For You

          Life is busy, busy, busy for all of us here at RFW. Shonna has decided to take a break and I’m struggling with a similar decision. I need to focus on my classes and studies. Even though the break would only be temporary (until December), I really want to continue contributing to RFW. I also don’t want to waste our readers’ time by not writing anything of use. Writing useful and helpful articles takes time. (See my dilemma?)

          Kitty has suggested that I repost (as is or updated) past posts I’ve written here. That’s a good idea. BUT! Finding the time to weed through my past posts is an issue. This week, I’m sending you to Tania Dakka’s blog for an article that is apropos for me. I hope it benefits you, too. In the coming weeks, my posts may be repeats or links to other places, but I will make sure they are of value to you as a growing writer and person.

          Happy Writing!

Packed Drawers and Schedules

          I was in the process of uploading this when I got a call that Lowe’s was coming to deliver my stove to my new place. They weren’t supposed to come until afternoon! Anyway, for some reason my wireless didn’t work at the new place (another to-do for my ever-growing list) and I couldn’t finish uploading. I apologize . . . but here it is now. 🙂

          I’m moving on Saturday and am in the midst of packing. I was afraid that I wouldn’t have a blog this week. I’ve been so busy, Tuesday slipped up on me again. 🙂 In the middle of packing, though, I experienced an object lesson that just begged to be told.

          I have a set of drawers where I keep office supplies. Usually the supplies just get tossed in the drawers any which way. It’s really not that important. I have them there so that I’ll have clips and post-it notes and stamps and such at my fingertips when I’m sitting at my desk. Today, though, I was packing up those drawers, getting the container they are in ready to move. It occurred to me that if I straightened them up, I’d be able to fit a lot more into the drawer. So I did. And I was right. It freed up a lot more room.

          As I continued packing, I mused about how that actually applies to almost everything in life. Sometimes my .schedule gets packed full with activities but little reason behind them. I say yes to commitments that don’t hold my passion or I take too many spontaneous breaks throughout the week. I get excited about starting new projects, joining new clubs and suddenly my schedule is too full, I feel overwhelmed and pulled in too many directions.

          Many times, though, it is not that I need to cut out all those things I’m doing. I just need to “straighten up” my schedule. When I intentionally choose my daily activities, scheduling them at times when they most easily fit, I have more control over my schedule and am able to do those things that matter to me. And often a lot more. In fact, I can be non-stop busy for days and not feel overwhelmed. Which is another danger. When the schedule is cleared up in that way, there is a temptation add even more to the days. Just like I did with this drawer. That’s fine temporarily, as for my move. After the move, though, I need to remove anything that isn’t notepaper. Just as some activities need to be removed from the schedule instead of prolonged.

          The topic of how to choose what to include in your schedule needs to be tackled in another post. It is way too big for just a paragraph or two in this blog. I’ll leave you to contemplate if and how your schedule needs streamlining and straightening. Me? I’m off to pack some more . . . or maybe sleep?

How Do You Organize Your Computer Files?

Each week, I try to think up something I’ve found useful in my writing life to share with you. This week I need your help.

I met with my friend Betsy yesterday to write down our goals. We were in the UTS Master of Arts in Creative Writing program together for the last year and a half, and now both of us need to hit the restart button on our careers. One of my goals for this week is “Organize my computer files.” But I don’t know how to do it.

The first five years of writing, it was pretty easy to keep things organized. I had one computer and a box of colored diskettes. I was writing a few magazine articles per year, and I worked on a couple of books each year. Not that much to keep track of. Mostly, when I finished something, it was never looked at again. But as time went by, I wrote more and more. Sometimes I’d send something out more than once to try to sell reprint rights.

Then two years ago I moved to another country again, and in the busyness of the process, I let my organization slip a bit. I saved my books and other writing files in multiple locations “just in case.” But then I started losing track of which copy I’d worked on and which copy was now an “old” copy.  Then I started school again and things got even crazier. Now I not only had a file for my superhero book under “Writing” but I had another copy of several chapters under “School.” And not all together either. Each chapter that I worked on during class was saved in that class’s subfolder.

