We’ve all got our own way of doing things — a little idiosyncrasy when it comes to putting that story, whether long or short, on the page. There are the planners who meticulously account for every scene and every nuance before even putting pen to page. And on the other side of the coin, there’s the chaos merchants, who take the character or the situation and just run with it. Usually I fall somewhere in the middle, using that first, seductive scene to lily-pad my way across the pond from beginning to end, with just a few key scenes in mind, and almost always the final scene, drawing me on. But lately, and maybe it’s a comment about my frame of my mind, I’ve been using what I call the adobe method (nothing to do with a certain software firm, rest assured), so named (however inaccurately) because it amounts to throwing mud at a wall and seeing what sticks.
While it sure is fun mixing the stuff and flinging it willy nilly, the end result is far from pretty. There’s a lot of wastage, and it can be hard to get it out from under the nails. It amounts to taking a character or two, and just letting them run with it: a mud fight of scenes and characters, often contradictory, some even overlaying previous scenes like a big stack of pancakes with different toppings. Somewhere in there, I hope a story starts to emerge. That some connections might emerge that suggest there’s actually some kind of structure in there.
I’ve found a handy tool to help with this process, whether an 8000 word short story made up of vignettes or what will eventually be a novel. Simon Haynes as kindly made his yWriter free on his website, and while I’m using about a tenth of its features, it sure is an easy way of keeping track of the swirling scenes. Being able to drag and drop scenes is so much easier than cutting and pasting inside a Word file, and being able to see them all on the one screen helps the patterns emerge — much easier than my former method of keeping a spreadsheet. There’s an automatic word count, as well. And once the order is in place, one click exports the piece as an rtf with scene breaks in place — neat. For the adobe story builder, it’s a damn fine fit.