Tag Archives: writing a novel

I want my cards back!

How many people are like me, old enough to have used the card system for writing extensive papers in high school and college? I used to have stacks of cards for any paper longer than two pages. One set was for the resources. I would label each one with the correct MLA/AMA form and number it. As I took notes, I would label another set with the resource number, the topic of those notes, and the order of the cards with the specific notes. When it came time to write, I put all the cards with notes into order by topic, and was thus able to see whether I had support from several resources on a topic (and could thus claim it was common domain) or whether I needed to credit the information to a resource or two. I could re-order the cards so that the information would flow as I wrote. Sometimes I’d write the whole thing out by hand, and only then type it up … on a typewriter!

As much as I love my laptop and word processing, I wonder how many writers are still writing their manuscripts by hand. My little book is really just a long story that is going to be a bit thick in print because it will have illustrations and an extensive glossary. But even so, I couldn’t keep track of what I’d said in one part and how it flowed to the next. I have been wishing for the card system. In fact, if I ever write another book (no, Cindy, definitely not happening soon!), I want to come up with a card system to keep track of the chapters or themes or something. What I had to do the other day was print most of it out, lay it all over my floor, cut it into sections, then crawl among the pieces, labeling what they were before crossing pieces out and cutting even more apart to move them into new places. I compared them to the 40 or so sticky notes that I had with comments on them for changes or improvements, scribbled on the pages whatever I’d forgotten, taped them together in a new order, and went back to the computer in despair that I could ever fix it.

I still have twelve sticky notes next to me as I write. Some are reminders to go back to the real story and read up on what truly happened with the artists, and some are notes I couldn’t make sense of while crawling around on the floor. But hurrah! My kind, surely exhausted, editor reread and said that I made it flow. Her words: “I read it in one breath.” Well, “Я прочитала на одном дыхании,” to be exact.

I’m so relieved. I was thinking it was going to be another couple months just tweaking the writing. And it may. But I feel a lot better. Authors out there: what systems exist for writing efficiently that don’t involve printing out entire manuscripts?

First Friday with Karen’s Novel Unit

I’m still not back up to full speed, and I’ll once again offer the excuse that the Internet in my room hasn’t been working. Turns out that someone stole the wireless connector off the wall over the summer!! Now maybe it will get fixed…

In the meantime, we had another amazing Anchorage CI meeting on Friday with Karen C. She shared how her classes write novels over a time period anywhere from three to six weeks. Karen is a former teacher of creative writing, and she knows how to make these stories and novels manageable.

I have to report a eureka moment from over the weekend sometime. I’d been a bit bothered by the output that any writing assignment must feature. Karen does not spend entire periods writing; she puts in the time at the beginning supporting kids who are nervous about it, but expects them to do a lot of work on their own. She says that Scott Benedict’s numbered word pages saved her (more on that later if people don’t know, maybe when I don’t have two periods’ worth of papers to grade), but her own clear structure also is phenomenal.

Still, what about all that output? It took a demo by Karen to make me understand that she fills the kids with overflowing output as they plan their first character. She isn’t handing them lists of cognates or instructions and expecting them to write. She gives them so many ideas that they’re actually ready to write, as I was myself after watching her talk through the initial stages of a “writing” assignment. I honestly felt that I could write a story in Spanish. I think that would be the same for kids! Now that we’ve done a lot of interviews with the beginners in Russian, I think that it would just be another novel (hah!) way of getting more CI as we develop a character together.

I’m still chewing on last weekend’s state conference, trying to digest what I’ve learned. Some of us have been having a talk about the “old” CI concept and the “new” task-based idea. Personally, I would think that these stories and novels that Karen does would be a great example of how CI and task-based instruction work together. I may be way off-base about that, but someone out in the blogosphere probably knows.

Ding! Ten minutes are up, and it’s time to grade papers.