I read an interesting post by Steve Poling about ‘scaffolding’. Scaffolding is all the little details of your plot, your characters and locations that won’t necessarily make it to press but that you need to keep track of. It’s meta writing, or an aide memoire for all your little continuity errors that are waiting to leap into your writing only to be found by your most attentive and verbal readers.
The post goes into more detail around scaffolding, but I most like the idea that if you are writing, your text ultimately belongs in one of three places: the final product, the bin, or as scaffolding. Storing this information is simple for the first two, but what is the best method for holding on to this extra information?
Steve offers one solution of keeping a spreadsheet to track your characters detailing. This is a bit too computery for me – I can see all the benefits of saving, backing up and searching your data, but when it comes to typing it up its a bit, what’s the word… nerdy?!
I like paper; I like index cards; I like post it notes, marker pens and the cheapest of black biros. I like to scribble things down and sort them into piles. I like to spread my notes out across the table and go through them all at once, linking bits together and adding comments as I go. Most importantly, I’m a fan of the Hipster PDA *
Technology vs Luddism
This is all good scaffolding, but what about the sections of text I chop from the book that are too useful to go in the bin? I can’t hand write everything back out on an index card so I can look at it on my dining room table. I need a more joined up approach to this. It maybe time to actively create an online file for all this information, rather than to rely on index cards. If they got lost I’d be devastated, plus I haven’t got time for redoing any of my work in this project.
I used to use Evernote, so I’m going to try that again. It would be handy to be able to keep this data backed up and available across the devices, but will it satisfy my need for jotting down ideas on an index card, eyes closed, at three in the morning. Maybe there’s something better thats available, or a way of joining up these manual and electronic versions of scaffolding. I’m not sure, but it’s certainly triggered me to actively work out how I’m going to deal with it.
If you have any views on how you keep your information about a story that’ll never make it into your final product, leave me a comment below.
You can read Steve Poling’s original post here: http://diogenesclubarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2012/01/scaffolding.html
* The Hipster PDA has been around for a while, but if you don’t know about it, have a look here: http://www.43folders.com/2004/09/03/introducing-the-hipster-pda