Cleolinda Jones (cleolinda) wrote,
Cleolinda Jones

A couple of things

So, here are the other things I wanted to mention:

First of all, a bit of an update from yesterday's discussion of data backup: I actually have my most important files--documents--backed up in four or five places, including email, a couple of personal sites, and a couple of storage services. (I don't want to say which ones, in a weird fit of privacy.) My concern is more that I can't back up everything online. The Resurrectionist just kept saying over and over, "You have SO MANY FILES." Probably one or two million images, honestly. A lot of them are screencaps, which--if you own the DVD, you can get them again. Let 'em go. But a lot of stuff came from GeoCities sites, which, as you know, don't exist anymore. A lot of it is costume/location research, dozens of Victorian-era paintings, vintage photographs, images of Victorian clothing and jewelry that have now been sold and so aren't online anymore, screencaps from the better-researched costume movies, hundreds of photographs of locations, the graphics I made for my old websites, icons I made, the images I used to make those icons--okay, you know Tumblr? Imagine if Tumblr lived on my computer. That was what my computer was like. And I had research for more than one era, because I also had a one-off novel set in 1790 that I wanted to write, as well as a couple of other things in different periods. And those are just the images--that doesn't include the e-books and period-contemporary documents I had saved. I don't even know where to begin backing all that up in the "data cloud" online. Zip files, I guess? Forty-eight GB of zip files? You see why I pulled the crucial Word documents, backed all of them up, and took a chance on everything else.

Also, a lot of it was music. I'm going to pull a few rare/live tracks that I can't replace (witness my flailing on Twitter that I am TRYING TO BE A LAW-ABIDING CITIZEN but NO ONE will SELL ME things, WHY IS THIS) and back them up, but I really don't know that I can back up 2000 mp3s, you know?

So an external drive was very attractive. But, realistically, you can't trust any one backup, I don't think. I know it sounds crazy, but what if some megahacker decides to go after Google and its services? More probably, what if a particular site goes out of business? You've got to have a redundancy of backups, both on- and offline, and whatever you don't backup thoroughly, you're going to have to write off as expendable, I guess.

And part of my problem right now is that, in my zeal to make sure I had backed everything up, I have a number of zip files with unintentionally redundant files. Like, copies of the same folder nested within other folders. You know? So last night, I sat down with my Black Ribbon backups and went through all the files and consolidated everything. (Windows 7 makes this a lot easier than XP; it'll actually tell you the dates and file sizes of the two files, rather than make you go back and look, and let you choose whether to replace or auto-rename. You know, as opposed to XP simply asking you, "Replace this, Y/N?" So it actually didn't take that long.) I still have to go back and reread all my notes/documents and mentally catch up on everything--there are a few minor characters I'm dropping, combining, or changing, for example; others, I've forgotten what the hell I had them for. Other-others, I've thought of new things for them to do. So. I have to reread all my documents and work up a game plan of who's doing what. I wish I could tell you why, but--there's a reason for all these people, because something happens midway through that changes their place in Rose's life and how they relate to her, and you need to see that. Anyway. I have homework to do, is what I'm saying.

Second of all: the glass of water thing. I wanted to address this comment, because it both misses the point and is absolutely correct:

I've read through the comments, and I'm afraid to say I'm a loner in Critical Land. I, myself, don't see the necessity of this over analyzing. You're essentially saying, "living beings generally are doing something with someone or something". I knew that.

I suppose this metaphor can be helpful to new writers who don't understand what a plot is, but when completely calculated, where does the humanity in a story go? I would never say this sort of metaphor shouldn't be used at all (naturally, if people find it helpful), but should probably keep in mind Robert G. Ingersoll's own metaphor, "The beautiful in nature acts through appreciation and sympathy. It does not browbeat, neither does it humiliate. It is beautiful without regard to you."

The last thing you want to do, when you begin writing something, is view it in the cold, cynical terms of ciphers and objects. "You should be writing from your heart" is an exceedingly smurfy way to put it, but you see what I'm getting at. You need to--well, let me start over. I can't tell you how to write; everyone writes differently. What I do is get interested in the idea of one or two characters (oddly: usually a male character first, and then I get more interested in a female character that relates to him) and start figuring out something for them to do, and then start thinking of other people to do things around them, and then think of some kind of story arc. That is to say, why I'm writing about them. I know I use certain books or movies as examples a lot, but it's because people are more likely to be familiar with them, so--it's the equivalent of, I would think of Harry Potter, I think of him going to school at Hogwarts and being a wizard, I think of his friends and his enemies, I decide that the arc of the series is going to his quest to defeat Voldemort. "Story arc" is a really formal way of saying "the A to B to C of the story I want to tell, and why I want to tell it." And along the way, I start to notice certain themes crop up, and at that point, I start mulling it over, and when I decide that yes, this is an idea that already seems to be running through what I'm writing, maybe I'll work on that theme a bit more and think of ways to bring that out in the story, which itself will suggest new things I can have happen. So I start out playing around, daydreaming, imagining things, coming up with and then discardng ideas--I do this for weeks, sometimes without writing anything down at all. I let my subconscious come out to play. And then, once I've started writing things down, I start thinking in more complex, editorial ways.

Writerly jargon, if it comes up, is mostly going to harsh your flow at this point.

The time to bring in crafty mechanical things is after you've got your freewriting or initial drafting or however-you-do-it done. I'm sitting there looking at what I've drafted, and then I say, "What is my inciting incident?," which is a fancy way of saying, "Where do I start the story, and why do I start it there? When would the reader be most interested to enter the story?" Because they are probably not going to be interested in five (ten, twenty) pages of rambling about the characters and the setting. What is the first interesting thing someone does? You should probably start the story there. The first twenty pages of rambling were useful to you, and you should be glad you wrote them, because it helped flesh out a lot of things in your mind. They are probably not useful to the reader, and if there's information there they need to know, you can work it in later. I'm not saying this is an absolute; I'm just saying, as both a reader myself and someone who's critiqued other writers' works in a number of workshops, it often works better. And the great thing about the digital age is that you can save your draft as a separate document, try something out, see if it works, and if it doesn't, discard the experimental document and go on your merry way. I can't tell you how many times I've written a scene three or four different ways and then gone with, say, version #2--and then, weeks later, decided I liked #4 instead. With computers, you can do this, and you can do it easily.

(And now you know why I have so many documents to back up.)

So my point about the Glass of Water thing is that you do not need to start with it. It's an exercise you apply if you need it--if you get stuck or lost or blocked. It can help you view your characters and your story in a new, simpler way. I got stuck when I realized that my villain was doing things because I needed him to do them (reveal his plans, let characters live, conveniently ignore opportunities to screw them over), not because they were actually in his own best interest at all. So I sat down and asked myself what his glass of water was, and revised his actions to be in line with what he actually wanted. So I'm not telling you to start off your story with the equation of "living beings generally are doing something with someone or something"; I'm saying, if you get lost in the wild-and-woolly initial draft, the glass of water version can be like an X-ray into the structure. And then, once you've located the bones, you turn that X-ray off and get back to the flesh and the humanity of the story.

Which I didn't make clear at all, by the way. Hopefully, people understood that; I had a number of commenters to say that, as an exercise, the glass of water thing had helped them get unstuck in something they were writing, which is how it ought to work.

Well, hell. I've gone on so long that I'll have to save the other thing for Monday. Which is probably for the best, so more people will see it.

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Tags: black ribbon, computer: lizzie, computers, writing

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