Tuesday, September 28, 2010

[Novel] Making Progress

I haven't written about where I stand with my novel in quite some time. There's a pretty good reason for that - I gave up trying to work on it with the kids home from school for the summer, and haven't really written anything new for it since sometime in late July. "But Mike, they've been back to school for over two weeks," you might say. Go ahead, I know, you want to say it. You're right, they have. And in those two weeks I have not completed my re-write of Chapter 15, nor have I written the new Chapter 1, nor the new Chapter 17, nor rewritten the existing chapters 1-?? (I could arguably re-write all the chapters that I've written so far, since each of them has since received extensive feedback and needs considerable editing. Though the word "re-write" probably gives the impression that more needs to be done than is actually the case for most of them). Nope, I've done none of that!

Fear not, though! I have indeed made progress, and while it was slow and laborious and I'd have loved for it to have been done faster, I'm pleased with where I ended up last Friday. You see, when I started working full-time on my novel back in mid-November of 2009, the very first thing I did was to take all of the hand-written and electronic notes I'd taken about the book and compile them electronically in Microsoft OneNote. OneNote is, as I've written before, an invaluable tool for anyone who wants to store, organize, and manage anything "note-like," from student lecture notes to recipes to work-related documentation. My first serious use of OneNote was to fully document every detail of my last full-time job that I thought my successor, my boss or my team might ever want to know. I'm not clear how valuable it was to them, but I know it would have made my life 100x easier if I'd started my job with something comparable, that's for certain.

One thing I didn't account for, however, and I must admit that I still have not, really, was that more notes would accumulate. Once I started writing writing writing writing, the last thing I wanted to do was to stop and enter all of the new notes that I'd jotted down into OneNote. So they collected. They collected in notepads and in individual sheets of paper torn from notepads. They accumulated on my desk, and periodically I'd riffle through them saying to myself, "Hmm, I think I remember writing down an idea on this topic." But the more notes accumulated and the further I got in time from the point where I wrote the note down, the less likely I was to either remember to look for it or to find it if I did. I had come up with some very useful, cogent thoughts, but they were wasted sitting there in freehand.

So beginning on my kids' first day back to school, I went to the very bottom of that stack of notes and started typing them into my OneNote notebook. They stretched back to January of 2010, and during the two-week period I added perhaps another three-to-five pages of notes to the pile. But when I finished last Friday afternoon, I had transcribed all 87 pages of notes. They included dozens and dozens of character notes (add this, change that, remember to do such or so, etc.), plot snippets (The heavy old door swung open soundlessly, admitting the white-robed monk into the archbishop's large office. "Your pardon, Eminence," he said in the tone of one speaking only in formality, a trusted aid who knew that his decision to interrupt with news or information was simply understood. "You had asked to be told when news arrived of the commander's departure." The young woman with whom the archbishop had been speaking turned her face from the functionary at the door back to the elderly man sitting beside her and arched one curious eyebrow, but said nothing. She would keep her place, though if the high official elected to share details with her, she certainly wouldn't decline to hear.), reminders, themes, problems, solutions, counter-solutions, and revisions to the novel. Some of them contradicted each other as I came up with ideas, then came up with newer, better ideas, or in some cases just forgot that I'd already come up with a variation on the idea at some point.

So now I have it all in there. I need to re-read big chunks of the notebook to make sure I remember not only the stuff I just typed in, but stuff I typed in a year ago, but at least it's all in one place. Sure, I'll hand-write some more notes and the cycle will start all over again, but for now I'm completely caught up. I have to make choices about what to work on next (my options include everything from the first paragraph of this article at the very least), but there's no bad choice to be made. All of it will need to be done eventually, so even if I were to "chicken out" and do whatever I thought was easiest or put off whatever I thought was hardest, it wouldn't matter. I'll still be making progress.

No comments:

Post a Comment