Ah, the irony. Here I am, writing my post for the awesome Get It Together! Blog Hop, which is all about how authors stay organized and productive, all while I’m on deadline. As in really on deadline. As in my book is due by midnight tonight and I’m still freaking writing. In any other line of work, this would give you full license to discount everything I’m about to say. But the thing is, writers are weird and a lot of us torture ourselves with procrastination. I hate waiting until the last minute. I’m almost never late, and I won’t be late with this book, but it’s going to be a photo-finish. And when you’re turning in a book on time, however close to late it is, I still think you get to live in the category of people who are organized.
So, without much further ado, since I have zero ado to spare, here are some bits and baubles about my writing life, things that keep me “organized”, and most importantly, the things that keep me inspired.
I’m a writer who gets ideas in very tiny bits. Scraps, if you will. I collect my scraps, hundreds of them, and eventually, if I’m lucky, they might turn into a bigger idea, an idea that might actually turn into a book. I use notebooks for most of these scraps. (Here comes the only writing rule I absolutely subscribe to: you must keep a notebook next to the bed. I get 99.9% of my best ideas in the sixty seconds after I have turned off the light to go to sleep.) I had a difficult time later finding my scraps, mostly because I’m juggling multiple books and I’m not organized enough to have one notebook for each project. I discovered a solution! Post-It Tabs, which are heavy-duty, repositionable tabs you can write on and put in a notebook like this:
(I do not endorse the 3M Corporation officially, although they should feel free to send me a box of goodies any time they want.) If I have a chunk of pages in a notebook that are devoted to a particular book, I can at least mark where they are, label them, and get to them quickly and easily.
I also use Pinterest for ideas, especially when I’ve arrived at that “this could almost be a book” stage. I construct private boards, chock full of inspiration for my characters, where they live, what kind of car they drive, what they like to eat, quotes that might describe some aspect of their personality. I refer to that when I get lost. The visuals help. As much as I like words, I really, really like pictures..
I am the most disorganized plotter ever. I do it differently every time. I felt badly about not having a go-to, guaranteed-to-kick-butt system, until I read an article saying that if you hope to write a truly breakout novel some day, you should avoid using the same methods every time you write a book. Each book should be its own learning experience. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.
I do most plotting in Scrivener–each “tent pole”, or major plot event, gets its own document (or more than one if its a big event). Scrivener allows me to rearrange the sequence easily and that helps me visualize the whole story. Otherwise, I get lost. Seeing a suggestion of everything really helps. I use those tent poles to construct the synopsis, aka the thing I send to my editor, from which I am absolutely guaranteed to stray. I fill in the gaps in the synopsis, especially the feels, and then I take those tidbits, go back into each tent pole’s document and fill in the info–actual events like, “she tells him the baby isn’t his” go in the “synopsis” part in the upper right. Notes like, “remember he hates key lime pie” go in the “document notes”, bottom right. I will regularly add to those document notes as I’m writing.
Of course, this makes it sound far more linear than it usually is. In actuality, me plotting a book more closely resembles someone throwing a bag of confetti in the air and me running around catching it piece by piece, color coding as I go. It’s painful to watch. I feel sorry for my husband.
My dad bought me this awesome book called Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, by Mason Currey, which tells how interesting and creative people have used rituals or routines to stay productive. It’s a fascinating read if you’re inclined to pick it up–did you know that Benjamin Franklin took air baths? Or that Thomas Wolfe wrote standing up in the kitchen, using the top of the refrigerator as his desk? Refrigerators were much shorter years ago. Jean-Paul Sartre chewed on tablets that were a mix of amphetamine and aspirin, ingesting ten times the recommended dose each day. I generally resort to ice cream straight out of the carton.
My ritual is to write every morning at 5:30. If I’m on deadline, I might get up earlier than that. On the weekend, I sleep until 6:30 on Saturday and 7:30 on Sunday. It is during those wee hours, when I know there’s literally zero chance of my husband or kids waking up, that I get the most writing done. I need solitude and quiet to let go–the crack of dawn gives me what I need. I set my alarm, and I’m prohibited from hitting the snooze by our cat, Ella, who sits outside our door and waits for the buzz of the alarm. Then she meows her little head off. I’m pretty much right out of bed. (Ella doesn’t get to sleep with us because she has a nasty habit of murdering the books on my bedside table at 2 am.) I stumble downstairs and put on a full pot of coffee–full pot! Then my behind is on the couch, Ella wedges herself between my hip and arm and I write. Or try to write. After I check my email. And my Amazon numbers. And my horoscope.
The important thing to note is that you need to recognize what kind of person you are. When are you most productive? When are you most mentally sharp? And is that a time when you can sit down and write? I’m a morning person…one of those annoying, bluebird of happiness on my windowsill people. But I know this about myself and I use it to my advantage.
Staying on Track
I have a daily word goal of 2k words. Some days I don’t get there, and other days, I slay that dragon, big time. My biggest sticky point is getting myself to write quickly. If I poke around, which is my natural inclination, my editor will get this next book right around 2018. To stay on track, I schedule two or three fifty-minute writing sprints. I type really fast, so if my brain is going, my fingers do just fine keeping up.
And speaking of staying on track…I still have a book to finish. Be sure to enter the Get It Together! Rafflecopter giveaway! Thanks to Alexandra Haughton and Lindsay Emory for inviting me to take part–click on the links to their sites to see the full slate of Get It Together! authors and stops.
Thanks for stopping by! xoxo