Posts Tagged ‘ramble’

OMG, organized!

Author: Sara Mueller

It should be noted that organization is not my natural state.  I perfected the filing method of ‘largest on the bottom, smallest on the top’ at an early age.  Recently I saw ran across some blog posts on ‘Writing Bibles’.   I wish I could remember where I picked up the links, but I didn’t write it down.  Notably posts by Nathan Bransford’s and at The Write Thing.  Anyone writing anything longer than a short story might want to go read them.  I first ran across the idea of organized writing notebook in ‘Guide to Fiction Writing’ by Phyllis A. Whitney.  It has a ton of good information in it, and a chapter on writing notebooks that as far as I’m concerned is pure gold.  When I finally broke down in a moment of total befuddlement and admitted that my recall of my own work is something less than perfect, I tried it.  I was sold.

My notebook system looks something like a 3 ring binder with dividers that I swipe from my son at the end of a school year.  What, like I’m going to buy new ones?  That would be way too official feeling and would scare the crap outta me.  Old office supplies.  You know you have some.  I divide up differently depending on the book. My usual start looks like this:

I start doodling about on paper, brain storming on some vague idea.  After a while I have a stack of brain storms.  Possibly some characters.  I toss some, and put the others into a notebook divided up more or less like –

Themes – usually I just write these on the front of the first divider as they come to me.  For example “Corset”, “Motherhood”, and  “Agape vs. Eros” were some of what’s scrawled on the first divider in my Bone Orchard notebook.

Characters - I have to keep track, otherwise I end up with every other secondary character named with the same letter, or with some other quite simple mistake that’s the product of my memory being a sieve. I have a sort of character questionairre that I got… er, a long time ago?  From a creative writing teacher?  I think?  It’s long, it’s grotesquely detailed, and I have never ever answered the whole thing about a given character.  Name, age, hair color, build, height and weight, distinctive features, siblings, parents, pets, job, schooling, grades in subjects… whatever.

It keeps moles from wandering around, mustaches from appearing where they have no business being, and makes sure that Hank the best friend and artist doesn’t turn into Hank the best friend and car repair guy.  Hank is free to change jobs, but as the writer of Hank, I’d better know if he does.

Plotting - That part where I muck about on paper while I decide what’s going to happen.  For me it looks like a lot of free form writing, scratching out, rewriting, underlining, stars by stuff I’m liking at the moment… and most importantly the outcome I think I want.  Frequently it looks like notes I took (I hope I thought to take notes) while talking it out to a friend.

Flow Chart of Nepharius Deeds – what I think happens and in what order.  It might have a calendar and/or a timeline in it.  It might be an outline for you.

World - any bits of the world I might need to keep track of.  Maps, politics, governments structures, a second moon, the reason cheese is purple, rough notes on magical systems or star drives or…

Inspiration - mostly pictures I print out or find.  More often these days I toss images into a folder on my computer.  Might be a dress, an actor, a painting, a recipe, or any other shiny thing that made my brain go ‘hey, that’s like my book!’

To Be Researched – what it sounds like.  Stuff I can’t find in five minutes online.  What was the formal title of the Duke of Alva’s lieutenant who attacked the camp of William the Silent outside of Mons?  ’cause you know that the brain space for remembering that title was more important than remembering to get gas in the c… rap.

Bibliography - Sometime I use actual books for research, and I want to know what books I’ve actually used, what books were rubbish for my purpose, etc.  This saves a lot of time.  I also have bookmarks on my computer that I tag with the manuscript title.

Barf Drafting – with thanks for the header title to Kristine Kathryne Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith.  A blank section that’s purely for me to write long hand in.  Typing and longhand writing use slightly different parts of my brain.  Often when I’m stuck I can shake my brain loose by going back to pen and paper (or pen and paper towel or pencil and… you get the idea).  This section is full of rough draft stream-of-consciousness stuff that may be useful or not, but I keep it at least until I’m sure sure sure and positive with no take backs that I’m not going to use it.

Okay, notebook!  Go me!  Then… I push it to one side, write the story, and only refer back when I discover that Hank is needed again and what the hell weird pet did I think he had?  An iguana? (Dig out notebook) A frog?  Nah,  I like this idea better.  Oh hey, and lookie!  I can… right!  Got it!  (scratch out, write down, search and replace the frog with an iguana on computer, close the notebook and stuff the notebook back under the cat bed). Write write write, four chapters later looks the babysitter needs a name… (move cat, open notebook, write down name, replace notebook, replace cat).

There’s only one reason my notebooks aren’t purely electronic.  Batteries die, hard drives seize, motherboards fail, and technology goes out of date.  Or I’m on a plane and we’ve been landing for an hour and a half.  Or I’ve jotted down notes on a napkin or an envelope.  I know I could transcribe, but I already wrote it down once, for pity’s sake, and there’s a paperclip right here.  And I might need to know about Hank’s iguana again when in five years I’m offered a spin off deal.  What did I name that critter, and do I want to go page by page through three books to find out…?

MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL – Don’t forget to write the book. The notebook or Bible or binder system is a tool, not the goal.

How do you organize your writing?  If you don’t, why don’t you?

