Writing A Novel Without Writing

Posted on November 14, 2011


At lunch, the other day, my friend Libby and I were sharing the progress of our respective novels.

Me: My novel is sitting behind my printer under a pile of blank copy paper and all the communication from the IRS regarding my 2003 tax return.

Libby: Why not just finish it?

Me: Unfortunately, the IRS doesn’t work that quickly.

Libby: I meant the novel.

Me: Oh, that. Yeah.  Well, I sort of came pretty close to the end, then decided that nobody in it deserved to get any of their issues resolved, so I stopped.

Libby: Outline 4D.

Me: Huh? 

Libby: Outline 4D.  That’s what I’m using.  Outline 4D lets writers brainstorm, create, structure, and organize ideas.  You can customize the outline structure or choose a pre-built template.  You can track any feature, concept or design.  You can move your outline around on the screen and change the timeline or events or whatever.  You can be god!

Me (glancing around for large video cameras): Are we in some kind of infomercial?  I have no idea what you are talking about. And I’m having a crappy hair day.  I don’t want to be on camera.

Libby: You can drop characters into different scenes!  You can make events go backward!  You can insert dead languages into dialogue or just have people speak in tongue!  Or hieroglyphics!  Or that Aztec language that wasn’t even written down!

Me: Uh, is Joan Rivers here?  Doesn’t she hawk things on TV? 

Libby: You can stack up all the screens and then collapse them and see what the novel looks like then!   You can mix your novel up with Shakespeare and use it for a party game!  You can chop everything up with the Cuisinart function! Grate, shred, or mince!

Me: OK, OK, I’ll take a look.  But I have to tell you, technology isn’t my thing.  I wrote my first novel on a typewriter.  A typewriter, for god’s sake. 

Libby: Dragon Speak!

Me: (looking around again) I knew Joan Rivers would be here somewhere.

Libby: Dragon Speak!  Software that let’s you dictate entire novels into the computer and it writes everything down!  It was a dark and stormy night period!  Letitia comma bosoms hugely heaving comma moaned softly quotation marks oh Ralph comma your eggplant is quite purple isn’t it question mark.   Quotation mark I grow it for you comma my delicious little—

Me: Enough!  I give up. I’ll check it out.

Libby: You won’t be sorry exclamation point! Uh oh comma I have to go period.  Oh no comma I cant stop period. Make me stop exclamation point!

Me:  Does the program come with a warning about this kind of thing?