The Birth of a Paragraph

This post is maybe 40 percent good intentions and 60 percent vanity, but this is a blog so what do you expect? I started revisions this morning on the novel I wrote for NaNoWriMo in 2010. I’m using FocusWriter because I like how it fills the screen with nothing but a blank field. Very useful. What I realized as I was going through this morning was that FW holds onto the string of composition steps for a very long time. Longer than Word might. I mean: you can hold ctrl-Z (i.e. Undo) and watch everything you’ve done over the past hour or two fall away, step by step. Then rebuild it with ctrl-Y. Like magic.

The teacher in me (who just got done teaching a termlong course on improvisation, so I’ve been thinking a lot about what happens in the drafting process) saw an opportunity: record this to show folks your process. I don’t believe anyone cares about my process, but I am always fascinated by others’ processes. So I’m sharing it here.

Now: had I screencasting software, this’d be a lot easier to share and funner to watch. Instead, all I have is MS Word and Adobe. So here’s a PDF file that I recommend you open in Acrobat Reader or whatever you have, full-screen, set to display one full page at a time. Because each page contains each step of the composition process. So if you hit arrow down, you should be able to watch the paragraph (255 words) develop step-by-step.

About this graf, all I’ll say is that I wanted to open the book with something nonfictiony and arguably wrong. Like Tolstoy’s Karenina opening. And then somewhere I knew I’d fall into fiction in the middle of a sentence. Early on you’ll see a whole out-of-voice paragraph with the word gradient underlined. This is pasted in from Wikipedia to help me understand how mirages work.

Anyway, here’s the PDF: Suicide – opening paragraph

One thought on “The Birth of a Paragraph”

  1. Thanks, Dave. Totally cool. Along similar lines, I admire your online reading log, both the quality of the books you read, the logging, and the fact that it’s up and out there. It has inspired me to finally start my own reading log, beginning with January 2012—how depressing to start so late, but better late than never.

    I would like to put my log on line as well as a page off my blog, but cannot figure out how you did it. I would appreciate any advice. My blog is hosted by WordPress, if that makes a difference. I have seen embedded a Google calendar on WordPress, and you appear to have used an Excel spreadsheet, as I did, and then used Google docs to upload it.

    I have so many questions, like how updates work (my spreadsheet resides on my laptop desktop), but basically just how to embed such a spreadsheet on a blog page in the first place.

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