A week after the writer getaway, I’m still in the pre-planning stages for the novel. I’m feeling increasingly confident that I’m on the right track.
Nudged by the confluence of a post on a writer friend’s blog and a seriously cute 3-ring binder I found at Target this week, I’ve gone back to a planning technique that worked well for me several years ago. It’s something I came across in an old book on writing by Phyllis A. Whitney, who wrote mystery novels for adults and teens right around the time the fiction category of Young Adult was established (on Page 19, she writes, “There is also the new category of books and stories for ‘young adults’…”).
So yes, some of the text is dated–carbon paper! typewriters!–but most of it stands the test of time, in particular her use of a loose-leaf notebook to organize each novel, using tabbed sections for plot ideas, characters, things to check, things to fix later, etc.
I followed her notebook process while writing the other book and found that the writing went surprisingly smoothly (and successfully in that the book found an agent, although it didn’t sell). Then along came Scrivener, a word processing program especially suited for long projects, and I fell headlong into the digital-is-everything trap.
Well, three years and another novel in, I’m here to say that digital isn’t everything. Take ebooks, for example. In my experience, they’re great for light reading, not so good if I’m reading for discussion or research, or a book where an off-hand remark in Chapter 4 is the clue that solves the case. For a book I want to flip back and forth in, I want something I can mark with sticky notes and flags as I go along so I don’t have to deal with virtual bookmarks and highlighting and swiping and typing.
Turns out it’s the same for me with planning a novel. I love Scrivener to death for the writing and the moving around of scenes, but for planning, I’m returning to pen and paper.
Here’s a picture of the cheerful little binder I’m using. I also learned this week that page divider technology has come a long way since the last time I bought a package. They now come with erasable tabs.
The package says they work for pencil and ballpoint and yes, they do, but lettering with a Sharpie looks nicer and–ta da!–can be erased! Using a pencil eraser on marker worked but was tedious and ugly. However, I found a workaround: whiteboard cleaner. Spray the tab with whiteboard cleaner, wait a couple of seconds for the ink to dissolve, wipe off the tab, hard, with a facial tissue. Cleans it right up. For some arcane, probably chemical, reason, if you miss something the first time around, or don’t press hard enough when you wipe it off, a second spray with the cleaner won’t do a thing about the shadow that remains. However, if you use a pencil eraser the second time around, the shadow will disappear as if by magic. Go figure.
© 2014 Anne Bingham and Making It Up as I Go