The Under Ground Writing Project

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Notes from Under Ground Post New Entry

Condensing and Consolidating

Posted by John Ridge on August 17, 2012 at 11:20 AM

It happens to all of us.

You're sitting in a place with no access to your writing materials, and the most brilliant thought ever arrives into your stream of consciousness. Without thinking, you either write it on your hand, a Post-It note, a drugstore receipt, or anything that will hold ink long enough for you to get it home. This treasured piece gets thrown in a pile along with the other scraps of detritus tattooed with your other brilliant thoughts. This pile sits next to the little notebook you bought specifically for writing down brilliant thoughts, but you forgot about in your haste to get to work.

You say, "I'll get to you in a minute," and then you sit at the computer, to sort out the mess you've made of your WikidPad file. The links you created aren't jumping to the file you want it to, the tree isn't looking right, or it's cluttered and inefficient, and that's a problem. No matter how many times you re-read the instructions, it just doesn't look the same as Wikipedia. Forget about adding pictures.

After twenty minutes of this, you cross-reference the Wikidpad file with the Word and Excel files you created before you ever heard of WikidPad. You realize that there are now three brilliant-but-contradictory stories regarding something that happened in your protagonist's childhood. They're all so brilliant you just can't bear to kill any of them, and you spend the next ten minutes seriously considering the possibility of breaking your protagonist apart into a set triplets instead of just one person.

Once all that is settled, and you've checked your usual websites for baby names, you now have your Triplet-Protagonists all named and their particular pieces of the original arc divided equally among them. That's when you look at the note you wrote earlier in the day, and realized that the brilliant idea can't work unless the antagonist's perspective is articulated far more completely. Your brilliant mind realizes that this scenario includes a potential use for one of the previous stories given to one of the newly made triplets. Specifically the one named "Grover," which is the one name you weren't sold on in the first place, but his brothers are already named "Grant" and "Greg," therefore it would look really weird if you named him "Wally."

So you brilliantly kill off "Grover" in the first hour of his imaginary life. This makes you feel a little strange, and something nags at you, so you look at the stack of critiques from the previous draft and the one most common criticism was that "you tried too hard to be brilliant all the time, and you overuse the word 'brilliant'." You trust everyone, especially when they all come to the same conclusion by themselves. They are also a bunch of bri...geniuses.

Your cursory thesaurus check doesn't give you the anticipated synonyms for "brilliant," which makes your eyes tired, so you rub them profusely like the tortured artist you are. Then you look around at the stack of handwritten notes, partially filled-out notebooks, stacks of critiqued drafts, mentally inventory the files on your desktop that are older than the ones on your laptop, remember that some things are written in that cool sticky notes thing in Windows 7, remind yourself about the two apps on your phone that contain notes which you only use when you remember they exist, and run through the stuff in your brain you wanted to do, but have yet to put down into words, and then, only then, you finally admit to yourself:

"Maybe I should condense some of this stuff. At some point there's writing to be done."

It happens to all of us. But it happens to me no longer. Today, everything's on hardcopy, three-hole punched, and tucked inside a three-ring binder. Makes me feel effulgent, or even astute.

Now, quit reading this and go write something.

Categories: Writing Process, Patterns, Lists

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1 Comment

Reply Jenny Maloney
11:47 AM on August 17, 2012 

A list of things that I've done out of this post:
1. Baby names
2. Thesaurus
3. Brilliance
4. Post-Its and Drug store receipts
5. Three ring binder

Things I haven't done:
1. Wikipad
2. Triplets

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