I bought a desktop computer after my first semester because working all day on my laptop was killing my neck, back and hands. But by the time the iMac arrived and was set up in my office, school had started again and I was focused more on keeping up with my homework than trying to understand the best way to file everything. Because now I had two computers, and the Apple people had copied all my files to the new computer at my request. Sometimes I used the laptop to do homework (and blogging and email), and sometimes I used the desktop. I might work on the most current file on the one computer, or the other – but it turns out it wasn’t always the same file.

Sometimes I remembered to save the work to the MobileMe “cloud” that I was trying to learn more about. Sometimes I was in a hurry and just saved to wherever was quickest. Mostly now, I have no idea where the most current version of any file is located. And I know for sure that some files have X changes made and saved on one computer, and Y changes made and saved on the other computer. Yes, I made a real mess of things. So now I have two computers with innumerable files to re-organize. I feel overwhelmed when I try to think up a plan to get everything in its place. And I’ll need a plan to stay organized, as well.

I know that iCloud is coming in the Fall according to the Apple web site. I expect it’s similar to MobileMe, which I already have (though iCloud is free with the newest operating system, and MobileMe is a paid subscription service). But here’s my question – if I put all my important files in the cloud, can I definitely access the most current (and only??) version even if I’m not connected to the Internet? My worry is that I won’t be able to get to my (only?) copy of my book or other file that I need if my Internet goes down. I know I can put files in Dropbox, but it’s the same question – what if I can’t access the Internet?

I think that MobileMe saves a copy to my MobileMe iDisk on the desktop of my iMac and the desktop of my MacBook…but I’m not sure. If that’s the case, I think I’ll be safe to work on a file even if the Internet is down – so long as I only work on it on one computer.

So…what do you think? Can I be rescued?  🙂

I think I know the first couple of steps:

  1. Bring my laptop into my office, connect it to it’s backup drive, and backup both computers. (They each have their own backup drive.) I have Time Machine on both Macs, so I’ll always be able to access files on the backup drive that I later delete from the computers.
  2. Start with the most recent files, the school files. Find the latest copy of each chapter of my books that I worked on, save those to the appropriate “Writing” subfolder, then create one copy of my school files on my iMac, deleting all the other school files from my MacBook and the MobileMe cloud since I won’t need to use them again.
  3. Do the same thing with my blogging files, but put them up on the cloud and delete them from both computers. (Is that really safe and the right thing to do?)
  4. Figure out how to better organize my writing files now – especially the ones that have gone through various revisions (agent notes, critique group notes, grad school critique notes, etc). And then… ???

Umm… help?!  🙂

If you know what to do because you’ve messed this up yourself, or because you’re an organizational genius, will you please come to my rescue? LOL! Anything you can put in the comments section would be useful to all of our other reader friends who might need similar help. But if you feel more comfortable emailing me, you can reach me at kittyrosebucholtz AT yahoo dot com.

Thank you in advance! It’ll be great to be able to check off one of my goals for the week as completed. But more than that, it’ll be such a relief to open and edit a file knowing it really is the most current version with all the other notes included! If I get enough comments and ideas, I’ll write another blog post putting all the ideas together. So if you want credit for your idea, please leave your name and web site address and I’ll link to you.  🙂

Taming Writing Clutter

I know I’m a bit ahead of the game on this, but we are starting school on Monday. This is our last weekend of summer vacation.

At the end of school a mere two months ago, I dropped all my teacher supplies into my drawer and file boxes and walked away, wiped my hands, and put on my writer’s hat. I am pleased to say I met all of my summer writing goals, but one little one that will take no time at all Saturday morning.

So, it’s time to reset the routine once again. Starting with getting organized.

With my kids’ help, I’ve been clearing out the clutter. Multiple trash bins have been filled as well as several recycle boxes, and lastly, I’ve got a well-stocked trunk ready for Goodwill.

Inspired by my school cleansing, I decided to tackle a few of my writer’s piles as well.

