by Christine Kling
There was a time when I was trying to write what I thought I was supposed to be writing. I was in grad school and it was the late 80’s. Ray Carver type of short stories were all the rage. Minimalist. I had a stack of New Yorker magazines piling up in the corner of my bedroom all still in the plastic wrap they had arrived in. You see, I didn’t actually READ those stories. No, I read mysteries, thrillers, and adventure novels, but I thought I was supposed to be writing Literature
See, I love puzzle books. Some of the books I’ve loved are Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose, The Book of Air and Shadows, by John Gruber, and The Rule of Four by Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason. There are lots of others.
But writing these ding dang books is a whole other story, so to speak. It’s hard, hard work. My brain hurts at the end of the day. Trying to put one of these stories together is like trying to create a jig-saw puzzle by starting with a bunch of square pieces, and then trying to paint each piece and cut it to shape. I can’t see the big picture until I shape all these little bits. But my brain just can’t seem to hold all these little bits together at once.
In addition to being hard work, though, it’s also fun. When working on the beginning of a book, it feels like anything is possible. I keep thinking up more and more complications to put my characters through hell. It’s great to throw ideas out there and not know if any of them will make it into the book. But then I do wind up with a huge mass of ideas, and the time comes to try to put them into some kind of order.
So being me, I try to find tools that will help me. The writing software Scrivener has been a huge help in the past six or seven years that I have been using it. I throw documents and web pages and all sorts of bits of information into my Research folder. It makes for huge files (my WIP is already over 50 MB), but it’s great having all that stuff at my fingertips because I just cannot remember it all. I use character sketch templates and bits and pieces I’ve found from several other authors. One of the general Scrivener templates I like can be found on novelist Caroline Norrington’s website here. I write down chapters and scenes, and I can drag and drop them as I see fit. It sure beats all those colored Post-it notes that used to be all over the wall above my desk.
Now I am trying to find the best Timeline app. To make my puzzles work, I have to make sure I don’t screw up the time sequence. I used an app called Aeon Timeline for the last book, and I’ve started agin with it on this book, but I don’t love it. The guys at Scrivener recommend Aeon Timeline, and they say there is a way to import your timeline into Scrivener, but I haven’t got there yet. Unfortunately, the software is not very intuitive, and I have trouble moving around from one decade to the next. If anyone out there is using a timeline program they like, please share in the comments here. Much as I resist, I might just have to resort to paper!
In the end, though, all the tools in the world won’t write the book for me. I need time, concentration and butt-in-chair. That’s not as easy as you might think when anchored in lagoon in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Truth be told, that’s not easy anywhere.
ChristineShare on Facebook