A Useful Way to Organize and Disorganize your Story
This technique, an off-shoot of the William Borroughs cut-and-paste technique, has more benefits than you might realize.
When I was a young journalist in Latin America I was blessed and cursed with writing front page news for the city’s local English-language newspaper. I was blessed because it meant lots of people were reading my work. I remember seeing a pretty girl reading one of my articles while eating lime and chilis in a cafe in the local zocalo and I was thrilled but also scared. This meant I was under the microscope and I knew my organization was suspect at best and a total fucking shambles at worst. Yeah, I had the power to describe and I got the who what where when how (and sometimes why) but a little voice in the back of my head told me that there was more to be done.
The Note Card System
To better organize my thoughts I started using the note card system. I wrote the basic points of my article down, usually 20-25 points on cards. Then I carried them around with me all day. Idieally you’d like to do this before writing the article but that’s not me. I’d first write a very unedited, messy draft and then write the cards. While carrying them arround all day, I’d shuffle them and re-read them and find mini-groups and natural orders. In the beginning the cards were very malleable. They could be re-arranged, added to, subtracted from, etc. After carrying them and digesting them better, the order and groupings became firmer. There were sub-groups now that didn’t want to be broken up. Before I knew it, the natural order of the article had taken shape. All I had to do from here was make the first draft conform to the cards.
When I started writing erotic fiction I used outlines. I found I went from being a wild poet to being too formulaic. The cards came back, but this time it was not to organize but to add realism and drama. Sometimes I cannot decide what a character is going to do or how s/he will respond to a certain situation. I have many possible scenarios in my head. Now I write them down and try to write diametrically opposite situations on the back. So in my love triangle with Jynx and Jenny I simply wrote “Jynx gets MJ” on one side and “Jenny gets MJ” on the other side. Then I shuffle the cards and toss them into the air to let them fall as they may. I pick them up in order and write the result in the way they’ve fallen. This leads to some unexpected results, new connections I may have never seen, and some awesome drama.
My books and characters have definitely been rewarded by this ticker tape technique. I suggest trying it if you haven’t already used it.