Thursday, July 14, 2011

At a Colorful Crossroads

Originally published at Absentminded Author, v1.

I've spent the better part of today working on my novel's storyboard. I have to admit that I am bored senseless rewriting my story on tiny little index cards and sticking them up on a wall.

I've been aware for a few weeks that the tedious nature of this process was sapping my enthusiasm, yet I pushed on mainly because I don't like to allow boredom to rob me of happiness. That, and I'm stubborn. Truthfully, though, I haven't worked as regularly on my story as I had planned. My 16 year old was off being a nanny for somebody else and summer with a 12 year old and a 9 year old usually meant I was quite busy. I also started wondering if there was a better way to storyboard.

Today I determined to finish chapter six ― The Chapter That Refused To Die ― and make a final decision. Either I was going to finish the storyboard and make it work, or I was going to decide I was wasting my time.

After a few interrupted hours, something came to me. I realized I didn't need a visual overview of the story. I just needed a quick way to mark up the text to determine where descriptions, dialogue, or action were distracting the reader from the plot. A little bit of research later showed me that Scrivener, the app I already use to compile my story on my Mac, could highlight text in the colors I wanted, do it quickly, and let me edit the story as I went along. However, there was no app that could do all that on the iPad, my chosen writing platform.

If I output the manuscript as an ePub file, I could highlight and annotate in iBooks on my iPad, and edit text on my iPhone. So there was a portable option, but it was less than ideal. With two viable solutions, I forced myself to finish chapter six' index cards (because it was personal), and decided to ponder my options.

In the end, all this storyboarding was in essence rewriting the story on index cards when I could have been directly working on the second draft instead. I'm a visual person so the color cards worked well to help me rethink the story, but they were discouraging me from pressing on because the process wasn't any fun. It was such tiresome work that my brain would leap out of my ears for self-preservation. I don't regret my time spent doing this because the story needed the work, but I do wish I had thought of a better way earlier. I would have spent less time chasing after my own mind.

In the meantime, I've come up with some great ideas to fix the story. All I need is to highlight the text according to my color scheme. Then I can see when certain passages are slowing down the story. Is there too much description? Too much character developing dialogue that doesn't push the story along? Too many alternating slow description blocks with action blocks interrupting the flow? Not enough concrete details, etc? The first six chapters of my story were a mess anyway, so now I can see what needs tweaking. The rest of the book should be a lot easier to correct with the new method – especially if I can manage to not lose my mind.