I planned to do a monthly update on my work-in-progress The Ark but time seems to have got away from me and it’s almost 9 months since my last post, yikes. In that post, I talked about the inspiration for the novel, its setting and why I decided to make it into a digital interactive app. Today I want to share my writing process and how I created a novel-in-documents.
Digital Writing vs Longhand
A few months into writing The Ark, I realised I was writing a novel-in-documents. At this point my time-honoured practice of drafting in longhand came to seem outdated. It felt counterintuitive to handwrite the text for an email, and especially a text message!
It took me a while to adjust to writing digitally. I believe handwriting is more at the ‘speed of thought’ and that because typing is faster, the action can also rush your thought process. In addition, with handwritten drafts, I never deleted, only rewrote, so that all the iterations of a phrase or sentence were visible to me simultaneously, and sometimes, after comparing them all, I would realise an earlier version was the better one. Whereas with digital texts, the ease with which you can move and delete words and phrases means you always only have your latest version of a sentence in front of you; the best version might be lost to you.
Of course, on the plus side, typing is much faster and more efficient and now I’ve got used to it, I can’t image ever going back.
Digital Communications in The Ark
There are more than a dozen types of documents in The Ark. There are blog posts, memos, emails and text messages (Blipps). There are digital versions of old-fashioned letters, intranet communications between inhabitants of the bunker (Gophers) and spooky untraceable emails called Headless Horsemen. Parlez-Vite (translated as ‘talk quickly’) is a message board for the seed-bank staff, and a voice recognition program called Articulate creates transcripts of every conversation which takes place inside the bunker.
It was important to me that each document have its own style, so that readers would know at a glance what type of communication they were reading. Creating the designs for the digital documents in the novel has been a huge undertaking. I worked with students from Edith Cowan University to design the documents, consulting with them on every aspect of the process from fonts and logos, to colour schemes and layouts.
I’m not a very visual person so this has been a huge learning curve for me. Thank goodness my husband is an architect and InDesign guru who has been able to help me make the finishing touches because if I’d had to learn to master that program, what with all the ‘layers’ and whatnot, I’m certain I would have ended up defenestrating my computer. (That means throwing it out of the window BTW).
Your turn: Do you have any questions about the writing process? Writers, do you prefer longhand or are you digital all the way?