. Insofar as I know what I'm talking about which, again, is questionable.

Four Spaces )

Maybe one day I'll feel that I can stop with the disclaimers. But that's not going to be anytime soon.

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