Friday, April 26, 2013

Guest Blog: Adult Truths

Today, let's give a big Inkspot welcome to Stephen L. Brayton. 

“I'm always slightly terrified when I exit out of Word and it asks me if I want to save any changes to my ten-page technical report that I swear I did not make any change to.”

Yeah...I get this a lot on my documents. I'm tempted to hit Control-Z so it will erase any change I supposedly had made, but that scares me even more.

This truth made me think of note taking and how I change not only documents, but outlines and entire stories.

I'll detail outlining in a future Truth, but one of the rules to keep in mind if you are scared of outlining is: don't be governed by your outline. Unless you're Jeffrey Deaver and produce a 200 page outline knowing every single detail, your story is going to change. In fact, I'll wager that Deaver's changes as he moves through the story, if even minutely.

I am constantly making notations on my outline. Questions about certain locations or other information pop up so I jot a note to find time for research. I think of additional scenes or things to add to a scene. Recently while jogging, I thought out all of the details regarding a future fight scene my heroine Mallory will have. When I finished my run, I immediately wrote the choreography of the fight. Sometimes I run into problems, usually time related and I'll make a note to review the day's activities within the story and either change a few things around or create new scenes to add. I don't like lag time. I don't like hours passing without knowing what is happening, even if my character is sleeping. I remember a particular book I read for review. I don't recall the title, but I thought the story flawed because literally days would pass within the story where nothing happened. However, the plot was such that-since it was a murder mystery with a killer on the loose-SOMETHING needed to be occurring. The detectives just didn't sit around all day. The author thought he could jump ahead to the action scenes but threw off the reader because nothing happened. I would have loved to have seen this guy's outline if it existed.

Ideas can occur anytime, anywhere. In the shower, while dreaming, while sitting at a bar slugging back martinis. (Uh, I've never done the latter, mom, so you don't have to worry. Besides, I don't like martinis.) You hear about authors writing notes on napkins and paper menus. Even on their own hand. I don't get that exotic. Scrap paper usually does the trick. The challenge is putting those scraps in a place where I won't forget about them. Yes, I have forgotten some notes, discovered them later and was unable to either remember why I wrote the note at the time or couldn't understand to what I wanted to refer.

Katherine, an author friend I've mentioned in previous blogs, saves everything. She has emails she's never opened dating back almost a year. I know this because I once sent her an email regarding a marketing plan and I subsequently lost mine. A year later, she found the email. She also saves each rewrite of her manuscripts. This is not a bad idea for some people. If you remember what changes you made the previous times, you can retrieve the information if needed in future rewrites.

The key to note taking, I think, is to not let the idea sit in your head until you can find time or material to write it down. Don't wait. Have a notebook with you constantly or have access to something at all times. If you wait even an hour until you have paper/time, you may risk losing the completeness of the thought. I know this from experience. Get it down on paper fast because to wait means other distractions intruding and designating that awesome idea to the background where it may become watered down or, heaven forbid, forgotten.

Whether it's a story idea, the germ of an idea, a news article that strikes your fancy, a scene change, a chapter addition/deletion, or a complete rewrite plan, get it down.

Save it. Save it again just to be sure you have it.

Then save it again.

Stephen L. Brayton owns and operates Brayton’s Black Belt Academy in Oskaloosa, Iowa. He is a Fifth Degree Black Belt and certified instructor in The American Taekwondo Association. He began writing as a child; his first short story concerned a true incident about his reactions to discipline. During high school, he wrote for the school newspaper and was a photographer for the yearbook. For a Mass Media class, he wrote and edited a video project. In college, he began a personal journal for a writing class; said journal is ongoing. He was also a reporter for the college newspaper.During his early twenties, while working for a Kewanee, Illinois radio station, he wrote a fantasy based story and a trilogy for a comic book. He has written numerous short stories both horror and mystery. His first novel, Night Shadows (Feb. 2011), concerns a Des Moines homicide investigator teaming up with a federal agent to battle creatures from another dimension. His second book, Beta (Oct. 2011) was the debut of Mallory Petersen and her search for a kidnapped girl. In August 2012, the second Mallory Petersen book, Alpha, was published. This time she investigates the murder of her boyfriend.


Patricia Gligor's Writers Forum said...

I laughed out loud when I pictured you jogging and suddenly having an idea for a change in your book. That happens to me all the time, which is why I always carry pen and paper. I say "always" but, when you're jogging, that can be difficult. Here's how that scenario would play out for me. As I jog, I would repeat the change in my head over and over - almost like a chant - because I'd be afraid I might forget what it was by the time I finished my jog. :)

Stephen L. Brayton said...

I did that. I kept repeating the fight over and over until I had a chance to write it down. However, when I wrote the scene I had to change it again to make it more exciting.