Sunday, March 20, 2022

Filing the Nuts

Where do you keep your ideas? Whether our minor characters are based on people we meet, or our plots are ripped from the headlines, all writers need a way to store nuts for winter and retrieve them later. How do you organise yours? Could it be better?

Brenda Chapman starting off the week.

This week's question has targeted my least pleasing quality: a lack of organizational skills. Being on top of details, having a filing system, cleaning out my office (house) ... these are things I always intend to do, but never quite get around to accomplishing.  I'm what's known as a disorganized procrastinator when it comes to these particular tasks. As a consequence, I'm not much of a nut storer even though I know winter will arrive every year and I'll need those nuts to survive.

Every so often, I open a file on my computer and label it something like, 'story ideas'. Then, I promptly forget about the file or where it's located and never open it again unless by accident when I'm trying to find a recipe or something else useful. (Perhaps, I'm part squirrel.) And the older I get, the more I forget these feeble attempts to get organized. 

So, long story short, I only keep the story/character ideas in the murky fog of my noggin's haphazard filing-system. 

I'm a pantser and the characters and ideas come out at will as I'm writing. That truck driver with his son motoring past Kingston on a stormy night and spotting a body on the side of the highway in Tumbled Graves? Completely spur of the moment, created as I typed. The sex-hungry wife in Closing Time with no idea the damage she's causing? Never met her until she appeared on the page.

The odd thing is that I'm a planner in almost every other corner of my life, but for some unknown reason, not when plotting my novels (or filing or cleaning). I used to worry about this character lapse, but more and more, I believe this is simply how my brain works. The creative process is inexplicable and mysterious, and I've given up trying to fight mine. 

So, the last part of this week's question, 'could it be better'? I'd like to think so, but I appear to lack the capacity to make this happen. After twenty-three books, I've got a way of working and retrieving information that works for me, however, like the craft of writing itself, I know that there's always room for improvement. Hope springs eternal that one day a light will flick on and all the messes in my life will sort themselves out, and I'll come up with a place to store my great ideas that I won't forget about the next day (and my house will be free of clutter).

I've started on a new series, with the first book, Blind Date: A Hunter and Tate Mystery, released March 1st. I've learned a lot from my other series and already am noting characters and plot details to make my life easier as I write book two. Still, characters are appearing on the page, seemingly out of nowhere, and I'm enjoying discovering them. This time around, a seventeen-year-old girl named Sara has drawn me in. Bullied, product of a broken home, wise beyond her years ... I'm hooked and intrigued to see where her storyline leads. I have no notes to follow, only a foggy sense of her in my brain. 

And maybe this is just how it's meant to be.

For those who might have missed it, here is a link to my recent Blind Date launch when the wonderful and amusing Mary Jane Maffini interviewed me about this first release in a new series.


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Dietrich Kalteis said...

Thanks for a great post, Brenda. You're not alone. Sadly I also have 'story idea' files that pop up on my computer, those files I forget about until I stumble on them by accident.

Brenda Chapman said...

Thanks Dietrich - maybe, great minds work alike?!

Susan C Shea said...

You reminded me, Brenda, that somewhere on my computer is a "story ideas" file...or maybe more than one! Good post and I'm glad not to be the only disorganized procrastinator.

Brenda Chapman said...

Thanks Susan :-)

James W. Ziskin said...

Great post, Brenda! Love it!