Nine Piles Of Files And One Book

It’s sunny and warm outside.  There’s a breeze and birdsong.  The cherry, pear, and apple trees are in full bloom, and I can smell the cottonwood trees.  Life is sweet today, and I am feeling contented and lazy.  Sitting outside and doing nothing feels terribly appealing.

However, I have a blog post to create, so coffee is brewing in the kitchen—bribing myself with lattes—while I begin writing.

I am back to seriously playing with my book draft.  Yesterday I set up a card table next to my studio work table, and laid out the various files of writing into three rows of three stacks each.  This is everything so far, my whole book where I can see it.

The tallest pile is Scenes In Development.  Here is the core of my book, and hooray to it being the tallest pile because it tells me I am making progress.

Next to it is Random Scenes, writing that sort of fits the story but the connection is tenuous.  With some rewriting, these scenes may fall in and be included, or they may not. If not, I’ll put them aside for use in something else.

Idea Lists/Maybes come next.  Here live the undeveloped thoughts, waiting to be played with and nurtured to see what grows.

In the middle row is Why This Story.  This is the what-if’s and why-I-care’s, the what’s-the-point’s and what’s-my-point’s.  Reasons, needs, and wants that push me to write.  A list of themes.  A one paragraph synopsis written crazy-dramatic, as though this story of healing is a suspense thriller.

Characters is next.  Bios and backstories, parallel story scenes, what drives each character and what trips them up (sometimes the same thing), and the rules of their worlds (how they see life).

Appendices are last in the middle row.  This is a story of healing, and as I wrote the first draft, I realized it needed a place for information beyond the story.  References, suggestions, examples, and how-to’s that don’t fit in the story-telling space, yet are a necessary second level for the reader.

The third row of files begins with Readers.  Here are my notes about who I am writing for (imaginary bios), who I see wanting and needing this book, who picks it up and reads it, what I want this story to do for those who read it.

Processes comes after Readers.  This is my collection of prompts and methods that help me imagine the pieces of my story and book, and guide me into seeing what I need to see in my mind’s eye.  This collection unsticks me when I get stuck.

The final pile on my card table is General Info.  Information on writing memoir, lists of memory triggers, timeline construction when interweaving past and present, tips on layering complex emotions, and more.  References that teach me and enrich my writing.

It’s all here, what I’ve collected and written into story so far. 

Seeing the work laid out makes the book real to me. 

Writing this story was never just a whim or something to pass the time.  It was always serious play, but now I truly see I am creating something tangible.  My nine piles of writing make me proud of what I’ve accomplished, and they show me where I go next in my creation.

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Related to this post:

Tom Hart said of all the material he gathered, wrote, and drew for Rosalie Lightning: a Graphic Memoir, only about 10 percent showed up in the finished book. He needed all 100 percent in order to find the story thread he wanted to tell. Tom’s book The Art of the Graphic Memoir came out in 2018, and it has become one of my essential references as I write my book.
http://www.tomhart.net/

What The Dream Said

 

birdsonwithbluefeathers.detail
‘Bird Son With Blue Feathers’-detail

I am asleep.

I’m dreaming.

I’m sitting in a rowboat.  The boat is all wood.  We, the boat and I, are floating on a deep pond.  A fir and cedar forest rises beyond.  The water is rimmed by a grey rock beach.  The boat and I are still.

I watch a small, black and white cat step from the forest, across the beach, and into the water.

The cat swims, and then dives deep.  ‘I didn’t know cats could do that,’ I say.

I can see her, as though I am under water too.  The cat catches a large fish in her mouth, swims back to the surface, and returns to the beach.

She eats the fish.  She looks very satisfied with herself.

I wake.

I write my morning pages after breakfast.  Purple ink today.  It is snowing again.  The thermometer says -10 degrees Celsius.  The forecast says expect the same through this coming weekend.  Hmmm.  My eyes are beginning to get hungry for green.

I write out my dream.  I hear my voice again.  ‘I didn’t know cats could do that.’  I again feel my astonishment at something unexpected and new.  Since when do cats not only swim, but swim underwater?

Tigers swim, I write in my pages.  So do jaguars.  Why not small, black and white cats?

Why not me?  I am Cat.  I love swimming, and my dad taught me to dive.  I know how to dive cleanly and well.

If I dive deep, I will catch the words.  I will catch my book.

I sit very still.  My pen has stopped moving.  Exactly what Natalie says not to do.

The dream is talking to me.  I start writing again, to catch the words.

This second draft I am creating—I need to dive deep.  The dream says I’ve only been paddling along the surface, even staying safely on the beach in some parts of the story.

If I want my book to be fully realized, and I do, I can’t stay on the surface.  The book isn’t here.  The words and feelings I want are down below.

The pond is deep and clear and full of flashing, silver words.  I love words.  There is nothing to fear.  I know how to swim and dive and imagine and write.  I am good at all these things.

The dream says, take a breath, and dive.

The dream says, cats can do this.

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Natalie Goldberg’s first rule of writing practice is ‘Keep your hand moving.’  She also says ‘Shut up and write’.  I’ve invented a new writing rule for myself, ‘Shut up and dive.’  All of Natalie’s books are my favourites.  You likely already know Writing Down The Bones.  So go read The True Secret of Writing: Connecting Life With Language, Atria Books, 2013.  Really, the true secret of writing is in there.  Natalie spills the beans.  Thank you, Natalie, for showing me a way of being a writer, and spilling the beans.  http://nataliegoldberg.com/