Process #1 – Format

You’d think writing was just writing, that the tools wouldn’t matter. Words on the page are…words on the page, right? Handwritten on a legal pad, typed into a computer or AlphaSmart or whatever…just write, right?

That’s true…to a certain extent. I’ve found in three years of pretty steady writing that different phases in my process require different tools. For example, when I’m storyboarding or brainstorming plot points, I use the 4’x8′ whiteboard in my office (it’s actually a piece of the water resistant paneling you’d put up in a shower, but it’s coated with the same stuff as a whiteboard and cost $13 compared to about $200). I need big spaces to brainstorm. Lots of storyboarding classes talk about either post-it notes or index cards…great idea…doesn’t work for me. Getting an idea on a post-it note gives me the shudders – TOO SMALL! My brain shuts down and I end up mainlining chocolate.

When it comes to the “5 pages a day or else” work, I draft and edit best in the format Ellora’s Cave requires for all their submissions. It’s a single-spaced .rtf format and I am just happier working in that format rather than the traditional double-spaced, 25 lines per page, Courier or Times New Roman 12 pt formatting. I suspect this also has something to do with space…I can see more of the story on one page if I use the single-spaced format, and it’s no big deal to cut and paste into a traditional double-spaced document if I’m submitting elsewhere. I can’t find the link on Megan Hart’s website anymore, but I think I remember (how’s that for confident?) that she drafts in a 14 pt font, and revises on paper in a single spaced format. Or maybe not…don’t quote me on that. I also do my most thorough revisions on paper, so if I’m stuck, or smoothing out the bumps in the 15th or 20th draft, I print out the scene in question and work on it away from the computer. This also tricks my brain into thinking it’s working on something new and has the added benefit of stopping me from tweaking a word or punctuation.

There’s no right way to do this. Some people handwrite on legal pads. Others write when and where they can – AlphaSmart, laptop, scraps of paper while waiting in line or on the treadmill and pull it all together in a couple of marathon sessions each week. Stephanie Bond talks about writing in her car on her lunch break when she was a programmer. Laptop or typewriter, paper or all-electronic, just find a format that works for you!

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