Organizing the muse

Face it… to be creative is to be chaotic even if your muse follows more to a plotter’s dance than a pantser’s one and it’s great BUT what happens at the end of the day when you’re holding a giant ball of snarled creativity aka your beloved manuscript and wonder despondently how you will unsnarl the tangled story threads into a neat but still dynamic semblance of greatness. You know, villian B commits atrocity C because sidekick W ran off with family member 3 but only because Plot line yellow was rising and caused Protag almighty to realize desire to discover 7x was groomed because descendant of family member 3 is helping Villian B to destroy…. And protag’s inner desires is to be the savior of area terminal because family member 4 stood by while family 3 ran off and did nothing causing protag to be less confidant in… but protag’s strengths are…. but villian…. This conflict leads to this interaction leads to this conflict leads to internal upheaval to Villian A leading to external upheaval of area terminal but Protag is distracted by shadow elusive pitching….. And why did family member 3 run off in the first place? Is it relevant?

Exciting when the snarls as they untangle lead to unexplored juicy areas or ring with that a-ha! “This so works” moments but then again, how does it feel when the poor muse has drifted away causing or perhaps instead lending to the pulsing super writer mind flattening into the “I’m so fried, it hurts” crispy brain.

This loop has continued to astonish, excite and infuriate me again and again. I’ve walked away disgusted and discouraged and find myself back at it again but with more tools under my belt.

Tool #1: An excel spreadsheet of scenes. I found the format too rigid and I got lost in who, where, how. However, it did let me plot the first draft,

Tool #2: Snowflake Method. Great method by the way. If you want to know more about this technique visit Got a more cohesive idea of the general shape of the story but writing less words for me, for some insanely torturous reason that escapes me, is harder than writing more. Plus I have this problem with delayed instant gratification.

Tool #3: Timeline. This helped me a lot and I use this ALL the time. I don’t have to write linearly but it is easier to know what is going on by knowing what happened linearly. This was one of the tools I learned from James N. Frey workshop. For those who don’t know, he’s the author of the “How to Write The Best Damned…” book series, I have a timeline for overview of everything and then timeline for each main character. This timeline has also helped me with figuring out external and internal desires for my main characters which goes into my….

Tool #4: Character documents. These docs, which I keep on Evernote, allows me to free associate when one of the characters decide to divulge something to me and I don’t have a place to put it on a timeline. This snippets and nuggets sometimes show up while I’m writing as improved fleshing out of characters on page and creating better conflict, flashbacks, subtext, etc. It is a loose format that my creative side likes without getting lost on a scrap of paper and me wailing….where did that go? Or worse, forgetting a really good idea.

Tool #5: The Add-In document. This one came about because I was looking to refine keeping track of the boiling down, pumping up micro-tension revisions. Many of us know we need to look at each scene with what the protag wants most in the whole world — externally and internally, what ideas/actions/characters/situations can be combined, what can be sheared, what needs to be added, etc. But my question continually turned up as “how do you keep all those ideas straight and accessible when a free flowing story thread presents itself AND moves off the page you’re working on through various chapters?” And this is when the Add-In/Change document was created –again on Evernote. I can put these thoughts into some semblance of order and drop in as needed. I currently have 3 such docs — Act 1, Act 2 and Act 3. I think this one is a keeper. (I use “comments” in the manuscript and then copy the comments into this doc)

Tool #6: Leverage of technology. I don’t always have the option of sitting in front of my laptop during the day and I have found a way to have technology work for me with sites such as Evernote which I can access anywhere from any computer. Another option is smart devices. I use Siri to transcribe quick notes on the fly and I can export the notes to whichever format I’m working on. I revel in this kind of freedom because it allows me to range from tinkering with words to producing a wash of fresh ideas.

Finally, and this tool is good for a variety of reasons…
Tool #7: Encouraging the writer within and learn from others. This is one I will be working on this year as I sorely miss my writers’ group. Writing alone is isolating and I feel deeply that it is important to have that connection with the writing world…a place outside your own head. I definitely recommend joining a good group, if you can. Face to face, I find, is best but online or at the least, through books or blogs will allow you to learn and take inspiration from others.

I’m hoping as we enter this new chapter of 2014 some of this rambling might help others discover techniques which may work for them. I’m also curious to learn, in this instance, organizational tools other writers use and I wish all the Keys to the Universe for their writing.

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