Organizing a Writer’s Life

By Kathleen Jones, The Quirky Novelist

Writers have to deal with an endless stream of paper. Manuscripts, notes, contracts, and other flotsam and jetsam all too easily clutter up our lives.

If you’re starting to get overwhelmed, I have a few suggestions to help you dig yourself out of the mess:

Research Notes

  • Organize your research notes by using separate sheets of paper for every subject covered by your novel.
  • Underline or circle key information in your notes.

Manuscripts

  • Type and proofread each chapter after you’ve finished writing it (if you write in long hand). Be sure to format and number the pages.
  • Print out the chapter. Store it in a cardboard box kept in a safe place. (I keep my manuscripts in cardboard boxes stored in a closet.)

Other Types of Documents

  • Keep track of various types of documents by purchasing colourful cardboard folders (with two compartments per folder) and an equally colourful canvas zip bag from a dollar store.
  • Place specific types of documents in each folder and label the outside. For example, I have different folders for contracts, agents, publishers, editors, author platforms and social media, etc.
  • Store all of these author-related folders in the canvas zip bag, and store the bag (zipped up, of course) in a secure place such as a filing cabinet.

Records of Contacts with Agents, Publishers, and Freelance Editors

  • Purchase a 3-ring binder and colourful tab dividers from a dollar store.
  • Make notes on individual book publishers, literary agents, and freelance editors on separate sheets, and file each sheet alphabetically in the binder. Provide information on the people you contacted, the dates you contacted them, documents you submitted to them, etc.

The task of organizing bits and pieces of paper can be (and usually is!) dull and mind-numbing. But once your system is in place, you’ll have more time to do the work you really enjoy: writing!

Want to Read More?

The staff of Writer’s Relief (an author’s submission service) provide more ideas in “Four Ways to Organize Your Writing (Or Not) Before You Sit Down to Write”: http://writersrelief.com/blog/2012/03/organize-your-writing/

How do you organize your writing materials? Please tell us!

Visit Kathleen Jones, The Quirky Novelist, online at https://kathleenjones.org/

or on Twitter at https://twitter.com/joneslepidas

 

 

3097152627_c11cf79381.jpg

 

photo credit: EssG, Expunged via photopin (license)

 

Why Bother to Outline a Novel?

By Kathleen Jones, The Quirky Novelist

The first time I wrote a novel, I had a clear picture of how I wanted it to turn out. But I wrote the chapters out of sequence and let my moods dictate the scenes I wrote on a given day. For example, whenever I was depressed, I wrote scenes full of hurt, loneliness, and heartache. On the other hand, when my life was going well, I wrote more robust scenes, scenes bursting with triumph, optimism, and joy.

My practice of writing whatever I felt when I felt it might have been a successful one if I had laid down a plan for the novel before I began writing it. Alas, I had no such plan, and the various chapters I wrote didn’t fit together at all.

So when I sat down to write my second novel, the first thing I did was to create an outline. That outline took four months to write (I was juggling writing with a full-time job), but it turned out to be a very wise investment of my time and energy. I now knew exactly where my story was going.

How do you create an outline for your novel? Before you begin, jot down the following in point form:

  • First, figure out how you want your novel to begin and end.
  • Next, create the main characters and identify the major problems and conflicts they will face.
  • Then determine the major plot points. This step would involve such things as plot twists, changes in the relationship between the leading characters, etc.

Once you have pinned down these core elements, you can start to create an outline. Some ideas to keep in mind:

  • Try to write the outline in order.
  • Don’t try to write the entire outline in one sitting. Take your time and don’t rush.
  • Outline one chapter at a time.
  • Don’t be afraid to change the outline if some of it isn’t working or if new and better ideas come to mind.

If you take the time to create an outline, you can avoid ending up with a novel that’s nothing more than a mishmash of ideas.

Want to Read More?

Novelist Joseph Finder deals with the pros and cons of outlining novels in his post “Outline or Not?” at http://www.josephfinder.com/writers/tips/outline-or-not/

Do you outline your novels before writing them? Please post your comments.

Visit Kathleen Jones, The Quirky Novelist, online at https://kathleenjones.org/

or on Twitter at https://twitter.com/joneslepidas

 

6907273779_61fde255d6.jpg

 

Photo credit: To The Cuckoo via photopin (license)

 

 

How To Generate Fresh Ideas for Your Novel

By Kathleen Jones, The Quirky Novelist

You know how you want your novel to begin and end. You’ve also made firm decisions about the major characters, setting, and climax. But somehow, all of these elements don’t add up, word count-wise, to a 70,000 to 100,000-word novel.

How do you fill in the gaps? By generating fresh ideas that work with your novel. But how, exactly, do you create those new ideas? I found myself in this situation when the word count of the first two drafts of my novel came up short. Fortunately, I stumbled upon a few simple techniques that made a real difference to my third draft:

  • Carry a small notebook and pens in your handbag, briefcase, or the glove compartment of your car. Great ideas seem to strike when you least expect them to. I bought a fat little notebook from a dollar store and jotted down ideas in it whenever I was stuck in a long line at the bank or riding the bus on my way home from work.
  • Set aside fifteen or twenty minutes at a time and think about your plot and characters. In point form, scribble down any ideas that come to mind. For example, since one of the leading characters in my novel was Jewish, I wrote down the word “Hanukkah”. I ended up writing a poignant new chapter in which the Jewish character was forced to acknowledge his loneliness during a Hanukkah celebration with his family.
  • If you’re writing at home, take the pressure off yourself, sit down on the couch, and just let your mind wander. Try to imagine an entire scene, filled with characters, setting, and dialogue, and let it play in your mind like a movie. Then get up and write down the scene before it fades from your memory.
  • Try to think about your main characters every day. I got into the habit of thinking about the leading characters in my novel at the same time every day (early morning and late at night). The more often I thought about my characters, the easier it was to write about them in depth.

