Tag Archives: organization

The Internet, Ray Bradbury, and… That Other Thing

I know several authors who shut off their Internet while they write. That blows my mind. Shut off the Internet? How do they breathe?

Yes, I’ll admit freely that I’m one of those people who can’t function if the Internet is not working. For one thing, I communicate with my critique partners and other essential contacts primarily online. If I’m off, I’m out of touch with what needs to get done.

But let’s be honest, even during a personal day all to myself, I’m often still online. On regular days, I get up early in the morning or stay up later in the evening to take care of to do list items, and I’m plugged in then, too. There is rarely a time for me when the Internet isn’t within arm’s reach. And that definitely goes for when I’m writing.

Why? One word: procratstina — ahem. Research.

This is when you look at From Light to Dark and then back at me and say, “Um, Irene. Those worlds aren’t real. What research did you need to do for that?”

Lots, actually. First of all, I included puzzles throughout the novel, and I needed to double-check their accuracy. The Internet helped me speed up the process. In addition to that, Dark World has a large collection of plant and insect life that I wanted to feel authentic. The Internet allowed me to search for swampy things I could use. Finally, I wrote a scene in which a main character got punched in the nose. Never having been punched in the nose before, I felt I should probably look up what that feels like.
…(okay, for that one I also interviewed a few people in person, but the point is that you wouldn’t believe how much useful?less information is available online when you’re writing fantasy).

The same goes for my other work.  Whether it’s a story about a place that exists in the “real” world or not, I rely on my Internet connection to keep my research options open at all times. You never know when I might decide to write about the thing… or… that other thing. 🙂

Do you need the Internet to do your work? Is it a distraction, as the great Ray Bradbury said, or is it a help? Maybe a little bit of both?  🙂

Is a Writer a Team Player? (ARG vs. Novel)

Last month I blogged about the writing differences between novels, short stories, and plays. There is one other type of fiction writing I do: alternate reality games.

If you don’t know what these are, I’m going to direct you to some good sources for a definition. Better people than I have tried to pin down exactly what an ARGor transmedia story – is, and the debate carries on. Basically, these are interactive tales (the characters communicate with the audience) across several different media – often, for many stories, anchored on the Internet.

One main difference between writing ARGs and writing traditional projects is that ARGs aren’t solitary endeavors. Yes, we could argue that no successful writing is a solitary endeavor – you need critique groups, editors, publishers, artists, and performers and crew (if it’s a script) to get your novel, short story, or play to the public.

Alternate reality games also require a team of people. In my group we have writers, editors, puzzle crafters, performers and crew, and a number of other positions (filled by only a handful of people who spread their skills out among several jobs). What’s the difference, then? It’s the order of things, really.

When I write a traditional project, here is the pattern I generally follow. Please note that not every writer works the same way:

  1. Generate idea
  2. Write a page or two to “feel” it out
  3. Outline a rough plot
  4. Discuss the plot with another writer
  5. Revise the plot
  6. Write some of the project
  7. Share early draft with critique partner(s)
  8. Revise and write more
  9. Rinse, repeat until finished
  10. Write query letters
  11. Send manuscript out
  12. Wait
  13. Sign contract (if accepted)
  14. Receive revision notes from editor
  15. Make revisions

At this point, depending on the project and the publisher, it may be generally out of my hands, or there may be a few other steps. Everything in red I do alone.

Here’s how I work on an ARG. Again, please note that not every writer works the same way:

  1. Generate idea
  2. Outline a rough plot
  3. Discuss plot with creative team
  4. Work with team to assign visual elements, puzzle elements, interactive elements
  5. Work with team to develop most of later plot
  6. Compile entire outline into sharable document
  7. Develop necessary game elements (video, physical items, websites) with team
  8. Write any early scripts that can be created ahead of time
  9. Share scripts with team
  10. Revise
  11. Agonize over many things, including lack of sleep
  12. Launch game
  13. Meet regularly with team to make necessary adjustments along the way
  14. Write in character to players, first clearing any important messages with team
  15. Rinse, repeat until end

There’s a lot less red here. Creating an ARG is a team effort from beginning to end, and that includes the time while the audience is experiencing the story. Creating a traditional project such as a novel, while team input is necessary, is different. For a novel, there is a single writer who often gets all the credit because he or she did the bulk of the work. And, once the project is out to the public, the writer can stop writing.

With an ARG, I have been the lead writer on some projects, but that doesn’t mean I did the bulk of the work. The entire group did, and we were all working the entire time on generating a story together, even after the audience got their hands on it. It’s exhausting and confusing and awesome all at once.  🙂

There are many other interesting differences between traditional projects and ARGs, but I’ll leave those for another post.

Do you think of your favorite writers as members of teams? If you’re a writer, what is your creative pattern?

Organized? HA!

I’m actually not a very organized person at heart. If you take a look around my messy room or office at the books and files I have “strategically placed” in utterly nonsensical locations, you’ll know that’s true. It’s a fact of my personality that I can’t change, and because of this I have to compensate.

At any given time, in addition to my other responsibilities, I’m also juggling several writing projects and school (PhD program and an MFA program). This can lead to some definite confusion when it comes to deadlines if I’m not careful. So I’m ultra careful!

I rely on quite a few programs to keep me in line. They probably seem excessive, but you have to know the totally disorganized me to understand why I need such constant support.

In a way I’m like a cyborg – hooked up to all kinds of computer software, kept alive only by the grace of the Internet.  🙂  Awesome.

First, I keep a Word document that lists personal To Do items for each day, broken down into simple categories. I (roughly) plan this ahead for each month, and I update it every day. It’s nothing fancy; a typical day looks something like this:

Wednesday, August 11:
SCHOOL
Read (insert book title and chapter here)
Read (insert other book title and chapter here)
Critique

FUNNEL
(insert list of Funnel to dos)

BLOG
Write about organization

WRITING
Android play, scene 3
Dystopian novel, chapter 20 outline
Submit (insert short story title) for publication

MISC
Exercise
Clean

Not everything gets done, and that’s okay. It feels nice to delete items as I go, and it gives me an idea each morning of what my time looks like for the rest of the day. I’m also pretty forgiving when things need to change.  🙂  Because many of these are personal deadlines, I remind myself that they are, for the most part, flexible.

I keep folders on my desktop that are clearly labeled for each project I’m working on, and I maintain backups of those.

My online calendar reminds me of important dates along the way. It sends daily email reminders about my appointments, and it text messages my phone an hour before each event or deadline.

To track where I have submitted work and when, I keep an Excel spreadsheet.

Like most other writers, I imagine, I also use Word docs for my works in progress – well, most of them. For plays I use Scrivener. It has a bit of a learning curve, but this program has been very useful to me for drafting scenes.

So, there you have it. There are actually a few other little things I use (example: the WordPress publishing scheduler), but the ones I listed here are definitely the biggest help. Excessive? Probably. In fact, many people see what a tight shop I run on my own schedule, and they assume I’m a very organized person. Ha. Hahahahahahahahahaha. *wipes away tears of laughter* These programs are quite organized; I’m only the lesser, human component that the software struggles to keep in line.  🙂

What about you? Do you count on The Great Computer to keep your day running smoothly, or are you naturally organized?