Writerly Wednesday: On 50th Anniversaries and Writing Novels….

My Grandparents on their Wedding Day

I recently undertook a large project, and if you follow me on Twitter or Facebook you may have heard me mention it a few times over the past month or so. My grandparents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary this past Saturday, and in celebration of this amazing fete, I gathered over 500 photos taken throughout the 50 years that they have been happily married (plus some from their childhoods) and created a DVD video. That’s a lot of photos, right?! Any-who, needless to say I had this grand idea in my head of what I wanted the project to be, what I wanted it to look like, how I thought it should come together, and I was also very naïve in thinking how easy this project should be.

And as in all things in life, nothing is ever as simple as it may seem…..

Countless hours were put into scanning photos before I could even begin to sit down, edit the pictures and put them into a nifty program called Magix Photostory. Beginning in September and not finishing – completely – until last Wednesday (and the event was on Saturday) speaks volumes for how hard a project like this can be, especially when we have high aspirations for it.

It wasn’t until I sat back and watched through the entire thirty-five minute PhotoStory video that I realized how similar to writing a novel this entire process was:

  1. Kernel of an Idea: Every story – whether a short story or full-fledged novel – begins with a tiny kernel, a mere idea that you’re eager to expand on, that you have the highest expectations of. Making a PhotoStory DVD is about the same – you get a grand idea in your head, but putting it together is another story entirely.
  2. Expanding the Idea: Once you have the idea/plot of your story written down, it’s time to set out on the journey of bringing it to life, breathing into it the characters, worlds, locations and relationships while you plot (or pants) your way through the twists and turns your story will take. This is where the kernel of an idea begins to grow into something with a backbone that you can expand upon later. Picture DVD’s are much like this – you do the ground work in scanning/selecting your pictures, editing/cropping them, and uploading them into your program of choice.
  3. Editing the Idea: This is where the real work begins. You’ve taken your idea and fleshed it out, created characters and scenes, built your world and plotted when/where every twist and turn is going to happen. But now you have to go back and take another look at your work, examining the words, descriptions, cutting scenes that aren’t needed because they don’t do anything to further the plot, adding more to the scenes that are a bit ‘meh’ and possibly rearranging and rewriting some scenes here and there. The same can be said for creating a PhotoStory DVD: you’ve uploaded your photos and put them in an order that seems to make sense, but then you come across a few photos here and there that, while you really want them to make the ‘cut,’ they’re not really needed and are just adding to the ever-increasing playing-time of your video. So you cut those, and maybe rearrange a few photos here and there, and maybe you also add some picture-in-picture collages (which are really cool animations by the way, and a great way to cut down on a few seconds here and there). At times, you may even find yourself going back and scanning some photos you initially didn’t think you needed. :0)
  4. Adding those Finishing Touches: You’ve run through your MS countless amounts of times, now it’s time to add a few finishing touches. Maybe now it’s time for you add in chapter breaks, maybe a little extra fluff here and there (AKA: descriptions, action dialogue tags, etc) in places that you didn’t notice before, send it out to your CP or Beta Readers, write a query letter so that your newly polished MS is ready for submission requests after you’ve made the changes your CP or Beta Readers have sent to you. With a PhotoStory DVD, once you have the photos in order and the animations and transitions added, this is when you go back and add the music that will accompany your beautiful photos! :0)  This part is so much fun, especially since you can see the end in sight. With this particular project, I searched far and wide for music as far back as the 50’s, and I carefully selected each song, ensuring that the words fit for the section/decade they were representing. This part was actually fairly easy, but you also have to remember that you will continually second guess yourself when make those decisions – which is much like it is in writing when you make those last-minute edits.
  5. Sitting Back and Seeing Your Baby Enjoyed: Though I have no idea what it could possibly feel like, I can only hope that one day we will all be published and we can take a moment to relax and enjoy seeing our hard work as it sits on a shelf in a bookstore (if we’re really lucky, it won’t be there ‘cause it sold out!). Yes, there’s more work to do with marketing and signings and blog tours, but you’re finally able to enjoy the fruits of your labor as you read through what I’m sure will be rave reviews of your work. What I can speak from experience on is how good it felt to see my grandparent’s faces as they sat down and watched the entire video. That in and of itself was the best feeling in the world as they kept asking ‘how did you do that?’ and ‘I love that graphic there!’ They laughed in the places where I was meaning for people to laugh, and they were silenced in the spots where I hoped they would as well. And seeing the large amount of people in the fellowship hall as they came by to celebrate with all of us on Saturday, and watching them watch ‘my baby’ as it played on loop throughout the entire gathering, was a feeling that I rather enjoyed and hope to replicate with a published book one day.

Overall this experience was one that I learned a LOT from and am extremely grateful to have as I truly believe that my writing process has benefited from the lessons learned throughout this process. Dare I say it, but I believe that I may have turned a bit into a plotter *gasp* since I found myself writing scenes on index cards (due to the lack of writing time I’ve had) for a new idea I got, and eventually placing them in order for when I’m ready to get back to writing – which looks to be much sooner than I initially thought. :0)

What other non-writerly activities have you participated in to where you realized, maybe after the fact, that the process you followed for it mirrored that of writing a novel or short story? Did that activity make you a better writer in the end, or did your process remain the same?

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Copyright 2018 by Melinda S. Collins