Greetings! Here’s a random one I thought I’d weigh in on: writing software. Why? Because I’ve been looking for something to make outlining a little easier, and I recently read something that made me want to scream shenanigans….and then write about it.
First off, I’ve never used writing software, so I’m a bit hesitant from the start. However, I’m putting together a new project that I already know will be too confusing if I don’t outline it at least a little bit. There are multiple plot lines and a bunch of characters that I just don’t want to mix up. I started searching through the golden halls of interwebz, and it wasn’t hard to find a boatload of tools ready for download. Some are free, some are not. I’m not against paying for something that’s worth it, so assuming you get what you pay for, I started there.
I picked one that had a cool name (c’mon, you do it too), and that’s when I called shenanigans. The very first paragraph of the description basically instructed potential writers to buy their software or don’t bother writing at all. It specifically stated that you can’t just sit down and start typing, you need software to help. Please help me wave the flag of bullshit.
I suspect most writers do this, at least from the start. You get an idea, you sit down, you start writing. It’s easy and damn fun. Write until it’s done, then fix it (that’s the hard part). People have been writing like this long before software existed…before computers existed…before typewriters existed. I’m sure for a lot of people, writing software makes the process easier, but in no way, shape, or form is it required. Anyone that tells you it is just wants your money.
I’m certainly not the most prolific writer in the world, but I’ve written and edited three novels, two novellas, and a boatload of short stories by parking my butt at the keyboard and typing. I’ve never used anything except a word processor and spreadsheets (years ago I used Word and Excel, now I use Google Docs). For me, writing without knowing what’s happening next is all part of the fun. There’s just nothing like being surprised at the events that “magically” appear on the screen. It’s a feeling I wouldn’t give up for the world.
I know plenty of writers who plot things out very carefully, and at times I wish I could do the same. I know I’m going to have to go back and spend months cleaning things up, but I just can’t write it out before writing it down. I tried that once. I wrote a very thorough synopsis for a short story (about 7k, nothing huge). It was the first time I’ve ever enjoyed writing a synopsis. I was really excited about the story, because it was all new. Then came time to write it.
It took me months just to write the first draft, and I hated it. Not the story, just the process. It was like writing a report for college: the information was already there, I just had to regurgitate it. A long time ago, I tried to plot out a novel. That one has yet to be written, and I’m pretty sure it never will be. For me, it just doesn’t work.
So why am I looking for software? Well what I’ve been doing is writing and keeping notes (mainly characters and key moments) in a spreadsheet that I refer to during editing. It can be messy, but it’s fun. For Stripped, I wrote the first draft then went back and deleted whole chapters, erased what were once main characters, added new material to fix things…it took almost ten drafts and over a year of work. I’m okay with that, because I loved it, and the first draft flew from my fingers in no time at all.
For this new project, I already know doing it the same way will take longer. I don’t want to plot it out completely, but I know it would be helpful to keep my notes in a program that will give me a visual glance when I’m done. Then (in theory) I can move scenes around, delete and add as necessary, and build a novel without mixing things up. Will it help? I don’t know, but if we don’t try new things we get dusty and break down…or maybe that’s what happens when we don’t change the oil in our cars.
I don’t know, but it just started raining outside so I’m calling this post finished and getting back to real writing. For me, there’s no better time to write than in the rain. No, not standing in it…that would be silly.