I have to write blog posts for my uni degree and this is what reminded me blogging is fun. So I thought I’d also post this here~
How Not to Write a Novel
I have never liked organising things. A lot of people don’t, it takes time and it will usually get messed up again hours later. So obviously I’ve decided to take a course that pretty much revolves around organising. I make a lot of sense, honest.
But while I don’t love organisation as a thing in itself, I know how important it actually is. So much information from the past would be lost without a correct system to record and store it. We wouldn’t know what we do today without this so I can see the need for it. That’s the super practical side of things but I wanted to talk about a more personal kind of organisation. I could call this My Terrible Attempts At Writing Stories, or something better (titles have never been a strong point of mine), but all of these files were for one story. One. (The colourful lines show what the folders open up in to).
I guess it also tells the tale of how hard it is to write something with no experience. So for a little background on this mess, I tried to write a single novel and I did, in four years. And all those little documents are excerpts, actual drafts or utter drivel I wrote on a caffeine high while not writing my university essays. Okay, so to understand this story you need to step in to my shoes for a couple of minutes.
So let me tell you about the drafting process. You write one, maybe you actually finish it (good job!) and then comes the time when you revise it. You do (congratulations), so now you have two drafts. Now, you’re going to do draft three but as you do, you realise draft one had this amazing bit of description and so you hunt that down and paste it in. You’ve probably found the piece of information with a little bit of Cntrl + F on your Word document, because while organisation terrifies you, Word helps you out a bit. This is going swimmingly, right?
Okay, fast-forward to draaaaaaaft 6. You’re a perfectionist. You have ideas while you write because editing is a boring job designed to drive you crazy by reading the same lines you are damn well sure you could repeat easily. Well, you’re wrong. You need a sentence from draft 2, but when you go back to look it isn’t there. It isn’t in draft 1, 3, 4, or 5 either. While looking you’ve probably had like three hours go past, life is ticking away, passing you by. Then you realise with outright horror it is probably in one of these amazingly well-kept and well-titled documents that you wrote when you had such a good idea and then proceeded to save it, title it poorly and not look at it for a year and a half. Did I mention you’ve actually improved with all this writing practice? This now becomes the most embarrassing cringe-fest (even that very word is designed to make anyone feel bad about using it) that you’ve ever embarked on. All those terribly miss-spelt documents, the changes in to present and past tense – maybe even different points of view because you thought it would be cool. You’ll never find some of the great sentences that you’ll downright swear to yourself that you wrote.
Okay so fast-forward searching through that mess for about two more years, create more of that mess and then you’ve got a finished novel. Congratulations.
So what have you learned in order to never go through that ordeal again?
- Never write another novel, story – anything ever again.
- For the dear love of God, title your work, with something memorable and that will make sense in years to come.
- Put things in to folders (also with helpful titles). Maybe you’ve made a few folders, well if you’re work was anything like the behemoth that is mine, you’ll need more.
- BIN THINGS. BIN THINGS THAT YOU DON’T NEED. KILL THE CLUTTER.
- Also create a back-up on a hard drive.
So that was my cautionary tale about the importance of organisation. It might seem like I learnt from this long ago, but realistically it’s only been about five months. The change seems pretty severe from that to the amount I’m preaching to you today. The turn-around from disorganised student-aspiring-writer to enrolling on an archival course might seem so strange that some may suggest I’ve been abducted by aliens. Perhaps the real Emma was, perhaps she never learned from this and perhaps the robot that replaced her just has a deep love for organising because it speaks to her coding.