On the Wall, Not in the Cloud

3 x 5 cards and painters' tape let me to turn my kitchen wall into...a mess.
  When your head is in the clouds, it is difficult to determine where you are. When your head is in the book you are writing about the clouds, you can get lost for weeks at a time. 
    Lost is where I found myself a few weeks back when I took stock of my very rough draft of the twenty or so chapters of my book, Still Life with Clouds. Though I had an outline, a table of contents, and research materials organized by chapters into file folders, I could only see half a page at a time of my manuscript. And then I upgraded my eight-year-old laptop and found myself battling Windows 8, which played havoc with the appearance of my text--zooming, contracting, closing, hiding, and zooming some more when my fingers merely hovered over the keyboard. I needed to see my entire book all at once and perfectly still.
   That's when I pulled out the 3 x 5 index cards and taped my entire book to the kitchen wall. Every chapter had its own column, every theme or section had its own card. 

   What I discovered in the process was that my outline, my table of contents, and my manuscript weren't in sync. There were gaps and redundancies. There were sections I had edited out earlier that I missed. Some sections seemed better suited to different chapters. Instead of cutting and pasting huge swaths of my manuscript, I simply untaped the offending card and walked it a few feet left or right and stuck it in its new home. And there it was--right there, visible, in the context of the entire book. I did this over and over for a week. With each move of a card, the shape of the book on the wall changed slightly, developing here, shrinking there. Why, it was positively cloud-like!
Like a cumulus cloud, my book developed with each 3 x 5 card I added. 
  Once each chapter looked right and felt balanced (more or less), I removed an entire column of cards and laid them on the kitchen table (all leaves employed) and fine tuned my table of contents to match the cards. Once the rhythm of the chapter felt right, I placed my fingers ever so lightly over the keyboard and began the cutting and pasting of chunks of text.
   The next step (I think) is to remove each column of cards again and begin the second draft. The trick will be to keep it all from evaporating.