(no cats were harmed in the writing of this post, though Lucy would like it known that she is pathetic and old and should not be subjected to any indignity not accompanied by cat treats and/or a long convalescence in a lap)

Quotes for Bone Orchard

Author: Sara Mueller

Today I noticed a particularly unlikely source of quotes that apply to Bone Orchard… or maybe it’s particularly likely give Oscar Wilde’s viciously funny commentary on the strictures of Victorian society.  Today’s selections come from An Ideal Husband

“I did not sell myself for money. I bought success at a great price. ”

“Lord Goring: Extraordinary thing about the lower classes in England – they are always losing their relations.
Phipps: Yes, my lord! They are extremely fortunate in that respect.”

“I never smoke. My dressmaker wouldn’t like it, and a woman’s first duty is to her dressmaker, isn’t it? What the second duty is, no one has as yet discovered.”

At the outset, I feel it only fair to warn you that this is and will remain a ramble.  I recommend fetching a cup of tea or some other beverage.  Over on my friend M.K. Hobson’s site, she coined the term Bustlepunk.   I found this to be singularly cool at the time, and I still do.  Somewhere in the back of my head I can hear a teacher/panelist/writer/editor (I’ve heard it over and over and probably so have you.  In fact, say it with me…) “Science fiction is fiction about science.”  Whiiiiiiich isn’t really correct.  I may have to break out a fire extinguisher around here, but bear along for a few more sentences.  In fact, go and have a look at the bookstore shelves.  Even the virtual ones.  Are all the novels that come up when you go looking for science fiction about science?  NO?  I’m shocked.  SHOCKED, I tell you.  No.  I’m not shocked and neither are you.  Science fiction may be about science, but mostly it is about the effect of science, or a device, or a future and about people who live in that situation.  If it thinks like a people, it’s a people.  Don’t even go there. I intend to ramble quite enough without that particular devolution of the conversation.

Now… I like derivatives if they’re polite and play nicely.  Prosecco is high up on my list of preferred grape derivatives, for instance.    Bustlepunk is all about the polite.  Or the lack thereof.  It takes place in a technological derivation from the norm.  Cyberpunk takes place in a futuristic technological derivation from the norm that deals in the interface between wires and nerves, between flesh and computers.  Steampunk has as its effecting setting a deviation from the technological norm a bit earlier.  Victorian era.  People never really stopped writing it, though they may have skipped a bit in the middle between Vern, Burroughs, et al and the last 20 years.  This isn’t about a timeline of Steampunk, but I’d very much like to see one!  Where was I… ah yes, Bustlepunk.

Bustlepunk is such a lovely, evocative word.  The era of the bustle (and the hoopskirt, and right up through the Edwardians… but the bustle is a good middle point) evokes Merchant Ivory dramas.  Masterpiece Theater productions.  Weird thoughts of dear Miss Marple who never WORE a bustle, but who certainly evoked the high ideal of good manners and who certainly should have possessed a lovely broach with clockwork that spun backward for no reason whatever that she would reveal.  Don’t believe me about the manners?  Check out the Gibson Girl hairdos on the covers of Miss Manners some time. The bustle and its era are symbolic.  Much as steam and cyberwear are symbolic.

Bustlepunk, of course, being a speculative fiction genre, is neither a regency romance nor an Edith Wharton novel.  It has more to it than only manners.  It has aspects of Steampunk, certainly.  Zepplins may be present.  It has aspects of Victorian Gothic aesthetic.  Vampires or werewolves or zombies might haunt the gas-lit streets.  However, it seems to me that Bustlepunk, while it sets a gracious tea table at which one or both of those distinctions may have a pleasant repast, sets itself apart with the importance in the turnings of the plot and within the gears of any society… of manners.  It serves this somewhat dainty and sometimes bland repast along with the greatly appealing aperitif observation that social norms may be broken provided one does so with sufficient aplomb and grace.

Bustlepunk need not lack in action, nor indeed in bloodshed and violence.  Good gracious, people, there is such a thing as a duel and also such a thing as a serial killer and even such a thing as that ghastly boor Lord Whateverhismutziz who’s treading down one’s botanical reseach without the slightest notion that it possesses the keys to a lost kingdom, eternal youth, and you will certainly need a zepplin at this point to go off and conduct your field research.  Or else you’ll need a gold mine in Arizona from which you may transfer yourself to Mars.  Did I not mention that this was a civilized tea table, and as such it necessarily hosts the most interesting of guest devices?  Of course I did.  The Low-Techs are such dear, accommodating people once you get past their xenophobia.  And the drooling.

Waaaait a minute, I hear you say.  That’s Cyberpunk pure and classic there!  Trot off and find your copy of the SHORT STORY ‘Johnny Mnemonic’.  It’s a brilliant piece in its folding together of elements.  The science creates the situation.  It is certainly science fiction.  It deals with direct computer interface in human beings and with advanced body alteration unknown to then-medical-science and in direct rebellion.  Certainly Cyberpunk.  All good and fair.  Cyberpunk is a subset of Science Fiction.  Madam has clearly lost her tiny little mind here, eh?   The climactic resolution deals, in part, with the intersection of two social situations, and the hero’s ability to span both worlds.

You see?  And you didn’t think he even owned a waistcoat.  Oh dear.  How extraordinary of me.  Here I asked you to bring tea and completely forgot about to ask – do you take lemon, or milk with your bustlepunk?