Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Next Big Thing, In Pencil

I've been busy doing something I've never done before: laying out a novel before it's written. One of the things I learned at Taos is the art of storyboarding, which seems much less restrictive than an outline, if only by breaking it up into easily modifiable chunks. With 6 or 8 of us working on it, we storyboarded out one brave member's novel, fixed where the plot hung up, and built the story line all the way out to the end. It took us about 4 hours, as I recall.

I gave myself a month.

In the planning, I've had all the usual plot problems. Things like, "Why is it bad to be a Doppelgänger?" "Is the main character causing this action, or just being dragged into it?" "Does this bring in the themes I want to bring in?" "Argh, the cast is getting too big!" and so on. The advantage is that instead of having thousands of words committed by the time these problems come up, I have one or two pages of hand-written notes, so changing things isn't that painful. I can revise, relocate, and rethink to my heart's content. It lets me lay out plots more complex than I can hold in my head at once. So far, so good.

A word about writing utensils: There's something very comfortable, not to mention focusing (no twitter in a legal pad) about using a jumbo #2 pencil, the same as most folks my age and older used to learn writing in kindergarden; about the smell of the cedar shavings and the moment of thought while I sharpen; the ease of erasure; having a nice big eraser; the joy of twiddling a pencil in my fingers that coaxes the ideas out. Maybe the cedar shaving and graphite smell smells like schoolwork.

Naturally I roll these storyboards into Scrivener when they're done, and have Scrivener give me a dump of all of them in order to move forward. Naturally, I'll have these storyboards at a keystroke when August rolls around and it's time to actually lay down the prose. I'm looking forward to writing this one, even though if anything it's rougher and nastier than Brass and Steel: Inferno. I call this next novel, Brass and Steel II: The City of Glass.

-JRS

ps: if you find yourself looking for the jumbo #2 pencils of our collective youth, it's surprising to find that they're not in most stores with back-to-school supplies. M found me some at Wallmart after much searching, and I mail-ordered about 48 of them in a batch from Costco, so I'm set for a while. I do go through them quickly though.

2 comments:

Colleen Schimmel said...

lol You may need to quit sharpening them while you try to think :)

Colleen Schimmel said...

Those big pencils are great! Especially if you are a nervous sharpener...

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