Monday, May 10, 2010

Writing Clutter: How do you deal?

If your writing station looks like a tornado whipped through it,


I think it's safe to say you could use some organization help.

The writing industry is a messy place. There's CDs, flash drives, paper, books--not to mention all of the junk food fruit and coffee water you have handy (because writers are SO well known for their healthy diets). Of course, there's always the random pieces of paper/napkins you've written ideas or scenes on when you wake up in the middle of the night, or the hand-written plots scattered over various notebooks.

The GotYA wants to know how YOU deal with clutter.

Do you use digital dictation--where you talk, it types? What about FreeMind--the perfect tool for those who like to outline?

Of course, there's always the old-fashioned way: sticky notes.

It's fantastic how tiny pieces of sticky paper can create so much order...at least, order when it comes to ideas. Where you place said sticky notes is an entirely DIFFERENT topic. For the most part, they're slapped onto a corkboard or poster board, maybe a wall. Whatever you choose to do with them, they become a great way to get those pesky ideas separated and organized.

And when you're revising your manuscript/filling in plot holes/making scene changes/feel like taking your writing rage out on something, you rip them off and toss them in the garbage.

Plus, they're all rainbow-like and shiny.

Okay, back to digital dictation. This seems to be growing in popularity. For those that know exactly what they want to say and how their story goes, it's a blessing. The world can talk faster than they type. This can allow the writer to finish their novel much faster. But again, this isn't for everyone. Half of writers can just crank out words and make them sound amazing. The other half needs time to think about how their characters interact/think/feel/talk. They need time to plot. For those people, a great tool is FreeMind.

FreeMind is a web map with a variety of features. It's designed to be an outline with webs spurting out in all directions. Want a section only for your characters? Done. You can make specific sections and add sibling webs along the way. Or perhaps add a child web for certain aspects of your characters, like looks or quirks.

FreeMind allows you to prioritize and mark each individual line with icons, such as "Priority1" or a light bulb for "Idea."

As for paper manuscripts and books, well, those are pretty standard. A good binder and bookshelf can solve those problems.

Computer documents, on the other hand, are a tad more special. The worst possible event that could happen to an author is to lose their novel due to a computer malfunction. Your computer dies, you got the Blue Screen of Death and didn't save, dog chewed your power cord--something ALWAYS tends to happen. The chances of losing your work are growing slimmer with the new technology coming out, but do you want to risk it? Here is where flash drives and the internet come in handy. Emailing your novel to yourself not only time-stamps it, but you have it for future use in case the unthinkable happens. Google Documents is another way to keep your work online.

Folders and files keep your desktop arranged nicely, flash drives and the internet keep it safe. Your book is too precious to not take cautions.

So how about you? What are the ways that you keep your thoughts/files/sanity in check? What are some ideas to help out fellow writers?

13 comments:

Kaitlin Ward said...

sticky notes!! I love those things :)

On my computer, I stay 'organized' (I use this word loosely) by making individual folders for each ms, and very clearly labeling each related document--'TitleOutline' 'Titlev3' etc. It still manages to get cluttery, but you know. Not quite as bad as it might.

Pam Harris said...

I have sticky notes everywhere! Both in my home office and my work office. It keeps me organized, but it's also kind of messy. I think I walked around a whole day with a sticky notes under my shoe. An important one, too! Maybe I need to check out Freemind or something. :)

Krista Ashe said...

Great post, Leah!!

I love sticky notes, but here's what happens....I forget where I stick them! LMAO!

I do have a voice recorder, and I love it. I also usually doodle random ideas on paper or open up a document and put them down.

I'm really wanting to be one of those cool people with the cork board of multicolored papers and ideas. I feel so unwriterly without it.

And since I've done 9K revisions on TG, I've had to reorganize it since I have theguardiansmani1, theguardiansfinaledit2, etc, etc, lol.

J.S. Wood said...

I buy a shiny new journal for each shiny new idea and put all thoughts in there. Main characters have their own pages so I can get their back story down. I also keep a timeline of sorts in there so I know what happened when. It gives me a central location to place those bits of paper with thoughts on them - I just transfer daily.

I also do not keep multiple drafts. When I edit I replace the existing doc. My first draft has usually been edited many times, including a beta or two, by the time it is actually done.

Awesome post, Leah!

Debra Driza said...

You guys would DIE if you saw how unorganized I am. DIE. In fact, I think I should take a photo of both my workspace (although my real one is at Starbucks and Boudin, bc my own is too messy to use) and the bazillion files on my computer.

Please tell me I'm not the only writer who is organizationally-challenged. Please.

Oh, but I DID make a shiny poster board outline with post-its once! (not sure where it is now, but really--it was cool! :D

Lisa Gail Green said...

the scary part is that my brain probably mirrors my desk. Yikes. That's why I have to write everything down. And my laptop? I swear at some point I'll have to have it surgically removed.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

I have no organizational strategies - that's why my desk looks like that. I can use all the help I can get. You can bet I'll be reading this comment thread all day! :-)

JEM said...

Putting my work on the internet always freaks me out, even in Google Documents (excuse me while I adjust my tinfoil hat). I do back up my stuff on multiple thumb drives stashed around my house, though. Don't know what I'll do in the event of a house fire...the key is to get published soon so I have a publisher back-up ;)

Elizabeth Briggs said...

I use multiple Google Docs sorted in folders so I can access my files anywhere. This is great if I suddenly have an idea.

I also keep a notebook by my bed for other thoughts. I usually transcribe these notes into my Google Docs later, and end up coming up with more ideas that way.

Lisa_Gibson said...

Skydrive for my electronic files. I LOVE sticky notes. I often keep a notebook with little pockets in it, so that if I'm not near a computer (I sadly don't have a laptop) I can write long-hand and input later.

Holen said...

I like index cards because I can usually fit the gist of a scene on them, and they're easier to flip through and re-arrange than sticky-notes

Leah said...

Yeah, like a lot of people, I keep a notebook next to my bed. It's got a decent amount of notes from all my WIPs.

kanishk said...

I like index cards
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