Friday, July 30, 2021

Out of Season


I have this silly morning glory plant that thinks it's a perennial. It's not. It's an annual. It thinks it's purple, too, instead of the usual bright blue. But there it is. Against all reason and the laws of nature. I'm amazed and I love this tenacious little rebel.  

This glorious little flower and Barbara's post put in mind of writing out of season and under trying circumstances. I have no idea how I managed to write when I had little children and a truck-driving husband who was gone a lot. After Don bought the truckline, everything was easier. Our joke was that after we were married twenty years we decided to try living together. 

Becoming a writer requires a great deal of tenacity. I think that's why I developed a quota system: five pages a day, five days a week. As I grew more successful the challenges of raising kids were replaced by the reality of 21st century marketing demands. There is always something that threatens to sabotage my writing. Email is simultaneously a blessing and a curse. 

Looking back, I don't know how I survived without Google. It's a pleasure to find quick answers to research questions. I used to rely on interlibrary loan. It involved lengthy delays and when a precious book arrived I would get suckered in to reading the whole thing. I read a whole book on fitting horse collars just to get one paragraph right for Come Spring.  

My microfilm collection is extensive. I use it to write academic stuff. I even have my own microfilm reader. It's not a printer, so I have to take some reels to our university library to print out hard copy. 

One of the biggest traps of becoming serious about writing is insisting on writing under ideal conditions. It simply has never happened for me. I would love to say I always write in the same place, at the same time every day, but in fact the only thing that's stable is my output.

For me, the quota system works for first drafts. Barbara and I both do a first draft in longhand. When I transfer this to the computer, the requirements are different. I type in a chapter a day, try to incorporate my notes, and straighten out plot issues. 

I have a peculiar method of outlining after I've written a chapter in longhand. I type a summary of the chapter with the setting at the top, the page span, and most important, the chain of events.

Ah, that chain of events. If nothing is actually happening in this summary, nothing is happening in the novel. It's deadly dull.  

This outline is printed on pink paper. Pink for promise. I tack each chapter on a cork strip. The pages are then replaced with yellow ones, because the light is beginning to dawn and I try to fix the mess. When these pages are replaced with blue ones, it means I'm going after language. This manuscript is now true blue. As good as I can do. 

Like my little morning glory it's my own way of doing things. Despite all logic or reasoning. 


Anna said...

Charlotte, I love the idea of using different colors of paper for successive stages of the process. Excellent for those of us who can use all the visual cues we can get. Thanks!

Charlotte Hinger said...

Thanks Anna. I will post some sample pictures of the different stages.