A friend asked me the other day how I managed to get so much writing done, but the process is hard to explain because it has multiple steps. I thought I could share it here, but that seemed self-indulgent. I got over my reluctance quickly for two reasons: 1) I have a chronic disease that could kill me in the most horrible ways any day now. Okay, it’s crohn’s disease and I could live a long life, but still the way it kills you is pretty bad. If that happens, I told my wife she has to type up all my untyped stories — as a sort of punishment-beyond-the-grave type thing, the way Jigsaw died in Saw 3 but the movies kept going. 2) This is a blog. The whole thing is self-indulgent. What blog in the history of ever has been unselfindulgent? Fiction writing and all art forms are self-indulgent. I mean we’re not feeding kids in Calcutta here. We’re writing stuff people might enjoy one day, but if they don’t, screw ’em. Besides, I naturally assume my readership hovers somewhere between 0 and -0.00001. So why the hell not? 3) This process has helped me recognize what’s necessary and unnecessary in the act of composition. Because if I’m going to take down the Machine before I kick it, I might as well, you know, chip away at their false assumptions. And, you know, help people. I know my readership of 0 to -0.000001 is desperate for my wisdom.
You start with scraps of paper (the cat and the fuzzy blanket are absolutely vital). These are ripped up bits of typed on paper from various places, and also any crap I can grab like receipts and invoices, and ripped out pages of books, and free maps from the zoo, etc. I started doing it this way when I worked in a Lego kiosk in the mall. Nobody wanted to buy the Star Wars Legos — they all just wanted regular Legos, which we didn’t have for some reason — so I spent hours and hours and hours doing nothing but writing on receipt paper. I wrote most of a novel about an eight year old sasquatch that way. I don’t know where that novel is at the moment because my filing system was terrible. This has been long in development but short in any decent organizational skills.
The scraps then go into the checkbook with the shortened working title on the upper right flipped vertical. (The Sora from Digimon sticker and the “God Gave us Rabbits” sticker are also absolutely vital– Sora and the God rabbit are there to help me do a great job — and also the checkbook must be held together by duct tape and blue painter’s tape ).
Then there’s the filing system (cat and pink blanket present, as necessitated): the red box on the left is active and untyped, the blue box in the middle is inactive and typed, and the blue box on the right is inactive and untyped (your job is to type all of the untyped, whether active or not. Because I said so.) (The inactive and untyped are mostly terrible ideas, but I like them a lot. I have this sentimental attachment to all of my most terrible ideas. Not that I secretly think they’r great. I know they’re awful. But they’re me, and most of the time I’m awful, and most of the time most people are awful. But we’re people, god damn it! That has something to do with why I’m attached to my worst stories, and I’ll figure it out one of these days.)
Then they go to the front of the computer where I have lots and lots of good intentions to type them all up (and Rogue and Swiftheart Rabbit and the paperclip horse do their best to help me) (but they fail) (it’s not their fault really — who better to help someone than Rogue and Swiftheart Rabbit, but I’ll take the blame on that failure).
So there’s that, and now here’s what I learned about what’s relevant and irrelevant in the writing process … Oh who cares? Why bother? Pull it together, Simon, you can do this. Okay, here we go, irrelevant things: transitions. Um, linearity. That’s about it, really. Not worth much, I’m afraid. It has allowed me to re-conceptualize how I approach structure so that a story is not one stand alone quanta. It’s like a tree where limbs and root systems are entangled with other trees, and so much life is dependent upon it. You have to then ask yourself: what is the trunk that remains central and holds all this together? For me, that’s character. For you, it can be anything. Hey, there’s a valid point, right? Sounded real nice at least, all that poetical stuff about the tree. There, pulled it together at the end. Congratulations, me!