Monday, January 14, 2008

Start write here

Writing a story seems a very simple thing. You sit down, you write, when you notice you have typed 'The End' you stop. But as many people on this blog have noted - writing involves a lot more than just the typing.

For me the process by which I work up to actually writing the story is chaotic - I build up a huge amount of notes for scenes, names, events, themes on post-its, scraps of paper and computer and they help me plan the story. I've long kept a sheet of paper and pen by my bed to jot down any ideas that break through during the night. Sometimes though too much is being beamed through and I have to get up, go to another room in the small hours and write it down properly. Experience has taught me that if I don't I will get no rest - inspiration is the broken car alarm of the mind.

I've long appreciated that I need better working methods and I've started to streamline them and organise myself better. For a start I now no longer use Word or Open Office - because they are too rich in features I don't need but lack the ones I do. And that is perhaps why my discovery of Scrivener set me salivating. Binders! Corkboards! Outliners! Inspectors! Sadly, the thing is only available for the Mac and all my home PCs run Windows. Curses.

Even so I was seriously considering buying a Mac Mini so I could run it. Or hacking a PC to run OS/X. But now I'm wondering if my interest is really just writing avoidance. At which I am a master. I find that I will do almost anything to avoid getting on with writing a story. Not least because that is the hardest part of the whole effort. I turn the net off when I write now as I know that the vast leisure sink that is the web will claim me if I remain hooked up. I'll order the shopping, check the blogroll, putter about online, play yet another round of Bejeweled 2 - anything rather than write. Learning to use Scrivener could use up lots of cycles, yet to my warped mind, be justifiably called writing. In the event I went for a Windows alternative - Page Four - which really helps me organise and get on with the writing.

I avoid writing because the potential a story has before it is written is far greater than the stark reality of the finished tale. The shining purity of what it might be never matches what you find when the phantom is wrestled out of your head and pinned to the paper. Never. That can be good in that you may get a better result but often I find that it becomes something entirely different. And slightly unsatisfying for that reason. So you go back and try again, and re-edit and submit it for review by your peers so it more closely matches that ideal. But as you are chasing a phantom that can be a long, drawn out process. Many, many times typing 'The End' can just be the beginning.

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