Organization

People have asked me how I organize my work. Do I use a stack of index cards? A cork board? Computer files?

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The answer is yes.

I do have a cork board where I keep the really important stuff that will never change for the series, like a map of the city in the 1800s and a “blueprint” of their house and offices.

I used to use index cards – until I discovered Scrivener.

This is a software program that is designed for writers. You specify whether you’re writing a fiction novel, a nonfiction book or a screenplay – and the program gives you different tools for each one.

For the fiction novel, I have a cork board with all my scenes on it – I can arrange these by chapter, or combine several scenes in one chapter, or move them around however I want to.

There’s a section for research, and you can even “pull in” websites so you can find your source material immediately.

You have another section for character notes and one for places.

Scrivener also allows you to attach a note to a section of work, like a word or phrase. The notes show up in the margin so you see them whenever you go to that scene. For example, if you want to name a character, but don’t want to bother now, you could put down “John Doe” and link a note to that saying “Look up a good old-fashioned European name for this dude!” That way, when you’re working away, you don’t constantly interrupt yourself trotting off to do research – and the notes are immediately visible when you go to that scene, so all you have to do is pull it up and the note’s right there.

What sort of organization do you use in your writing?

The Mind Wanders

As you may already know, the state is under the eye of Hurricane Matthew this weekend. I’m hoping everyone who chose not to evacuate will survive. They’re predicting something equal to, if not greater than, Hugo.

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Having been through Hugo, I can barely imagine anything worse. The Lowcountry looked like it had been hit by a bomb – acres of trees downed, all lying in parallel lines; debris and flood water everywhere, making it hard to walk safely; homes destroyed outright or damaged beyond repair. We were without power for about two weeks, and we were lucky it was that quickly repaired. We were also lucky to be inside a brick building, so we had less damage than others around us, and we were about 30 miles inland, so we missed the storm surge from the surf. It took weeks to clear the roads entirely, though, and many downed trees were just sawn through and left beside the road instead of being cleared completely.

At this point, Matthew is still Category 2 (Hugo was 4 and 5), but is expected to strengthen before it hits South Carolina. Our hotels here in the Upstate are already full of evacuees and late-comers are having to travel further in search of shelter. We’ll be keeping a close eye on this storm – I’ll post anything significant on my Facebook account.

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I’m also dealing with the death of a friend’s mother. She had Alzheimer’s, but was a funny and loving woman. My friend made her last years happy ones, and that’s always a comfort.

Get Out of the House

Sometimes the same old writing space just isn’t stimulating your creativity any longer. If you’re staring at your walls waiting for inspiration, try shaking things up by getting out of the house and trying a new writing spot.

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Here are 10 places you might try (plus a bonus):

  • The Library – yes, it’s still everybody’s go-to spot for out-of-the-house working. There’s usually free Wi-fi and the librarians will be happy to help you with any research questions. No eating or drinking, but if you just want a few hours of quiet time, you can’t beat this spot.
  • A coffee shop – this is a writer’s classic choice for several reasons. Caffeine is great for stimulating the brain, and there are snacks and sometimes even meals available. They usually have free Wi-fi as well. Just be mindful of the business end: if they’re really busy, don’t monopolize a table for more than an hour, and if you do stay longer on a quiet day, do order frequently and tip well.
  • A Museum – sitting in front of an inspiring painting or sculpture can be stimulating, so consider an annual membership to your local museum. Or, if you’re not planning to visit that often, see if they have discount tickets or free days.
  • An Aquarium – sitting in front of a relaxing underwater scene can be equally stimulating. Look into that annual membership, or ask about discounts.
  • The Zoo – similar to an aquarium, only you’ll probably be outside. See if they have a reasonable annual membership or discounts.
  • The Mall – just as many people head to the mall for exercise, writers can find a quiet spot to work – or head to the food court for a table. Many malls offer free Wi-fi.
  • A Station – bus, train, subway … the idea is to plant yourself in a corner and get some work done while you people-watch. Just don’t get too distracted.
  • A train – you know I can testify to this one! Even a short trip can result in a great deal of work, and the “roomettes” offer privacy and electrical outlets.
  • Parks – if you’re lucky, your town or city has at least one decent public park or garden where you feel creatively stimulated. You can get some sun while you work, too.
  • Your¬†Local College – campuses offer literally hundreds of nooks for studying or working. Investigate your local university to locate an under-utilized spot or to borrow their library.
  • Rent an RV – if you’ve got some spare cash, think about renting a camper and doing a mini-retreat somewhere nearby. Just park, sit at the table (or outside), and get some work done.

What’s your go-to writing spot?