Furthermore, I had no technique, no outline, and no clear story arc. I wrote whatever scene I felt like writing whether I knew how it fit with the rest, or if it belonged in the story. This was exactly right for me in the beginning but after a while, I didn't have a clue of the overall arc. I planned to smooth that out during editing. Instead, my story turned into a heavy lump of words that I spit against a wall.
I struggled to find my process, to remain honest to my motivation. Eventually, I found a technique that helped me bring my discordant novel into focus: index cards. Index cards were mentioned during a writing class and I instantly hmmmmed at the thought. After a few years of letting that idea roll around in my noggin, I decided to get color tacks, a bulletin board, and some colored index cards. I used blue for scenes not written but concept conceived. I used green for newly written but desperately needing attention, and pink for well established chapters. Oh, and white for chapter titles. When I pegged these to a board, voila! I could see my novel.
However, this was not a terribly efficient method. I was constantly rewriting card descriptions, changing colors, etc. And once again, changing the order of chapters was a giant pain in the ass. What I needed was a piece of software that could take my twenty-two separate word documents and turn them into a cohesive unit with a corresponding bulletin board view featuring color-coded index cards! No problem.
At that time there were only a few writing programs and they were lame wizards with prompts for when and what to write. Furthermore, I'm a Mac so the one program everyone liked, didn't run on my machine. So I went searching for writing software: reasonable, simple, useful. I even started a blog to rate each one based on a large scale of merits. My ex discovered my first sample at a Macworld Expo. I evaluated it, wrote it up on my blog, and then immediately found Scivener by Literature and Latte.
Scrivener is exactly what I wanted. It has an index card organizational tool and it keeps all of your chapters in a single manuscript. If you move a chapter, or a scene, the software updates all of the technical issues. Find/replace is wonderful and I can color code each section as I see fit. The tool to compile a draft for export is good and capable of providing a version ready for ebooks. (It does a lot more but I don't use everything.) Here's the link to Scrivener for Windows!
Now that I had the tangles out, and my novel was shiny and manageable, I needed to figure out what was going on so I could finish it. It took several efforts but I eventually developed a detailed technique. I charted my novel.
In the last two years, I've made at least fifteen charts, one calendar, and enough lists and notes to fill a binder. Literally. My novel binder also includes interviews, research, articles, and even a map of downtown Somerville.
Furthermore, as I sifted my novel through these techniques, it became easier to recognize successful storytelling in other writers.
I know it's the analysis of my novel that's taught me to see such things, and then instill them quickly and precisely. I know my novel so well, not just because I wrote it and have read it thousands of times, but because I've analyzed it.