Saturday, 13 September 2008

Frequently Asked Questions No. 19

A journalist's follow-up question after an interview about the process of creating Woman's World.

Q: When you said you coded the scrapbooks, could you clarify that again for me? You were collecting the text at the same time as writing a straightforward narrative, if I understood, but then how did you keep track of which phrases and clippings were in which book, etc? And were they organized by theme or subject?

A: Yes, I never manage to explain this very well. Each piece of text is stuck lightly (like stamps) into scrapbooks. The pages are numbered. Each piece of text e.g. "She danced a paso doble." is then typed into the computer with the page number (667) after it so I'll know where to find it later. Once all the pieces are typed up they get sorted into categories: the weather; shopping; light conversation; confrontational conversation; driving; police; medical. etc etc. "She danced a paso doble" (667) would go under 'dancing' obviously. It also goes into an unsorted file that contains everything, all 1.2 million words I transposed which allows me to do a word search. 
Let's say that I want to describe someone smiling. If I can't find exactly the right kind of smile in the 'Facial Expressions' category, I have to think more abstractly. It might be a light, dancing smile so I do a word search for 'dance' instead and find the paso doble piece. I find a bit about lips from the 'Cosmetics' category and once it's all joined together, I end up with "A teasing smile danced a paso doble across her sweet and fulsome lips." – which in my manuscript would look like: A teasing smile (198) danced a paso doble (667) across her (4002) sweet and fulsome lips (234). Little by little all my original writing is replaced by found scraps like these. Only when the transformation is complete (and a final edited draft is agreed upon with my publishers) can I start pasting up those bits of text as artwork. I go to page 198 of my scrapbooks for the first bit, cut that out and stick it down, then go to page 667 for the next, and so on until the whole thing – 437 pages of artwork – is stuck down. Simple.