Thursday, July 22, 2010

Project Notebooks #3: Next Time Notes

Ok, let me tell you why I suck as a blogger. Oh wait, you probably don't need me to tell you. I am inconsistent and I don't show up when I say I will. Kind of like that employee you had last summer. Or maybe a girl you wanted to date and then figured out she was a flake and not worth the effort.

But I am smarter than the apes! Yes? I can improve and learn from my mistakes. There. Now I have to be a better blogger or I'll have proven to the world that I'm little better than a monkey. The kind that claps with cymbals.

So this is my third installment of the Project Notebook. This is all about the Next Time Notes. I devised this section of the notebook when I realized that sitting down to a blank screen every time I tried to write was not only paralyzing but an entirely stupid waste of emotional energy. Why sit there all terrified, when, with a few notes jotted down from my last session, I would have a good place to start?

So it goes something like this. When I reach a point where I'm going to stop writing for the day, I first put what I've done into the Chapter Summaries. (But that's the post for next time. Say, a year from now.) Once I've put my current stuff into the summaries, I flip to the NTN section and begin jotting down VERY SPECIFIC IDEAS about what should happen the next time I turn on the computer. And I do mean specific. If your notes are too general, like: Jack needs to do something that will make people stand up and take notice, instead of: Jack jumps over the candlestick, then you will still sit and stare at the screen. Decide before you go to bed, or do the dishes, or head off to work, or whatever it is when you quit writing for the day, EXACTLY what you will say when you begin again. Even if it's just the one idea.

This has made such a difference in my writing. When I fire up the machine now, I no longer sit and stare, wondering where I was last time, what I should be doing, thinking of all the other things I should be doing instead of writing stories. That's not a good place to be when you're trying to write a story.

So anyway, this is what works for me. NOW. I'm going to do my best to move beyond ape status and post again in a few days about how I structure my Chapter Summaries. They're not as bad as they sound, and not as time-consuming as they sound, either.

And to anyone out there that may someday be one of my editing clients or perhaps a potential agent, editor or publisher to whom I submit: I promise. I really can meet a deadline. :-)


Jewels said...

Thank you, thank you for sharing this. (I also have to thank my mom for telling me about your blog.) I'd started something similar to this, but not nearly as organized or detailed. I'm so grateful for your advice and am starting my notebook today. Did I already say thank you?

Davis L. Bigelow said...

"There's five in the bed and the little one said, 'Move over! Mover over!' So they all moved over and one fell out!"
What can I say? That's the story of my life too Nancy. Noble pursuits and mundane necessities all duking it out with savage sibling rivalry for strategic head-on-pillow placement on the mattress of my life. I need a bigger bed! I need more pillows! Hey, someone turn off the light so I can get some sleep! (Maybe tonight I can dream up a more efficient plan to tame the tangling troops!) Ew! Who ate crackers in bed? Listen you two - stop talking and go to sleep – you can visit in the morning! Ok, ok, go get one last drink of water before you go to sleep!
Am I inconsistent? Sometimes. Am I lazy? Never. Yes, I’m often exhausted but there is a silver lining… I am never bored! I am, however, often frustrated!
I’ve found it helpful to do what Steven Covey suggests: Write down the 6 most important things I think I need to do tomorrow. Rank them from 1-6. Then, in the morning, start on #1 and work until it’s done. Then I proceed to #2 & so on until I finish #6. If I only get #1 accomplished – or even worked on, then I will have at least worked on the most important thing I had to do & can feel somewhat satisfied.