Alex, read your post a few days ago about putting your novel up on the wall. It sounded like a fabulous idea, so I put my novel on the wall, and now I don’t know what to do with it. (Stop laughing!) Really. What do you look for? How do you look at it? Do you read the whole thing? All help much appreciated. Thanks–_________
I guess, think of it like this.
Most of the time the book is just a thought in your head. Sometimes it is a sentence, a page, 200 pages in your computer. But then when you close your file, it becomes the thing in your head again and maybe you even forget what you’ve written.
When you hang it on the wall, it’s right there, what you did. You enter into a longer-term argument, or conversation, with it. You walk by it, you read it, you mark it with a pen, you cross something out, you change your mind. That’s what it is for. It becomes a thing apart from you that you can begin to shape and edit. And you can see, if you have hung it in rows lengthwise, the way it rises and falls a bit like a heartbeat on a monitor, or the edged parts of an earthquake reading. You can see if you’ve forgotten something, you can look for missing scenes.
Most of the way we write now has moved on from being reflective, meditative. Working this way, the noise can go away. You can really think about your book. But also, make it work for you your own way. I’m a very visual person, I need to work like this. I also used to be a poet. You should think about your best ways of working and how it can work for you—after all, when you thought it was a great idea, you had a sense of what it could do—what was that first idea when you thought it was a great idea? Do that, whatever it was you thought of then.
this is a pretty good idea, although i wonder if i would just continuously cross things out over and over again on top of each other, until the corrections are no longer readable.
i think i like having the keyboard to continuously try something new, look at it, delete it, try something else, delete, etc. but i think i’m spoiled by technology. i’m trying to remember how i ever used to keep notebooks of stories when i was a kid, how my fingers never cramped, and how i self-edited right between the pink covers of my spiral notebooks and thought it was totally fine.
but maybe that’s because i was 10 and writing about unicorns.
Even if you cross something out, you stare at it through the line. That’s an argument, as it were. The yes and the no together. One thing to do is to use a notebook, too. To walk around with a notebook and take notes.
But also, yes, it may be easier to write about unicorns.
hmm. you’ve got a point there. “the yes and the no together.” i do hate when i’ve deleted something i potentially might decide to like better later. then there’s a lot of a) clicking on the undo arrow b) looking back to previously saved drafts c) pulling hair out trying to get back that old wording.
i may try this technique of yours after all. there is something to be said about something tangible and real and solid between your fingers to edit DIRECTLY on.
Thank you, Alex for this wonderful reminder. =) Now, if I can just find a space on my walls…I may have to rent a room.
Brandy: What also works well is, for those who can’t do this, to go to a library or classroom (or library classroom) and use a long table. Annie Dillard taught me to do this, and she used to use the table or the floor when she couldn’t use walls.
I do this, too. But I don’t tack up every page; I tack it up by chapter, each one in a stack. It helps me see the whole picture better- the pace of the chapters, whether chapter 4 speaks to chapter 20. For some reason, it’s a lot easier for me to find dead space in the book when I can see it all at once.
I usually do about 5 chapters at a time, yes. I think it would be beautiful to hang up the whole thing but I’d need a mansion.
Faulkner did this, writing by hand on the actual wall. Wish I could remember which novel…
I can’t do this, because I don’t want my spouse or my kids or my mom reading it. I have done coded scene index cards on a bulletin board, though, and I hide the bulletin board under the guest bed.
That’s got to be tough, but, good luck with that. This may be why Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own speaks to any writer, though, not just women writers. It is important to protect your connection to your work from casual observation. You’re right to be careful.
I’ve done this. When I was at the Millay Colony, the big studio I was in was also designed for artists, so the walls were ready to hang stuff on, and I covered all of them with the pages of the novel I was working on and left them up there. Walking into the studio was like walking into the book. I also drew a picture of the book while I was there, and put it up everywhere I worked on it, and would look back at it again when I felt I was getting lost.
I can’t remember, though, how I organized the hanging. I feel as if I put all of the pages up one by one, but can that be right? Maybe it was chapter by chapter, not sure. I know the spatial organization really helped me.
Yes, precisely. It’s like walking into the book.