Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The brain-dump box

It's a long way until November and NaNoWriMo but I'm trying to prepare. Last year was my first-ever attempt, and although I technically "won" I have nothing really to show for it. My first draft is spread across thirty files on my hard drive -- one per day -- and backed up in my web mail, home computer, and various other media. If I work up the courage to actually read the whole thing through and edit it, I've no shortage of places to do this. Sadly, the place I really want to edit is on paper with a fountain pen full of bright red ink, but I'm too cheap/green to print the whole thing out, as I know that it contains notes like this whole area needs a rewrite and what happened here? jumping to next chapter. Despite my best efforts to lock up the Inner Editor, it still managed to squeak out, and now that we're safely between Novembers, the Editor is far to critical to allow me the luxury of printing out the entire tome. So there it sits, buried in My Documents, gathering virtual dust.

Part of the problem of the story is that I really decided on the plot about twelve hours before I started writing, while passing out Halloween treats to the local kids. My plotting, then, was done on 3x5 cards stacked on the end table next to the bowl full of Dum-Dums. I had lots of ideas, but didn't have a framework to hang them from and didn't have time to work that out with the steady drumbeat of my 1667 daily word quota. Threads unraveled, characters nattered, schemes unwound. I pledged that 2008 would be different, and threw my hat into the ring of crazies otherwise known as The Typewriter Brigade. I've met my obligations by acquiring a dedicated Writing Machine (or three, ahem) joining the groups, reading the blogs, and learning the joys of using a classic typer. The problem, however, is that the reason I have these machine(s) is still over half a year away, and I want to use them now. Hence the NaNoWriMo Brain Dump Box.

You'll need:
  1. Ample supply of 3x5 cards
  2. Box to hold cards
  3. Typewriter on hand
Insert card into typewriter. Think of brilliant story idea/plot point/character. Type said brilliant idea. Toss into box. Repeat. Empty box regularly and sort.

I found a metal 3x5 box with about 250 yellowed cards at the same Goodwill as one of my machines, and thus it has been dubbed the Brain Dump Box. I keep one of the cards fed and at the ready in my desktop Underwood Touchmaster waiting for my fickle Muse to say something brilliant, or at least passably intelligent. Tappa-tappa-tappa goes the information on to the card, and being limited to 3x5, I need to be terse (a personal challenge.) When the idea is done, into the box it goes. Periodically over the next few months I will sift through the box, binder-clip related ideas together, and attempt to piece out a framework for the story. At no point will the story outline be digitized... I want something I can shuffle, mark, fold, spindle and mutilate, and most of all keep away from the Internal Editor and his evil associate, the dreaded Delete Key. Come late October, I should have a stockpile of ideas that I can pull into a story, and actually be able to physically arrange them so.

1 comment:

Strikethru said...

What a great idea. I always think up these ideas at odd moments, vow to write them somewhere, and promptly forget.

Time to fire up a brain dump box.