Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Yay, Index Cards!

I've got a WIP that is quasi-finished. Except for two chapters that need to be re-written, I'm excited about the prospect of sending it to my agent.

So why haven't I yet? Because this WIP turned out to be so large that what I have is only Ye Olde Part One, and to sell Ye Olde Part One (given I'm an unknown writer), my agent needs an outline for Ye Olde Part Two.

And plotting is my nemesis.

I do think out scenes before I write them, because I need an idea of where that scene is going before the words will flow. I also generally know how the book will start and end. However, coming up with scenes for an entire novel, all at once, has proven rough. For one thing, as soon as I've got an idea, my brain wants to keep running with it. It starts sketching in conversations and images for that scene, and I wind up scribbling feverishly, trying to capture the good bits of dialogue.

And I'm thrilled that happens, but it defers me working out what the next scene will be.

A few weeks ago, I bought index cards. Yesterday, I actually broke the cellophane.

I've never used index cards to organize my thoughts before, but the chapter I've been working on has been kicking my butt. I had general ideas for what needed to go into it, and some specific scenes, but my brain just couldn't hold everything at once and juggle it all into place. It seemed the right time to swallow my scatter-brainedness and act hard-core secretarial, yo.

So today I tiled my living room floor in 3x5" bits of paper, and now that chapter is nailed down better than an undead butterfly in the Smithsonian.

Part of me still resists the idea of using index cards because it's so alien to the way I'm used to working, but the rest is quite tickled at how well things shook out today. I think I threw away about 50% of the cards I wrote on, but that was usually because I'd thought up something better for my characters to do.


So how far behind the learning curve am I, here? Do any of you use index cards for part or all of your plotting? If not, what system do you employ? If so, what prompted you to start using the cards, or did that always seem like the natural way of doing things? I'd love to hear about your experiences.

Author website: J. J. DeBenedictis

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