Have Laptop, Will Write

Yesterday, thanks to a happy accident with my work schedule, I got a whole chapter written on my current novel, and put in some editing besides.  Today I squeezed in some more writing time while waiting for new tires to be put on my car.

Now, some of what I wrote was pretty doggy.  But you know what?  That’s okay, because I can easily go back and revise it later:  I have on hand a handy device called a laptop computer.

That shouldn’t have been such a revelation to anyone with two brain cells to rub together.  But failing to realize the full utility of my computer– desktop or laptop– as a novel-writing tool once led to long periods of delay in writing this book.

I first got the idea for this novel back in 2005 or ’06 or so.  I began it seriously in 2009, spurred by a fiction writing course I took at the time.  But I got hung up because there was so much I didn’t know in the way of facts, figures, and procedures.  The action begins with my heroine considering buying a piece of land for a certain purpose.  Oh, gosh, how many acres should it be?  What should it cost?  How big should important features on it be, to accomplish what they needed to in the plot? Oh, oh, oh, so much I didn’t know!  So much I didn’t have the time or money or contacts to research!  Though my head was bursting with ideas, I felt I couldn’t write anything until I knew all the facts, every last one, and could put them down in their proper places, in order.

But why let this stop me from writing?  I have a computer, with a very nice word processing program.  So I’m not sure how big the plot of ground should be?  Throw in a number! What if I find out later it’s too big?  Or too small?  No matter, hit “Find and Replace” and deal with it then!  Or maybe what I’ve produced today is crap on wheels.  I can let it sit there for the time being as a placeholder.  Later when my ideas and my words are keeping time together I can go back and clear away the crap and substitute something better.  For now, the stuff that isn’t so good can lead me into the scenes I have thought through and can get excited about.

It helps that I know exactly where this novel I’m writing is going.  When my job gets boring I entertain myself composing episodes all along its timeline, whatever strikes me at the time.  So when I do get a few minutes or an hour to write, I can insert these ideas wherever they need to occur, with no need to proceed consecutively.

Not that I dump chunks of dialog or action into my manuscript arbitrarily.  No, I’ve found I can keep a nice little running list (in redline so I don’t overlook it), of scenes and episodes the book will need, right there in the main document.  When it’s time to flesh them out, in goes the draft text, out goes the sketch note, and that’s one more thing done.

I realize that if I were working to a deadline, it might make a difference.  “Oh, gosh, I don’t have time to go back and revise!  I have to find the Exact Right Word/Phrase/Bit of Knowledge the first time!”  But that’s silly.  You always have to edit and revise.  And how can a deadline be met if the drive for instant perfection only ends in paralysis?  No, for me at least, the Delete key is an instrument of liberation, and Cut and Paste means productivity.

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