Thursday, January 20, 2011

process and productivity

Current work: revising new Riva outline and then cracking on with Gelati book revisions
Listening to: Patrick Hawes, Into the Light (I really like this album – could work as well as Corelli for calming)
Reading: Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games (very good world-building. Pleased that it does live up to the hype – not sure will let daughter read it yet as she’s a little young, but son will definitely enjoy it as he likes dystopias)

The Capri medical revisions have FINALLY left the building! I am so relieved. I was beginning to think at one point that it would never, ever happen. It actually took longer to revise than to write, but I guess that’s because I’ve had rather a lot on my plate for the last seven weeks. Still, is done now.

So, process: in this case, I mean the process of revisions.

One important thing first: by sharing my process, I’m not suggesting that this is the only way a book should be written (or revised). It’s simply how it works for me. If you find something useful for you here, great; if you don’t, then that's also fine, because it means you’re able to cross off a particular way of working because you can see it isn’t for you. My take on doing a craft post is that it’s a place for sharing ideas rather than being dictatorial :o)

OK. The scary stuff. I have a Word table with a timeline for each book (i.e. column 1 = chapter number and time period it covers in the book, column 2 = brief bullet points of main events in said chapter, so I can see the structure at a glance). At revision stage, this table gets an extra column showing the new stuff for revisions (so I know what I’m scrapping, what I’m moving around, and how I’m going to do it); and then I feed that information into the manuscript in note form (with a turquoise highlighter swiped over it so I know it’s a note to me and needs deleting before I send to my editor – and yes, I *have* left the notes in before when in a rush, which is why I use the highlighter now). Normally, I do everything straight to screen, and when I’m working on revisions I switch Word into ‘track changes’ mode so I can see what I’m doing (and also so I can retrieve bits if necessary).

Before I do the final ‘accept changes’, I stick a yellow highlighter over all the new stuff. This makes it easier for me to see what I’ve done and also helps me do a note for my ed at the end so I can tell her what changes I’ve made. (She doesn’t get that file. She gets a clean one with no highlighter. My agent gets the other file if she wants it, along with a warning to don sunglasses if I've rewritten more than twenty per cent of the book.)

So far, so organised and efficient (and scary).

Except, this time, my process just didn’t work. At the moment, life is a bit fraught (ha ha ha, Family Crisis – can’t blog about it) and I’m simply not getting the peace and quiet or headspace to work on screen. So I thought I’d try something different – something that hasn’t worked for a while (i.e. last time I tried it, I got to page 5 and then thought, nah, I’d rather do this on screen).

I printed out the manuscript and did the revisions with a pen.

It meant I could work wherever I liked; and I was amazed by how much I got done in the car, waiting for littlest to come out of school. (To get a parking place, you have to be there 45 minutes before the end of the last lesson – we live in the next village and cycling is not a safe option, so I have no choice. The iPad has been brilliant for work as I can prop it against the steering wheel and write in ‘dirty draft’ while I wait.)

Working in my new temporary office with pen and paper, I have blissful peace and quiet with no interruptions; my time is limited, so I have to focus and make the most of it; and I’m not at the desktop, lappie or iPad so I can’t play Spider Solitaire/Boggle while frustrated after yet another interruption.

Result: major productivity boost. (Guess which process I’m using for the Gelati book when I start on those revisions, later today?)

There is a downside. I have to decipher my handwriting, and follow arrows all over the place when I move things about (the ease of ‘cut and paste’ is one of the reasons why I prefer editing onscreen – and that works much better for me on a desktop than anything else). But on the whole it’s working well. It’s also taught me that my process doesn’t always stay the same, and it’s fine for things to change. When life settles down again, I may be able to go back to editing onscreen again. In the meantime, this is remarkably freeing.

Has anyone else found that their process has changed, recently? What helps your productivity?


Morton S Gray said...

In a word "confidence"! Everything goes to pot if I'm feeling down on myself as a writer. Mx

Caroline said...

So glad the revisions have "gone". Thanks for sharing your process - I think we are all different. I use index cards for each chapter with the main points of each chapter written on them. The first and last line on each card is to show the opening and ending of each chapter so I can see if there is continuity etc. and also to avoid the sagging middle. Caroline x

Nicolette said...

Silence helps my productivity. I tried writing with music playing and ended up typing the lyrics into the story. Tried classical music, but tuned it out, so have figured I'm not a music writer with a soundtrack for my stories.

Well-written mind-maps for characters, with their motivations, fears, hopes, etc, helps a lot towards productivity. I have to know my characters inside out.

Jill said...

I love printing out to edit! Really makes everything pop out at me. Although my husband does get a bit grumbly about all the ink I'm using.
As for my personal writing changes, I'm getting to be more of a plotter all the time.
I'm so disorganized in every other area of my life that I thought it couldn't possibly be for me.
To this day I still hate the actual plotting, but if I do it (teeth gritted the whole time) the writing itself goes so much smoother. When I pantsed it, I found it much easier to tire of the story and give up.
Of course, like you say different strokes for different folks! I'm just proof that even the non-organized can be secret plotters :-)

Kristina said...

My process changed this January when the little one started pre-school. I thought I'd have all this 'extra' time but within the first 2 days I realized that having a morning 'free' wasn't worth anything if I was in the car driving to and from school the entire time. So I've taken to grabbing my iPad and writing at the library (just down the block from school) and not going home. So far it's working.

Lacey Devlin said...

Great post Kate! I love the sound of your Word table. I can't wait to give it a try. Thanks so much.