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ORGANIZING WRITING
THE WRITER'S WAY

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the writers way jen frankel ORGANIZING WRITING
THE WRITER'S WAY

by Jen Frankel

My years of disorganization are really coming back to haunt me.Take my new novel, "The Red Ring." I know offhand a dozen people who would be very happy if I finished it, not the least of which is me. I've been promising Christmas as a completion date, for the last four years.

So here I sit, typing on the new MacBook, and trying to organize the work that began in my twenties.

I've collected a vast number of pages, some hand-written, some typed, most in this manilla folder on the chair beside me but more, I know, still languishing in various journals.

At least the journals are all in one box now. . .

I began the push to transcribe all those spiral-bound reminders of my disorganization a number of months back. Did pretty well, at first. Now, I've been focused on website content, getting my "jenstuff' site its new look (no, you haven't seen it yet; it still ain't live), and feeling stronger in general.

I could complain that I haven't been sleeping well. I just discovered I've been taking a double dose of my medication for the last five days, since I renewed my prescription. I used to take two 75mg capsules, but this time they gave me 150mg caps instead and I didn't notice.

That probably accounts for the sleeping problems, and the fact I've been sweating like a marathoner in the final mile.

The nice thing is that I've also had some strange little sparks permeating through my sluggish brain. I know I'm on a low dose of this anti-depressant medication still, and there's lots of room for both an increase and improvement.

For a little while yesterday, I almost felt normal. That was nice.

But no matter what you feel on a given day, or in a given year, like it or not, life goes on.

So I have no choice really but to return to things like "The Red Ring" that languish in a virtual box, begging for completion.

The real spur has been the response to the on-line version of the first book in this particular series, "The Last Rite." I had so much fun doing the re-edit, and getting myself acquainted again with my characters, and I've enjoyed the comments from readers.

I want to know what happens as much as they do. I have inklings... but it's up to me to get organized enough to find out the truth.

That's what writing is like for me, a process of investigation almost. I meet a person who seems to have a problem and an interesting story, and I pursue it by asking questions and doing some gumshoe-style legwork.

For "The Red Ring," I spent some time at the Metro Toronto Police HQ, and rode the Bloor subway line from end to end, sitting in the front of the train so I could inspect the tunnel walls...

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...imagining juicy explosions for my readers...

But I have this damned manilla folder, and all those journals, and the files for the book are spread out now over three different computers and a flash stick. I THINK I know which versions are the latest. I THINK I can put together a working first draft, to the point I have it.

Sometimes I worry that I don't want to examine my older work too closely not because I think it won't be any good but because I will find evidence of my own laziness. I think I'll discover that I just haven't worked hard enough over the years, that I haven't done enough or typed enough or thought enough.

It's a struggle to convince myself that the truth is simple -- I haven't done all the writing I will do in my life, but I have done a lot. I shouldn't be chastising myself for the writing I haven't done without praising myself for what I have accomplished.

If I don't, why should I expect anyone else will? After all, who knows better what I've done so far than me?

And the work IS fun. I forget sometimes that the reason I write is because I LIKE to. I love ferreting out those stories that my characters are sometimes so reluctant to divulge it takes years to understand them.

That's the pleasure of writing, and the frustration. Everything comes in its own time, and it's no use sometimes rushing it.

But when I can't go any further, I can always go back to transcribing. And organizing.

So, back to the manilla folder. I've already discovered a beautiful epilogue I wrote years ago for "The Red Ring." I've forgotten it entirely -- I might think it isn't mine except I recognize the crappy handwriting.

There are pleasant surprises in this organizing process, much more than disappointments that I've lost a piece of writing or a note I thought I'd made. The key is just to keep having fun, I guess, and to remember that I am fortunate that the work I have chosen for my life is also the best kind of play.

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