The Good Old DA

displacementThe lengths we go to to simulate working!

When I was a lad, DA stood for District Attorney on US TV shows and Duck’s Arse in barber shops. (For younger readers, I should explain that a DA was the back bit of a Tony Curtis, where the hair was swept back on each side to meet in the middle of your occiput. It might also be of interest to know that this ‘style’ cost around 7d, i.e. just under £2 in today’s money.)

The reason I’m telling you all this is that the illustration represents my latest displacement activity (which I’ll now call DA to save time). We all have DAs, but the essence of a really good one is that it pretends not to be. It gives you the impression that you’re not wasting time but actually working. The best ones even manage to go a bit further – with them, you’re not only working, you’re working on whatever it is the DA is helping you to avoid.

In this instance, not only have I spent a pleasant half hour creating the table represented here, I’m now spending more time explaining it to some imagined readers, which is a sort of ne plus ultra DA in that it’s not only a DA itself, it also has another DA as its subject matter. Result!

Anyway, what you see is a table of progress on my latest WIP. I felt that there was some unevenness in the various chapters and parts I’d written so I decided to list them, along with the characters appearing in them, the word count of each, a summary of what happened and a one word label for the specific theme to which they related. This is the first time I’ve used Scrivener to write a novel, so the collation of material was easier than it would have been when I used to write it all in Word.

When I’d done all that, I was faced with the prospect of getting back to the novel and writing another chunk but then I had the idea of highlighting the various characters and themes using different colours. It would give me an instantaneous picture of my overall progress and reveal which elements were being short-changed and needed to be revisited (which is a lovely mixed metaphor).

I’ve managed to extend the displacement period a little by experimenting with ways to display the whole table (of which only part is reproduced here), on a single screen – so far without success. I may have to resort to printing it out and sellotaping it to create a single chart, which would extend the DA by maybe another 15 minutes or so.

(By the way, the wide space between the coloured columns is in reality occupied by the scene summaries but I deleted them for the purposes of this blog in case you read them, decided the whole enterprise was a waste of time and wondered why I didn’t just go and get a real job.)

And now, this blog has added another 500+ words to my daily output so, after a little more tweaking of the chart and some brief notes on the next scene to be written, it’ll soon be time to turn all this off and have a glass of wine.

Quite a productive day, really.

Oh, and the sketch at the top is…

By Charlesfrederickworth (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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