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Sunday, June 10, 2007

Sunday, reading and musing precedes writing

In Sunday's N.Y. Times there is an amusing article, Get with the Program, on the software that novelists use to keep track of labyrinthine plots and dozens of interrelated characters.

I personally think this is unfair. How many times have I had to back-page to reconnect a name or a place in a long novel? How badly does that deflate the experience of burying myself in a good book? It's not just my encroaching OBS (Old Biddy's Syndrome) it's the complexity factor in today's "triple decker" fiction. But I still love it and read it voraciously.

Software strategies supposedly replace the fabled corkboard & index card method that post notepad/pre-computer novelists used, pushpinned strings diagramming plots and character development to weave a tangled web. I too hark back to the typewriter days, where you'd type an entire page over to get one sentence right and by the time I finished a 2000 word article, the whole desk, heck, the whole office, and when I lived alone, the whole apartment was an archipelago of paper notes in piles.

I have used outliners forever, and for everything, but their limitation is that they are two-dimensional; I've had to supply the third and fourth dimensions from memory or coincidence. And that's for the non-fiction I mostly write. But like most writers juggling book proposals, I'm toying with fiction, it's dallying with with me, and this article appealed to the software jockey that's bonded to my inner novelist.

I did find out about one amazing piece of software of which I was not previously aware, Microsoft OneNote, a program more commonly used by businesses, which allows you to combine text documents, e-mail, images, spreadsheets and video and audio material into one searchable document. Imagine that!

I love reading and writing about the process of building a piece of writing, structure being everything (other elements being present; character, wit, ambiance, eloquence). So structure can only bind. But without it all else is, if not lost, too hard to bother to find. For an experienced writer, structure occurs in synapses but the article does give at least one stunning example on how neural nets can illuminate, if not the process, the flaws.

And I loved the tag graf:
In the end, these computer programs may offer helpful frameworks, but they can’t substitute for talent and imagination. Nor can they foster what Orhan Pamuk, in an interview with The Paris Review, called an essential tool of the trade: a commitment to being alone in a room. Which perhaps explains the market for another kind of computer program one that puts your Internet connection on a timer so you can actually get some writing done.
Oh, yes, that would be helpful, of course, sure, right. But not on my computer! Er, uh, well, logging off, gotta get writing now, bye bye.

// posted by Ellen @  13:46   //Permalink// 
Ellen says hey
Mainer, New Yawka, Beijinger, Californian, points between. News, views and ballyhoos that piqued my interest and caused me to sigh, cry, chuckle, groan or throw something.


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