Today is the midpoint of Camp NaNo, and I thus far give myself a resounding “eh”. I’m not at the halfway point of what I wanted to write this month, and am likely to fall further behind instead of pushing to catch up. That may change, but if not I won’t be too disappointed – I’ve still gotten a lot of writing done this month, and a lot of story out.
More importantly, though, I’ve had a Realization.
I’ve never been much of a planner, though I have tried. It isn’t the thinking up of lots of information beforehand, as that I can do. It’s not even getting a basic idea of how I want the novel to progress, of plotting it out on a higher level (though I fear detailed planning may be beyond me). It’s organizing that information that is difficult for me.
I’ve tried lots of different solutions. A notebook, a wiki, post-it notes, text files, as well as both yWriter and Scrivener’s solutions. They’ve all had their pluses and minuses, but none has ever been ~*wonderful*~. Worse, none have helped me tackle at all The Plotting Problem.
I don’t conceptualize a story at one “level”. I don’t see it chapter by chapter, or scene by scene, not at first. I can get there, but it takes time, and tracking all the higher-level items. I may start with “Beginning-Middle-End”, and then break those down to add key events, and then move forward and backwards from there, and then fit those into scenes and chapters, and then re-arrange for balance and such.
And right now, no organizing tool I have does that well. Scrivener comes closest, but it’s still too rigid. I can have a folder hierarchy, with text files inside them, and that’s not bad, but still rather rigidly defined in terms of levels and such. I end up catering my thinking to the tools, and since I am an intuitive/subconscious writer, that can be bad.
Also, this has no notion of sequentiality (apparently, that is not a word, but I like it so it stays). I can have many files in a folder, but there is no clear “this THEN that THEN this other thing”. Order, I guess, but then everything has to be in sequence, and maybe I have unorganized thoughts, or supporting files (maps or other references) that aren’t really scenes.
So instead, I say fuck it and write as fast as possible, so that I can keep all my ideas in my head and not forget any. And it works, sometimes, but it means that I tend to be rather streak-y as a writer. If I lose the thread, I’ve lost the novel, and that’s bad.
I wish that I had something of a silver-bullet solution here, but I don’t. The closest that I can describe what I want is: like an outline (nested items), except without having to focus on/see every level at once, with a stronger ordering to it, along with space for supporting information.
I think that, if I had that, I would be able to better plan out my novels, and better track information. It would fit my thinking, which is a big plus. To my knowledge, nothing like that exists, at least not yet.
And, since it’s me, and I’m unusually skilled as both a desktop/UI programmer AND a writer, it means that this is now A Project. I want to write something that helps me write. How meta! And for extra meta, I’m starting with a proof-of-concept for the user interaction/heirarchy organization that will be an improved version of a to-do list, that will help me write the program to help me write.
But enough about me; let’s talk about YOU for a second. How do you go about organizing the sea of ideas that go into your novels? I mean this from the character building, world building, and planning/plotting standpoints.