Friday, February 06, 2009

Friday Forays In Fiction: Cleaning Up Messes

I have had a very productive week in regards to my fiction work. No scene writing yet but I've begun to tackle the huge mess in my files--especially in the five NaNo novel's files. I haven't gotten to them all yet of course but I've made huge inroads on the last two--2008's Mobile Hopes and 2007's Spring Fever. Also on the Fruits of the Spirit Worksheets and Faye's and Crystal's stories from that story world.

What I set out to do this week was to organize the WhizFolder topics for Faye's and Crystal's stories and that of Spring Fever on the pattern I developed for Mobile Hopes during NaNo this past November. Mobile Hopes was the first novel I began work on in WhizFolder Pro. All previous NaNo novels had begun in the free version, WhizNotes. Stories previous to that had begun in various word processors and their text moved into WhizNote files after I was introduced to it in 2004.

It was a year ago this week that I acquired the upgrade to WhizFolder Organizer Pro. Although I converted all the WhizNote files to the new WhizFolder within a couple weeks of that I did not work with any but Crystal's story which didn't even have its own separate file since she began as a peripheral character in Faye's story--one of the characters I think of as Faye's Strays. Now her story has grown so big, I'm seriously thinking of moving it into its own WhizFolder.

In the screenshot at the top of this post you can see two of the WhizFolders. One is atop the other. Mobile Hopes's window is seen entire with it's topic list to the left and one topic window open to the right. The topic list is nested and most of the 'nests' are closed so that only the most senior parent topic is visible. Peeking out to the left of that you see the topic list for Spring Fever which was/is one of the messiest of all the story files. WhizNote did not allow for nesting the topic list nor for color coding the topic names so when I first opened Spring Fever this week it was one very long list of some 250 topics. I've added nearly another hundred this week!

Of course, the majority of the topics are not scene work but rather research. And some of that research has gotten so involved that I think I need to move it out into separate WhizFolders. After all much of it will be useful for other projects. Below you can see where I've opened the section for Tarot and the topic window shows the topic for the FOOL card with a thumbnail image of the Rider-Waite Fool card. There is a topic for every card in the Rider-Waite deck and I'm well on the way to doing the same for three other decks. The reason I need all the info for four decks at hand is that each of four characters is associated with a different deck.

Tarot is a major theme of this novel. Its 22 chapters are each themed with a different Major Arcana card. Time is also a huge theme in the story and all the things culture attaches to the concept of time--seasons, calendars, planets, constellations, clocks, birthdays and anniversaries, schedules and so forth. One character, Graham, is a professor who teaches Dante's works in Italian to Grad Students. The music and stage choreography and costuming for Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring are importat to the story. Three characters are drummers--three different drumming traditions--Amer Indian; Symphonic Percussion; Modern Rock and Jazz. Because each major character is from a mixed ethnic and religious background, comparative religion, mythology, and ethnic traditions--rituals, clothing, food, etc.

You begin to get the picture as to why I've been so shy of opening this file since early last year.. It was daunting. I knew what a mess I had made of it as I tried to collect research info and write scenes at a NaNo pace in 2007.

Below is a screenshot of WhizNote with the FOS Worksheet topic list showing in the center and topic windows from one of my stories on the right and one with a list of jump links to the other stories appearing on the left. WhizNote had its own desktop that could grow horizontally and vertically as long as you were willing to use the scroll bars to get back to the topic you were working on. I kind of liked that feature and it is the only one eliminated by the upgrade that I miss.

The screenshot below shows the work I did today to organize the WhizFolders for FOS Worksheets and the FOS novel, The Substance of Things Hoped For, aka Faye's story. The topic window on the right shows the spreadsheet that maps the scenes of Crystal's story, Home Is Where the Horror Is.

The last screenshot shows the FOS Worksheet with the Timeline and Roster lists open. Both are barely begun. I don't try to make them comprehensive only record the relevant info as I discover it while working with the stories. The roster would probably be a couple hundred strong if every minor character is included. The timeline will eventually cover WW I to the present and probably beyond.

I learned the necessity of keeping track of these things in a central location after writing a scene in which one character made a comment about another character that implied that she had known him in school but when I worked out their age difference it was greater than seven so unless there were unusual circumstances or their acquaintance originated off school campus that comment could not stand and yet I needed it to in some form.

Topic names in the list can be moved up and down the list to where you want them. One major wish I have for future upgrades for WhizFolder is the ability to automatically sort a section of a topic list by alphabetical, time or number sequences. Like a database. But since it is not using database technology I don't know how that could work.

I'm hoping I'll be inspired to write actuall fiction scenes soon. But I'm not holding my breath. While I'm here helping out with my Mom, I can't count on enough of that quality quiet time without threat of interruption that I crave for story writing--for getting lost in the story dream. But I am learning to make use of odd spaces of time as well as odd nooks and crannies of Mom's house to get small to medium tasks done or at least begun. These organizing tasks are easy to fit into such odd moments that can't be planned for. They can be interrupted without too much damage to them and picked up again without too much fluster.

For more on Whiz and what it can do see this post I did shortly after the upgrade last February. I'm sure I included a link to the WhizFolder site in it somewhere.

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