Every time I get a new notebook, at some point as I gradually fill the pages, I draw an updated version of the same diagram. It’s usually titled ‘My Writing Universe’ or something equally modest. Basically, it consists of an overview of everything I’m writing, have written, or really ought to be getting on with.
It covers genres and categories of writing (novels, short fiction, articles and features, comedy material, etc.) and the relationships between them. Think: lots of rough circles, lists and dotted lines. It helps me keep track and shows me where there are gaps and patterns. It’s also a confessional for all those pieces I’ve yet to complete (or start, in some cases), sometimes added to the canon in pencil. 2B or not 2B, as they say.
I can’t say whether that picture is worth 50 score words, but an image or graphical representation can allow us to see things differently.
While working on Scars & Stripes, my latest completed novel, I needed to see the shape of the book and whether the comedy, drama and, well, tragedy had the right balance. I especially wanted to get a feel for the rhythm of the highs and lows, from chapter to chapter. One graphing session later and hey presto it’s clear that my idea of comedy tends to be more ‘oh dear’ than ‘ha ha’.
Another great visual tool, which I’ve used in the past, is Wordle. What better way to highlight those overused words that crop up like unexpected relatives? When I produced a Wordle for Scars & Stripes I was surprised at the result – see for yourself below.
As they say, seeing is believing.