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. :-)

Monday, July 5, 2010

Project Notebook post #2: Brainstorm!


Finally! The next post. Life has a way of derailing the best of intentions.

Ok, so the next tab in my project notebook is the brainstorm section. Truly, for me, this is probably the most important part. Here's what I throw down into my brainstorming section:

plot ideas
ideas for character growth
snippets of conversation between characters
setting ideas
I ask myself questions (i.e. Why would Jane Doe have a reason to kill her mother?)
I answer my own questions. :-)

Basically, anything and EVERYTHING that could ever be relevant to the book goes into these pages. It's a hodge-podge collection of creative crap, I don't worry that my ideas are out of chronological order, I don't care that I have setting ideas mixed in with plot options. All of this stuff gets sorted out later in the Next Time Notes.

Let me say this, and I know it to be true because it's happened to me: IF YOU DON'T WRITE IT DOWN, YOU WILL FORGET IT. Let me repeat that for you. IF YOU DON'T WRITE IT DOWN, YOU WILL SO FREAKING FORGET IT! There have been times through the years that I've jotted an idea on a piece of paper, only to lose it and then have it resurface well after the book has been published. Turns out, I didn't remember to write it down again! When I lost it, the idea was gone from my brain. I didn't remember to put it into the book at all, and turns out, it would have been great! It's true. It's happened to me more than once. Please, for the love of all things holy, write your ideas down, even if they're small details. And if you jot it on the back of a receipt or something, hang on to that little piece of paper like it's gold until you can transcribe the idea into your project notebook.

All right, then. My goal is to post my ideas for Next Time Notes on Wednesday. In the meantime, BRAINSTORM, BRAINSTORM, BRAINSTORM!