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Archive for October, 2010

Weaving plot and subplot

Monday, October 18th, 2010

As many of my regular readers are aware, I’ve been working on a novel for the past few months.  Things are progressing well (over 40,000 words), but I decided today that I wanted to try mapping out my plots and subplots throughout the book.

While it might seem to a reader like a novel falls out of a novelists head in complete form, the truth is that writing a novel that is free from consistencies takes a lot of work.

I performed some Google searches for software that would help me keep track of my plots and subplots, but found only a couple of candidates.  Of those, I found none that did what I’d really like:  keep track of my novel’s time line and show me where the novel’s plot, subplots, and characters meet.

I briefly considered using project management software, since this would allow me to keep track of dependent events.  I’ve had some success with keeping track of the ordering of events that way, but unfortunately my time lines (like all novels) are more fluid than project management software allows for–it’s hard to allow for flashbacks within software designed for work from a start date to an end date.

Finally, I just decided to use a mix of Excel spreadsheets and paper.

However, what I’d really like to see is something like this (credits to xkcd.com):

Movie Timelines

Movie Timelines by XKCD

Is anyone aware of software that can do this?  I’d love to try it out and post my results.

Writing with Distractions

Monday, October 11th, 2010

I decided to challenge my preconceptions these past few weeks and try some experimentation–writing with and without music or the TV playing in the background.

By far, I’m more productive without any noise in the background (beyond the sound of my typing).

My writing goal for each day on my current novel-in-progress is to write around 500 words each day.  I decided to try measuring how much time I spent each night writing, and how many words I was able to generate.

For my first week, I used my normal routine; writing while a movie or some music played in the background.  I found it took around 2-2.5 hours to write my 500 word quota (which would often include trying to get the phrasing right).

For the second week, I tried turning off all distractions.  I found I wrote more (averaging about 750 words) and spent much less time: 1-1.5 hours.  This left me with time to really enjoy a movie, or go to bed to get some more rest.

While I wasn’t exactly surprised that I was more productive with silence, I was a little surprised at the amount of difference–1.5 times more words, in about half the time.

I also found one productivity boost in the third week:  listening to music I find inspiring immediately before I started work.  This boosted my average to around 800 words in the 1-1.5 hour time frame.

It will remain to be seen in the editing stage whether writing more words has made a difference in quality.  Still, I expect it’s not any worse than my work while there are distractions in the background.  Actually, I’d guess I’ll find it’s better since I can keep everything in my mind more easily.

What are your experiences?  Have you seen similar boosts in productivity?  How has it affected your quality?

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