Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Write It Down

Thriller Guy works with writers at all levels, from beginners to professionals in their pursuit of a commercially viable novel. My, doesn’t TG sound officious? (TG just looked the word officious up and found that he has always used this word inappropriately. He always thought it meant something close to efficient, in an official, formal kind of way. Imagine his surprise when he found that it actually means “objectionably aggressive in offering one's unrequested and unwanted services, help, or advice; meddlesome.” My goodness, TG didn’t mean that. Anyway…

One of the first things TG does when taking on a new writer, is to send him or her a Field
Notes, 48-page blank notebook. This small notebook fits easily into a shirt, pants pocket or purse and is always available for writing down those stray or not so stray thoughts that float through our brains when we are involved in the creative process. TG has written elsewhere in this blog about the amazing business of getting answers to pesky plot problems, structural conundrums and character difficulties simply by asking your brain to solve these problems and then turning your attention to other matters, letting your unconscious do the work. (Or going to sleep, which is the best method.) It’s really astounding how many times your brain will come up with an answer on its own, so you sure as hell better be ready to record it when it comes floating up into conscious levels.

TG was having lunch with one of the writers he works with, a successful thriller novelist, who said that rather than writing these thoughts down he simply picks up his cell phone, presses a couple of buttons and says, “Note to self,” and dictates the idea where it will be recorded on the device. And TG is sure you other whippersnappers do the same thing with your high tech gadgetry, smugly assuming that we doddering oldsters with our archaic methods are only a few years and a few steps away from obsolesce, and, lets be honest, death, anyway, so you look on with mild amusement as we take out our little notebooks, lick the lead of our pencil stubs and creakily scribble down the fleeting dregs of the dustbins that are our minds. Admit it! You know it’s true!

Except that cutting edge brain science says that we’re right and you’re wrong. There are many advantages to hand writing things down rather than dictating them or even typing them into your computer. Writing turns the process into a “whole brain” activity, involving both the logical and creative parts of the brain. “It heightens recall, focuses attention, facilitates learning, helps prioritization, increases awareness and activates more of the physical part of the brain than any other method.” So take that, whippersnappers.

TG was struck by an interesting fact while doing research on Thomas Edison for Allen Appel’s novel-in-process, number six in the fabulous Pastmaster Series (available here for Kindle). After Edison’s death in 1931, 3,500 small notebooks were found in his home. He kept these “idea books” always with him and would often read through them looking for ideas to work on. A quick search on the Interweb shows that many famous men throughout history have kept these same sorts of small books and usefully employed them. A blog on the site, The Art of Manliness, (excellent site) lists twenty notebook writers, with pictures of the small books they always carried and how they used them. Among them are Mark Twain, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Leonardo da Vinci, Pablo Picasso, Frank Capra, Larry David and others. Sure, none of these fellows, except Larry David, could have used his cell phone or tablet computer instead, but the obvious point is that it worked for these guys, and if it worked for them, maybe you should give it a try.

As noted above, TG uses the Field Brand of notebooks. (TG is in no way connected to this brand, though if they would like to take him on as a spokesperson, this could be arranged to mutual benefit.) They’re a lot cheaper than those moleskin things, cooler and really portable. TG carries his in the back pocket of his jeans, and by the time the pages are filled it’s pretty beat up, but it never loses structural integrity.

TG thinks that after working by hand with one of these for awhile, your writing ideas will come to you in greater numbers and in particular with more focus. And besides, it looks a lot cooler to see someone writing something down in a little notebook than yammering into a cell phone like one of those idiots who walk around in the grocery store talking to their phone friends while they shop.

Here's an actual page shot from one of Allen Appel's notebooks.

 So here’s the deal. The first couple of readers to send TG their land addresses at Appelworks@gmail.com will receive one of these nifty Field Notes notebooks.

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