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

6 comments: said...

Just joined the Women Writing the West organization yesterday, and your wonderful reflections popped up today to help answer questions I have about getting started. It makes so much sense! Thank you very much.

Gayle Gresham said...

Welcome to Women Writing the West! It is such a great organization. The members have encouraged and supported me for years.

I am so glad you found this post helpful. It's opened a whole new world for me. Thank you for leaving a comment!

Alice Trego said...

Interesting post on circling, Gayle, and that your inspiration for how this works for you relates to a cattle round-up. An "A ha" moment for sure, eh?

susan nunn said...

I love the analogy. Gathering cattle, strays, you left out the cold wind blowing in our faces, and the dust, or the river too high to cross, have to go around. As for writing the book, it will come, just settle into the story and focus, and keep writing. Then you can say for sure, the branding is over, and the others have been shipped. Susan Nuunn

Brigid Amos said...

I can relate to this post. Today I was sitting in a cafe and when I dried up on one project, I pulled out my notebook and worked on another. The important thing is making progress, not how straight the path is.

Anonymous said...

I've always thought of writing as like making a quilt. I think we as writers do this sort of comparison thinking with processes that we're familiar with because it helps us get a better handle on how to accomplish such a huge task.