Tuesday, August 15, 2017

My mother would be amazed

By R.J. Harlick

Writers gather a huge miscellany of info - drafts, notes, contracts, plot ideas, pix, reviews, etc; do you have any tricks for keeping it all organized?

Yup, I do collect a lot of stuff, particularly when I send Meg to a wilderness that is new to me. I find during my research trips I collect no end of information from maps and brochures to notebooks filled with observations and interviews. I like to speak to as many local people as I can to get a good feel for the place, so that when I place Meg in this wilderness, it’s as if she is actually there.  I also take a huge number of photos to refer back to when I have Meg exploring its various byways.

I imagine by now you have images of my desk being piled high with all this information and me desperately searching through the piles to find one tiny morsel. But there is nothing I hate worse than wasting valuable writing time looking for stuff. So I practice a filing approach I learned fairly early on in my other working life. I use folders, be they physical or automated.

From the moment I start planning a book, I pull out an empty file folder and label it Book N with N being the number of the book in the series. I use Book N because I never know the title until I’m well into the writing of the first draft. Anything related to the research aspects of this book I throw into this folder.  For anything found online, because I do a fair amount of internet searching, I create a bookmark folder in my web browser, calling it Book N and add the urls for all the pertinent sites. For the photos, I create an album in my photo software and throw in all the relevant photos.

For the actual planning of the book, I create a variety of word processing files, one that addresses the story line and its continuous massaging as the writing progresses and one for the characters with pertinent details including names, ages, relationships with other characters and physical descriptions. Purple Palette for Murder is basically about one extended Dene family.  During its writing, I found myself getting confused, so I created a family tree to keep track of their names, ages and relationships to each other. I will also create timing charts to ensure that when I write that something happened two days earlier, that it really did happen two days earlier.

As for all the other stuff related to the book, yup you’ve got it, I create specific file folders. I have one for contracts, one for reviews, one for events and so on and so forth.  And yes, I have a filing cabinet, so it is all neatly tucked away. But my desk isn’t empty. It’s usually stacked with all the relevant folders. But at least I can cut down on the search time by going directly to the right folder.

Boy, I read through this and am amazed at how organized I have turned out to be. My mother would be amazed too, given the perennial mess of my bedroom in my early years.

And now for some BSP. Purple Palette for Murder will be in stores two months from now. But if you want to reserve your copy, you can pre-order at any of the online bookstores or with your favourite independent. There is something else that happens two months from now. Yup, you’re right, Bouchercon. So those attending will be the first people to get their hands on Purple Palette for Murder. My publisher is also planning a bit of a launch at the conference for my book and a couple of others that come out at the same time. So you have another reason for going to Bouchercon 😊


advocates in delhi said...
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Unknown said...

Truly inspiring, Robin. I too can streamline my process! My problem is too many versions on too many computers, so this year I have started naming EVERY file beginning with date: "2017-08-14 Creep synopsis." So now I know at a glance that it's the latest. Until I get my folders in shape, it's a start. Anyway, congratulations on your tidy desk. You've given me a boost. And see you at Bouchercon!

Unknown said...

PS hope to be your Purple Palette launch!

RJ Harlick said...

RM, it would be great to finally meet you. I also make sure I have the date at the bottom of every page of my work in progress, so I don't confuse the different versions.

Terry said...

Hmm, maybe that's my problem. I always kept an orderly room when I was a kid. Should have tried it the other way around.

Susan C Shea said...

When can you come to my office? These are all great ideas. What I need is your organized brain...