Sunday, October 26, 2008

New Favourite Thing: Blank Canvas

I am a great fan of gadgets. Kitchen gadgets (lemon tap, anyone?), techie gadgets, laptops…I am far more often seized by the desire for a widget than for a pair of shoes or a handbag.

But my latest is more low-tech. It’s a magnetic whiteboard…

I must point out this is NOT me. But she looks very excited by her whiteboard, and I know how she feels.

I don’t know why it’s taken me so long. In my last ‘proper job’ (if you can call making up ideas for TV shows that will probably never be made a ‘proper job’), I used a whiteboard on a daily basis. The one at the BBC was swankier – the size of a single bed, with a conveyor belt type arrangement that gave you two full surfaces and a print-out of your work at the touch of a button. That used to induce ‘wows’ from hardened TV producers every time (I know the average school has interactive whiteboards but the BBC had a reassuringly old-fashioned approach to these things).

Mine is simpler. I bought it from Ryman’s (despite the fact that the Ryman’s I go to is so badly organised I always end up missing my bus because of the queue) and it’s 39 x 56 cm and it came with a ‘free accessories pack’ consisting of a pen and a teeny whiteboard cleaner and some rawlplugs.

Funny thing…a blank screen on a computer is panic-inducing. Yet my lovely pristine £14.99 blank canvas, untouched by previous dry-wipe markers, represents potential.

I’m at the plotting stage of my eighth novel and I always find with plotting that it works best when I write rather than type, so I can draw arrows and squiggles and so on. Not sure why: perhaps it feels more playful and malleable and creative. But A4 is too small a canvas, while A3 is too unwieldy. And I hate crossings out, I like my plans to look pretty. So a whiteboard is perfect…I can clean bits off and draw arrows and section the page and it doesn’t tear or crumple. I know this is probably Too Much Information about how sad I am, but hey, it's good to unburden myself now and then.

I was feeling a bit blocked Before Whiteboard. Not sure why. Partly because I am going straight from editing Book 7, and partly because I have a fairly tight, immoveable deadline for this book and so I was feeling scared about making a mistake I think, in case it delayed me. Which is silly – writing a first draft is always a process of experimentation and I will make ‘mistakes’ that take me into new, unexpected places. But the whiteboard seems to give me the freedom to play around…

I’ve been following the ‘9 minute movie’ technique explored by Viki King in her screen-writing book. I don’t see this book as a film as such but her idea is sound – you picture the ‘movie/story’ at Page 1 (revealing setting and tone), Page 3 (central question), Page 10 (what will the story be?), 30, 45, 60, 75, 90 and the nominal last page/resolution, 120 (that’s the average screenplay length – I guess if I was getting fussy about it, I’d scale up for a novel to 360 pages). As a way of beginning to fill in the gaps, it’s great and I'd recommend taking a look at the book for an intuitive way to work out your story.

So now I have a skeleton structure. It will change, of course, probably very dramatically. But thanks to my new gizmo and my pen and my imagination, I have a starting point.

I don’t have a whizzy internal photocopier thing, but I do have a digital camera, so I am photographing the whiteboard and then uploading it and printing it off to add to my Book 8 file. Slightly fiddly but again, much better than wrestling with huge sheets of paper.

Now I just have to write the thing…I'm actually heading off for a little while away from the computer to get started, so probably won't post again till after Bonfire Night. Have a good Halloween, everyone! And if you want to get ahead, get a whiteboard...

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9 Comments:

Blogger Leatherdykeuk said...

Sorry, but I have to point out that A5 is half A4 - I think you meant A3!

9:59 am  
Blogger Kate said...

You're right - knew it didn't look right!

10:11 am  
Blogger Mummy said...

oooh that does sound like fun...I could spend hours with the different coloured pens! I love it!

11:13 am  
Blogger DOT said...

Serendipity. Only last night I was lying in bed thinking of my perfect writing environment and key was, you guessed, a whiteboard.

But now you've mentioned the BBC whizzy thing, I will have to adjust my Utopia to include that.

11:27 am  
Blogger Caroline said...

I have one too!!! (please forgive exclamations of sheer joy!)

I bought it a couple of weeks ago and it is really really whte and shiny.

We should form a club!

x

8:23 pm  
Blogger Sally Lawton said...

I love my whiteboard for the exact same reasons. Except mine was a cheap one from ASDA and takes a lot of elbow-grease to wipe anything off it!
What's this? A whiteboard that prints, what the heck? Guess what's on my list for Santa? x

8:41 pm  
Blogger Zinnia Cyclamen said...

Thanks for the book recommendation. And happy Halloween to you too, woo hoo!

6:45 pm  
Blogger Lucy Diamond said...

Oooh... I think I need a whiteboard. Sounds wonderful! (And it's always good to have a new excuse for some stationery shopping...)

1:05 pm  
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