Next time you need to expand your novel, try one (or more) of these strategies to get your idea-making machine rolling again.

Want to Read More?

Check out blogger J.R. Hall’s tips in “How to Come Up With Story Ideas” at http://www.writerstoauthors.com/how-to-come-up-with-story-ideas/

What techniques do you use to generate new ideas for a novel? Please share them.

 

Visit Kathleen Jones, The Quirky Novelist, online at https://kathleenjones.org/

or on Twitter at https://twitter.com/joneslepidas

 

 

32464545480_d5f8bc8512_o.jpg

 

photo credit: Graeme Pow, Valentine’s Day Witchcraft via Photopin (license)

 

How Part-Time Novelists Can Avoid Distractions

By Kathleen Jones, The Quirky Novelist

I know what it’s like to be a “part-time” novelist (a novelist who has to work at an outside job to pay the bills). After working for forty (or more) hours a week, you drag yourself home only to be faced with a mountain of chores. Tired to the bone, all you want to do is to flake out on the couch and watch TV or to curl up with a good book . . . which sucks up the time and energy you need to write your own book!

So how do you avoid distractions, especially when your time and energy are so scarce? If you’re like most part-time novelists, you probably do most of your writing on weekends. A helpful strategy for avoiding distractions is to not do anything else—reading the paper, shopping, doing chores, whatever—until you have written a certain number of pages.

Work alone if you can. Seclude yourself in a quiet room and close (or lock) the door. Tell family members that you can’t be disturbed for a certain period of time.

How long should that “certain period of time” be? I recommend limiting yourself to one or two hours of focused time. Write fast and don’t leave the room until you’ve finished a specific number of pages. When I was writing my novel, I didn’t let myself leave my bedroom until I had written a certain number of pages, usually 3 to 6, sometimes 8. That might not sound like much of an output, but over the course of a year, those 3 to 6 pages added up to a 74,000-word manuscript.

Before you leave the room (and after you’ve finished writing those pages), try to plan your next writing session. I used to do this by scribbling down a brief, point-form outline of the scenes I planned to write. If you end each writing session with this extra step, then your next writing session should be (relatively) quick, efficient, and painless.

Best of all, you’ll have plenty of time left to relax with family and friends . . . or scrub the toilet!

Want to Read More?

Ethan Waldman offers some practical ideas in his post “The Key to Distraction-Free Writing”: http://goinswriter.com/distraction-free-writing/

How do you avoid distractions when you sit down to write? Please post your tips!

 

Visit Kathleen Jones, The Quirky Novelist, online at https://kathleenjones.org/ or on Twitter at https://twitter.com/joneslepid

 

5579245296_248bba3dd0_o-3.jpg

 

photo credit: Curtis Gregory Perry, Old Televisions via Photopin (license)

How to Write Novels When You Work Full-Time

By Kathleen Jones, The Quirky Novelist.

One of the biggest stumbling blocks for aspiring novelists is lack of time. Since it can be difficult for novelists to support themselves on their writing alone—especially unpublished novelists—most of them need to work at a full-time job just to pay the bills. That’s 35 or 40 hours gone every week, plus time spent commuting, taking care of children, doing household chores.

So how does a novelist with a full-time job find the time to write? The secret is carving out a block of time each and every week.

For most employed people, the best time to write, uninterrupted, is the weekend. When I was writing my own novel (while working at a full-time job), I tried to write every Saturday morning. Of course, life sometimes interfered, and I didn’t have the chance to write on Saturday mornings; when that happened, I rescheduled my writing session for Saturday afternoon or Sunday. The important thing was that I tried to write every (or almost every) weekend. I also tried to write in the same quiet place, alone, where I wouldn’t be distracted.

Each week, after I finished writing, I booked the next writing session in my day timer for the following Saturday. Then, after I finished writing each chapter (in long hand!), I typed and printed it out on my computer. After I left work each afternoon, I used the time spent commuting on the bus to review the printed pages for grammar, spelling, and sentence structure, and I made corrections (and reprinted the pages) when I got home.

Finally, I tried to set realistic deadlines for the various stages of creating a novel: writing an outline, doing research, completing drafts, and just about everything else. I booked each of these deadlines in my day timer so that I didn’t have an excuse to forget about them. Of course, I often had to revise these deadlines, but I was still able to complete an outline in four months, research in three months, and three drafts of the manuscript in three years.

So, it’s possible to complete a novel while working at a full-time job, but you need to commit the time (however small), space, and energy to make it happen.

Want to Read More?

Check out Ali Luke’s article, “How to Stay Sane While Building Your Writing Career Part Time,” at http://thewritelife.com/stay-sane-building-writing-career-part-time/

 If you wrote a novel while working at a full-time job, how did you make it happen? Your comments are welcome!

 

Visit Kathleen Jones, The Quirky Novelist, online at https://kathleenjones.org/

or on Twitter at https://twitter.com/joneslepidas

 

4118367546_b75683e752-2.jpg

 

photo credit: Alan Cleaver Time to go home via Photopin (license)