To simplify my piles (I am a piler, though I try to be a filer) I use this system:

  1. Writer’s Notebook. I keep a Writer’s Notebook which is a really big binder. In here, I keep everything related to the business of writing. Craft, agent/editor query lists and responses, class notes, etc. Well, almost everything, my expenses are in another book right next to the computer where I tend to make my purchases.
  2. WIP Folders. Each WIP gets it’s own pretty notebook, and matching accordion file (pictured above) for all the loose bits of things like notes, websites, critiques, research, etc. This works well for most of my WIPs, though I have one historical that has exceeded its space for all the research.
  3. An Idea Box. It really is a box (pictued above) that I toss newspaper and magazine clippings into. A lot of my story ideas springboard off of books or articles I’ve read and I haven’t found a better way to organize these other than the big box.

And that’s pretty much it for the physical writing clutter. It all goes in one of three places. What is your system?

A New To Do List

When I was visiting the U.S. last month, I was wandering through an office supply store for some reason (any reason will do) and found the coolest To Do list ever!

It is a 3M Post-it Weekly Planner with 52 tear-off sheets (with no sticky glue on the back) and 6 small Post-it note pads (with sticky glue). It has four parallel sections for all seven days of the week, presumably so you can organize four people. But I’m going to use it to organize all the bits of my life.

The first sheet I used as a monthly planner, actually, to organize all the events of my mom’s four-week visit. I used the bright orange sticky notes for things we were doing with other people. When the weather changed our plans, I could move the sticky note to another day.

I used a green sticky note to list all the things we might want to do but I wasn’t sure if we’d have time to do and I just left it at the bottom of the paper. The white stickies were for things Mom and I would do alone together, but that might be changed due to weather. The white note above with the Art Gallery was moved a LOT due to a week of rain.

And for dinners with friends, our night at the opera and other items that wouldn’t change, I wrote them right onto the paper. The next time we have guests, I think I might use this again. It was a wonderful planning tool. You could easily see what you were going to do, and what was still left that needed to find a day to do or see it.

When Mom leaves next week, I’ll start using one sheet a week as is intended.  🙂  Since there aren’t four people in our house, and John doesn’t have a hundred things planned every week, I think I’m going to use the bottom section for People – times John will be away, my girls nights out, Skyping with friends, calling family, etc.

The top one will be my Writing To Do list. There are five lines in each box, so I can write up to 5 things I mean to do with my writing on each day. Some weeks I’ll write “blog” every Sunday through Thursday (have you been to my Kitty Bucholtz, Writer site yet?) and other weeks I’ll try to write all five blogs on one or two days because of other deadlines and commitments.

That leaves me two more sections. Because we might move, and due to the state of our living conditions after 18 months of priority-one homework, then a month of being away, then a month of guests, I’ve decided that Housework/Cooking will be the second section down and Organizing/Packing will be the third section down. Since I don’t know for sure how best this planner will work for me, I’m glad the sheets tear off each week and I can try something new every week if I want.

Another way to use it would be to put Writing in the top section, Career Work in the second section (research, paperwork, etc.), and have the bottom two for personal/home work. Or all four could be different aspects of career. Or whatever you wanted to do!  🙂

I bought this pad for about $16 at Office Depot somewhere in Los Angeles, and here is an Amazon link so you can see it. If you get one, or have something similar, tell us how you could/would/do use it.

Great Information From Others

Every now and then you have a week when you find all kinds of great information and interesting articles. It’s been such a week for me. For instance, a few weeks ago I was cursing Microsoft Word (I really should try Apple’s Pages program since it’s on my computer) because it kept changing what I was typing. Elsa Neal and the Blood-Red Pencil authors wrote a blog How to Stop Word Messing with Your Manuscript.” Great Stuff. And it looks like Elsa is offering a Word 4 Writers course as well. I don’t know anything about it, but now you have the link so you can check it out yourself.

Then I found a guest blog by Robb Grindstaff (doesn’t he sound like a wizard from Middle Earth?) on Helene Young’s blog/web site. Here Robb discusses the 3 Ds of writing this week – Dialog, Description and Despair. Interesting, huh? It doesn’t hurt that he starts out talking about how cool AVATAR is, the movie my husband worked on.  🙂  Looks like the article will be in three parts Monday, Wednesday and Friday this week, so take a look and see if there is anything you can take away from it.

