Creativity at Work


So, I have completed the first draft of my novel with mostly excitement and a tinge of sadness. I’m going to miss my characters and their story.

I am reminded of the preface to David Copperfield where Charles Dickens writes:

“I do not find it easy to get sufficiently far away from this Book, in the first sensations of having finished it, to refer to it with the composure which this formal heading would seem to require. My interest in it, is so recent and strong; and my mind is so divided between pleasure and regret – pleasure in the achievement of a long design, regret in the separation from many companions – that I am in danger of wearying the reader whom I love, with personal confidences, and private emotions.”

Now, I’ve taken on the task of editing– not my favorite stage of writing, but I’ve been at it now for about a week, and I am literally obsessed. It’s all I want to do. Every spare moment is spent on reading/ re-reading/ tweaking/ thinking/ re-thinking/ checking for continuity/ expanding/ cutting back/ word-smithing…

And according to Mark Twain:

“The difference between the right word and the nearly right word is the same as the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.”

So forgive me the lack of blog posts, for now, my creative juices are otherwise engaged.

Post NaNoWriMo: Thank You, Scrivener

So, you’ve written 50k+ words for NaNoWriMo… NOW WHAT?  It’s nearly a month post-contest.

Winner widgets

I’ve continued writing. I’m up to 96 K words, about 400 pages in– 200 ish more to go. Although, now, I really am not mindful of the word count at all; in fact, I just looked it up to provide you with an accurate update. I’m really feeling the momentum; I know where it’s all going, except for the unexpectedly welcome twists and turns I encounter along the way. My favorite part of writing is always when the characters make their own choices in what they do or say that even surprise me.

I’m no longer obsessed with getting it done. Instead, moving at my own pace while maintaining a do-able schedule for me which means writing 5 out of the 7 days of the week for at least two hours at a time. Flow is everything

Which takes me to a writing program, Scrivener,  I learned about through a fellow writing blogger. I’d heard about it before, even considered a novel-writing program, but never seriously looked into it. However, among the perks of being a NaNoWriMo winner are the deals you get. Scrivener.

Scriverner 5

I am a baby step kind of person. I’m pretty set in my ways. While I believe wholeheartedly in change, it’s still difficult for me. I always have that lingering thought… what if I regret it?… so I opted for the 30-day trial period before diving in. I’d had about half of my novel written, so I decided to play with the program, using my would-be novel as a guinea pig. Moving the files I’d already created over wasn’t difficult. And because I’d done such extensive brainstorming, character sketching, note taking, researching, outlining prior to November 1, it was really just a matter of organizing my notes into sub-pages. There’s actually a neat tutorial to work you through all of the features. I’m such a show me person, so using my kinesthetic skills to move around the program worked well for me. Two weeks into the trial, I took the plunge and bought the download.

One of the things I like most is the accessibility of which all of my notes and such are at my fingertips. No longer do I need to have 5 Word document screens shrunk to the bottom of the page at a time. With Scrivener, it’s all right there.

Scriverner 1

Another feature that works brilliantly is the notepad to the right of the screen. I am obsessive about writing notes along side my writing (formerly using a notepad to do so), but Scrivener allows me to have my notes visible in the corner of the screen. I note what I want to revise, where I want to go with a scene, what I have already revised, etc.: a good source for maintaining continuity.

Scriverner 3

Previously, in working on Microsoft Word, I’d have a file per chapter, so during the revision process I didn’t need to scroll through hundreds of pages. Then, I’d need to copy and paste each chapter into a final document. With the compile feature on Scrivener, I click a button, and the program compiles it all for you. The best part is you get to choose your own settings for the compiled draft.

Three other features that I’m making a good deal of use of are the character bio files and the research file, and the cork boards (for us visual types). Character Bio files are just that– they enable you to have a separate document for each character that you can refer to or add to with ease throughout the writing process. Likewise, the research feature allows you to capture a webpage and have it available with a click, so you don’t have to re-look-up the reference pages on the web you’d already found. The cork boards make it easy to see all of your note pages/chapters/characters/research sites on one screen.

Scriverner 4

So now I find myself with roughly a third left of the novel to write. I’m moving back and forth from editing mode to writing mode. I’m making goals for finishing the first draft of my novel and even tentative goals for having the final draft done– ready to put out there.

THANK YOU, Scriverner  logo

Switching Gears

With more than 50% of my count in and more than 50% of time left to get there, my focus has turned from just trying to get to 50k to trying to complete the first draft of a novel.

I have to admit, that I’m completely invested in my characters as they are really taking shape now, and they have a story. While at times, I’m writing through a particular event, making a note to go back and develop it further or tweak it or revisit it altogether, I’m still resisting real editing temptation. That said, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to resist. I find myself taking more copious notes than usual because I’m allowing myself to just write through my trouble spots.

One strategy that is really working is jotting down some notes about where the next phase of the story is going upon completion of writing each day. Just a couple of bullets at the end of the writing does the trick for me. It really helps me to focus more quickly than my usual routine which would be to completely re-read the day before’s work.

There are also sections/chapters that upon completion of them, I recognize as good writing. Ahh… and that feels REAL good! At least, there will be substance to work with when this insane writing race commences and it’s time to noodle.

I am thoroughly happy that I decided to tackle this project, even though it is amidst the end of one marking period and the beginning of a new one, xmas shopping, 1 child returning home from school for the month of November and picking up the other (4&1/2 hours away by car) on Friday for a week, and Thanksgiving. Yes it is a crazy busy month, but I’m making it work and so proud that I am able to do so. I began this task mostly excited but also scared that I was biting off more than I can chew. I was thinking I’d just do my best (translation: it’s okay if I can’t meet the daily word count). Now, I’m thinking I’m doing my best (translation: exceeding my own expectations). Thank you, NaNoWriMo for giving me the push I needed.