William H. Johnson

Archive for August, 2011|Monthly archive page

Three Way-Cool Things About Transcribing a Handwritten Draft

In Reflection, The Trubaker Orphanage, writing tips on August 29, 2011 at 11:28 am

What did I just spend 6 months doing? I have a couple notebooks full of writing in pencil. I have colorful tabs to organize and point the way to chapters and parts of chapters that I wrote months ago. I have a summary/outline that changed a couple of times along the way. Now what?

Transcribe, scribe! Onto the computer I go. Most of you probably know by now that I write longhand in pencil. I seem unwilling to go high, mid, or low tech with the writing of my first drafts. One might think that transcription is a royal pain. Why type 80,000 words right after you wrote them? Isn’t it doing double work?

Nonsense! It’s actually a pretty cool process. Here are three reasons why:

1)   It’s like a mini-vacation. Yes, I did say vacation. Where’s the special destination? Your story! The reason I call it a vacation is because you get to “tour” your hard work with no pressure at all. You don’t need to change a thing. I actually recommend that you leave most of what you wrote by hand as it was. This isn’t the time to dive into revisions. This is the time to get acquainted with your accomplishment. Some of this you haven’t seen for months, reintroduce yourself.

2)   It gets you prepared for some serious revising and rewriting. Sometimes I call transcription a “half pass” meaning, yes—I do correct little things, a sentence here or there, add a sentence that I don’t have to think about. But if I have to wonder for more than a nanosecond I leave it alone. When I have questions or things I want to explore changing, I write them on a separate piece of paper and save it. When it comes time to do that first major rewrite I have not only familiarity with the piece as a whole but direction. I feel like I did my homework and I can proceed with confidence.

3)   It gets you pumped up! Dude, dudette, you just finished a novel! That’s what I’m talking about!! Get pumped, celebrate. Enjoy those moments when your fingers fly because you put together an inspired scene that came out how you wanted! (They didn’t all come out that way, but there will be some. Enjoy them!)

I am about halfway through transcribing THE TRUBAKER ORPHANAGE. Another few weeks and I should be done with this step. Do you write longhand and transcribe? Share your stories!

What I Learned from Finishing My Second Novel

In Reflection, The Trubaker Orphanage on August 5, 2011 at 11:31 am

This past Monday at 3am Pacific Standard Time, I completed the draft of my second novel, currently titled THE TRUBAKER ORPHANAGE.

The roughly 80K draft was written in exactly five months, longhand in a pair of notebooks. Upon finishing I have the same feeling that I did when I finished the Dark Province draft—I feel good…but…I’m motivated to keep working.

The next step for me is transcribing the work onto a computer, which I am about 10,000 words into at this time.

Things that were similar to the process of writing THE DARK PROVINCE:

  • Again I went with the plotter method. I wrote a nine-page summary before starting the draft process.
  • The story is told in the voice of the primary storyteller who is also the main character, Carlton Trubaker.
  • I was inspired by themes close to me. For TDP it was religion/faith and sex in culture. With TRUBAKER, it’s about family…what makes a family and how all children—all people—desire to feel a part of something.

Things that were different from the process of writing THE DARK PROVINCE:

  • I drew great inspiration from actual places. The small desert down in which the story is set is modeled after the city of Beaumont in Riverside County, California. I have made several trips out to Beaumont for inspiration including an overnight trip years ago when I was developing the story. (Couldn’t exactly visit the Dark Province…that might have put a bit of a strain on my marriage.)
  • The love story was front and center. The romance element of THE DARK PROVINCE is significant but not the primary engine for the story’s action. TRUBAKER is a gutsy love story about two childhood friends above all else. It made the journey of writing feel more like an exploration of love and partnership than a quest for salvation as it was in TDP.
  • American social issues came into play such as racial tension and at-risk kids in the foster system. This required a different kind of reflection and research to write.

What I learned from writing this draft:

  • I am partial to a strong narrative voice coming from the main character. I like to tell stories from the perspective of someone who experienced the story they are telling. I began this draft in third person intimate. About halfway through the story I switched to first person and it rolled from there.
  • Once again, a plotter never has to be subservient to their summary. My summary changed for the better both times I used this method.
  • When you’re working on a piece and your soul says change course and write this other piece and you have a clear vision of the story beginning middle and end, listen to that voice! I took a break from the DARK PROVINCE SEQUEL to write this on March 1. Five months later I have a new draft in my hand. Now that this story is on paper, I will soon be back underway with the DP sequel.