Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Trying to organize the creative process

Writing, at least for me and most writers I know, tends to be a messy, chaotic process. I once complained to one of my writing teachers that my writing was incredibly inefficient. She told me the creative process is inefficient. Sometimes the only way to find an answer is to walk all the way around it first.

So I loved this blog post by Nova Ren Suma describing her writing process. She line edits her writing before making cuts. Completely nonsensical and I completely relate. I should add that Nova Ren Suma is the author of DANI NOIR, a book I have been waiting breathlessly to read FOREVER.

I'm still a very impatient writer, and I get frustrated when I spend two weeks writing a scene which I then cut (who doesn't?). But even worse, sometimes I'll find notes I wrote ages ago telling me I should write x scene instead of y, but I only find the notes after I already wrote y scene and cut it. And that's dumb.

That's when my former-teacher side comes out in full force and I start trying to think of ways to organize myself. About a year ago, through work, I stumbled across MindManager, which is mindmapping software. You know mind maps... They're those maps you had to do back in school where you draw a circle in the center of your paper, and other circles branch off the main circle. The advantage of computer-based mindmaps is that I never run out of paper, my handwriting is never illegible, I can zoom in on certain areas, and I can add alerts, dates, hyperlinks and attachments.

I now keep all my notes about writing on one mindmap.


It looks like a mess, but of course, I hardly ever look at it like this. More often, I look at just a small section of it (which I'm a little too paranoid to show a picture of).

My writing map incorporates ideas for future writing, ideas for blog posts, ideas for a past wip that still needs some work, everything for my current wip (characters, setting, questions, my revision plan, etc), notes for an article I published, a list of writing suggestions which have been particularly useful to me, and ideas for my family for Christmas (my mom's really hard to shop for, okay??). But it doesn't feel overwhelming or cluttered, though I will tidy up sections now and then. When I open any writing project, I open my mindmap. I've found it to be a quick way to jot down notes with no fear of losing them (and believe me, I back up this baby OFTEN).

This post was prompted by a discussion on Verla Kay's Blueboards about how writers keep track of characters. Some keep notebooks, some have separate word documents, many use Scrivener (a writing program I've heard terrific things about). I'm not sure the mindmap method would work for anyone else, but for me it does seem to work. Well... I still have two notebooks going at once, a binder, my wip Word document, a plot document, a few character profile Powerpoints... so I'm still losing things. But I'm getting better, and hopefully freeing up some brain cells to write!

And do you want to know the irony of all of this? I still need to write my first drafts entirely by hand.

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