Monday, January 12, 2015

Part 2: Circling and Story Round-up in Writing

Gayle Gresham at the Mulock Ranch corral in Park County, May 2014

In my last post, Part 1: Circling and Story Round-up, I wrote about my discovery of "circling" and how it worked in researching my book (without me knowing it at the time).

When I started writing the book, my thinking went linear. That's the way you write a book, right? Start at the beginning and write to the end. Using my cattle round-up metaphor, I had to get my cows in a straight line, in the correct order and move them forward. And that worked just the way it would if I went to the pasture and started trying to make our cows line up in a straight line and stay in order!

Everything came to a grinding halt. 3 years later, I am still stuck and overwhelmed. I have bits and pieces of a book, but nothing that reads in order.

Now, in my defense, I do have a chapter order and what events need to go into each chapter. But I get stymied when I try to write. What if I forget something? What if it didn’t happen the way I think? What were the motives? Why did it happen this way?

And then I discovered circling and round-up. What if I round up my book the way I rounded up the research? I start in a broad circle and gather the story. That’s my chapter order. I’ll keep circling in, bringing pieces of the story together.

For the first draft, I’m finding the pieces, seeing how they fit together. I’m bringing them to the corral. I’ll keep circling, looking for strays, but concentrating on what I have and what I know. I’ll keep bringing the story in, tighter and tighter, until I have the center, the focus, the essence of the book.

While circling, I don’t have to have perfection. I’m just gathering the story together. What may seem important (so important it keeps me from writing it) may not be that important in the end. If I get stuck, I’ll circle to the next cow, the next scene, or perhaps another scene that will inform the first scene. I’ll keep circling until I have a story.

I’m not circling to circle. I am circling to bring the story to the center. Moving from the outside in. Circling to make the story complete. Circling to the end. As a lifetime circler, (I've heard it described as circling the airport and never landing), I realize that this story must land. I have to circle to the center to completion. I have numbered the circles in my spiral to be certain I keep moving to the center. Now I know exactly where I am in the spiral and what I need to do to get to the next circle. I have 5 circles in my spiral - the outer circle is a 5 and and inner circle is 1. 1 is the finish line, when the inner circle is filled in, the 1st draft will be complete. Right now I'm at the 4th circle. I figure I'll have half the book rounded up at the 3rd circle. I'll keep you informed about my circling. It may seem bizarre to you (unless you are a circler, too), but it has opened up my mind to be able to write again. Which makes me very happy!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Part 1: Circling and Story Round-up

With the New Year, my thoughts circled around writing my book. Why can’t I write it? What is keeping me from writing it?

I thought of a Diana Gabaldon
interview I’d read recently where she talked about keeping 17 tabs open on her computer at a time, writing one scene until she got stuck and then moving to another. She said that’s how her brain works. The word “circling” came to mind when I read it. Then I read a blog post Dawn Wink wrote on how she organizes her writing with a clustering, a journal, and lists. Once again, I thought of “circling.”

I remembered drawing spirals in school when I doodled in my notebook during class. I’d start at the center and spiral outwards. Thinking about circling and writing, I wondered about starting at the outside and spiraling inward to the center.

I sat down at my desk and drew a spiral. It felt right when I started at the outside and spiraled in. I felt the completion when I reached the center.

The word “Circling” stayed on my mind. Last night I realized that circling is like a cattle round-up. Cowboys start in a broad circle and move the cattle together, picking up strays and gathering the cattle in a corral.

When I began researching the story for my book, I didn’t start at point A and move to point B. Instead, I gathered information like gathering cows in a roundup. I started on a broad loop, learning the story. Then, I started gathering facts and putting them in the corral – Excel spreadsheet, notebooks and folders. I went after strays and sometimes ran across unexpected information. I kept circling, bringing in information until I had all of my facts. I know there may be some mavericks out there I haven’t found, but I know I did my best.

Next, I examined my facts like a cattleman examines his cows. Are they healthy? Or are they sick or have an injury? Which facts are strong and true? Which ones are untrue? What proof do I have? Who made this statement and what was their bias?

I got to know my facts like a cattleman knows his cows. I knew which ones had a certain bias and which were most likely made up. How? I found other documentation or proof. I culled the information that was inaccurate or false, just as I would an old cow or one that won’t produce any longer. I kept the info with a bias, but I know to keep an eye on it and not let it get loose.

Circling worked for my research. I feel confident in my research and know that I have done a good job.  My next question – Could circling work in writing my book?

Part 2: Circling and Round-up