The theme of Writer Unboxed that caught my eye is one I try to keep in mind fairly regularly. (And yesterday was one of those days I really needed to keep it in mind!) Have More Fun is advice you can’t get enough of in my opinion. Your joy is the reverse osmosis filter for your writing well. You need it to keep your well overflowing with fresh water. Hmm, maybe I’ll have to talk about this more later myself.

A friend of mine suggested last week I check out the Write It Sideways blog. I quickly found an article I liked on organization called 6 Organization Tips for Disorganized Writers.” Maybe you’ll find it useful, too. What I found most interesting is that the author, Suzannah, is very organized at work but not so much at home, and her writing is somewhere in the middle. Hmm, something to think about in my own life. She’s also got an article called “5 Reasons Fiction Writers Should Blog” if you’re blogging or thinking about blogging.

Speaking of blogging, Christina Katz of Writer Mama fame wrote “15 Aspects That Might Need Your Attention” about things you need to check and possibly fix on your blog site.

Now that I’ve shared some interesting posts with you, I guess we should all get back to our writing! Enjoy your writing and enjoy your week!

Back Away From Your Computer!

The more we blog about our routines, the more Stephanie and Shonna and I realize how different we are! I am sooo not like Stephanie!  LOL!  Yes, sometimes I get caught up in the 80 directions a story could go if I let my imagination run wild. But I’m too much of a control freak and have too great a need for accomplishment and closure to let a story go on too long. When we’re talking, I sometimes want to approach Stephanie like a wild deer, quietly, hand extended, whispering, “Just back away from your computer, Stephanie.” Read her blog from Monday to understand why!  🙂

I only do two or three drafts of a story if I started out with an outline and didn’t confuse myself out of the gate. (Note to self: Do not let the NaNoWriMo free spirits talk you out of doing an outline beforehand. Remember the catastrophe of 2007!) The first draft is more or less what I had in mind, per my outline, with occasional bursts of “Oh! This will be great!

In the second draft, I go through Draft 1 and write a sticky note for every scene with a single sentence for each. I put these in order on a laminated sheet I created in Lauraine Snelling’s Advanced Fiction Intensive Week. (It’s butcher paper with squares drawn on it the size of my preferred size of sticky notes. Along the top are the steps of the Hero’s Journey. It’s basically a huge sheet of laminated hand-made graph paper.)

I use a different color of sticky note for each major character’s POV, and one more color to be used for all minor characters’ POV. (This is assuming a single title novel. In the category romance I’m writing now, it only has the heroine’s and hero’s POVs.) I write the current chapter number and/or page number on the corner of the sticky note so I can find that scene easily in the final document of the first draft.

(I save my work every day as a new file just in case something happens that I wish I could undo. So my first draft file that I work on today would be named “1D 0128.doc”. I know it’s part of the first draft, and I know when I worked on it in case I think – oh man, I deleted that whole section around the end of January and now I want it back! If I worked on the second draft of a book today, I’d name it “2D 0128.doc”. Using numbers instead of letters keeps your files in chronological order. Sadly, a file named “August 15” will appear above “January 28”.)

Looking over the sticky notes in their current order, and with the color coding, I can tell at a glance if I’m over- or under-using a POV. But most importantly, I can see if the story beats are in the right order. I move the sticky notes around, adding new ones (in a new color to remind me it’s a “Add This Scene” note), and occasionally deleting scenes that aren’t working.

Then I open a new blank document and start copying and pasting the scenes from the original into their new order. Where the new scenes are to be added, I just write in all caps – ADD SCENE: [and the one sentence I wrote on the sticky note]. I used to cut and paste the scenes into the new correct order in the current document, but then I’d start losing scenes. As soon as you move the very first one, the page numbers you wrote in the corner of the sticky notes are no longer accurate. Much easier to copy into a new document.

After that, I go back and write in the new scenes, read it over to make sure it feels right, then check for areas where I can improve the dialogue, the setting, word choices, sensory choices, etc. One more read-through and – wait for it, Stephanie! – I’M DONE! Time to work on queries and proposals!  🙂

If this method sounds like something that can help you organize your editing, please use it! And let me know if you end up liking it.