Friday, September 6, 2019

Sometimes old is best

Technology is all well and good, but sometimes you just have to go old school and break out the index cards.

Working on my Great Depression book - currently called Dear Sister - and I got stuck at about the 3/4 point. The chapters were supposed to be alternating between the two sisters, and for the most part had been cooperating.

Then I hit a snag, which I didn't realize until I was 3/4 of the way through my second draft. I'd been so busy thinking about changing the point of view from third to first, that I forgot I had this issue where each sister had two consecutive chapters and they threw the timeline completely out of whack.

The whole point of writing from both their viewpoints is to contrast their lives, and there I was, leaving readers in one place for far too long, with nothing to compare and contrast with. Thus the cards.

Each scene is written on a card, with the character's initial and a general idea of the date. I laid them all out, figured out which dates were written in stone (i.e., something that happened for real) and which were not. Then I drank some coffee and rearranged. More coffee, more futzing. Shampoo, rinse, repeat.

I finally got the storyline where I wanted it and took two days off writing to let the ideas marinate. And last night, before bed, I realized that I didn't actually want the second sister's POV in the book after all. It takes away from the character I really want to write about, and Clare's story, and the all-important contrasts therein, can be shared in their frequent letters, which is where the Dear Sister title comes from.

So, draft 3. I see you.


Kathy said...

Thank you for sharing your thought process. I have written academic papers, with the mindmap method. I'll have to try the cards.

Nancy K said...

It's really a good way to see your organization. I introduced my children to it, but it only took with my dd. She wrote papers with them all through school as well as for studying. Sarah Lawrence, where she went to college, has long papers for almost every class. In high school she had papers for every class, even for Phys ed. She would buy hundreds of them at the beginning of the school year.

Abbey Sews said...

Yes! Index cards! I did all of the notes for my MA thesis on index should have seen them spread out in the entire first floor of our house. Such. A good mechanism to rethink order. For my dissertation I thrived to do that electronically, but it is so much harder and less effective. Looking forward to more details of your work. Abbey

JustGail said...

I recall in a past job in IT, we kept info about servers, printers, and other important information on sticky notes on the wall. It worked well to track what was where and especially when things got moved. Much easier than changing files and reprinting or trying to see the whole layout on monitors (this was in the days of small CRT monitors!). We called it the Wall of Knowledge.

Sometimes, the old ways can't be beat for simplicity and seeing all at a glance.

Karen said...

It's gratifying to see that so many people still go about things visually - index cards, post-its, something non-digital. I feel less alone. :)

Eve said...

Fascinating glimpse into the crafting of a novel...thank you for sharing Karen !
This reminds me of my college days in the '70s where I was introduced to the index card method, which worked great for my projects. I am glad to see that it is still useful.