Wednesday, 6 October 2010

How Do I Write? Let Me Count The Ways...

Actually, my method isn't that complicated. A bit long-winded, perhaps, but not complicated. Admittedly, this uncomplicated technique has taken me about five years to come up with - before then my writing was a very scrappy affair involving Post-It notes, one sentence emails to myself, and many, many lost ideas. I still wonder whether the germ of my yet to be realised best-selling novel is actually waiting to be found under a floorboard somewhere because it slipped off the pile... I wonder who'll find it? Perhaps that's a book in itself!

Anyway, back to my method. It still starts the same way - I get an idea. It might be a character. It might be a sentence. It might be a vague plot line. Whatever it is, if it excites me I write it down. But no longer on random scraps of paper, oh no! I have a dedicated ideas notebook - a lovely, soft-cover Moleskine, to be exact - and a smooth Uni-Ball pen. In fact, I have nine smooth Uni-Ball pens in various striking colours, from dark green to bright pink! The idea goes straight into the book, safe and sound, ready to be picked up again when it's needed. And if, for any reason, I don't have the notebook with me, I do have a Blackberry. It's old, scratched, held together with tape, but I love it. I love it because I can email myself the idea and when I get home (or out of the bath, or whatever) I can transcribe it into the Moleskine - done!

The writing itself takes place on my trusty laptop. It sits handsomely on an Ikea corner desk in the 'study' (read: back bedroom). It doesn't move. Because this is the 'writing room'. I don't WANT to write anywhere else. And, whether good or bad, I CAN'T write anywhere else... From my corner desk I can see outside, but the view is the corner of my garage and next door's shed, so it's not particularly distracting. This is the one place I have found from which I can GET STUFF DONE. I aim for 1000 words a day. Sometimes I even do it...

Once whatever it is (usually a short story) is written, it is printed out on cheapy cheap white paper, and then it sits in a 'Completed' tray until I remember it's there, or decide to have an editing day. But I won't edit it until at least four weeks have passed since its completion -I just find it too soon otherwise, I'm still too involved.

Editing is fun! No, really, it is. Well, I like it... This is where the second notebook comes in. Another Moleskine. In this one I write out the story in longhand, copying it from the printed sheet. I like the idea of having a handwritten copy of my work, but it's also a great way to make sure everything is as it should be. Because of the concentration involved in the copying out, spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, bits that don't make sense, parts where a different word would make more impact and so on, tend to stand out more to me. I mark the changes on the printed copy (and make sure they're written in the longhand version). Then it's simply a matter of going back to the laptop, calling up the file (saved on a portable data stick AND on the computer itself) and changing what needs changing. And that's it!

Did I say my method was uncomplicated? I may have to rethink that!