Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Looking at the big picture

The life gurus and coaches are always suggesting that we do a 'life audit', a de-cluttering of our belongings and houses, thereby freeing up the brain to join in the serenity such an activity engenders. To be truthful, I've been a regular de-clutterer for a long time. When I was forced to move house 6 times in 2 years, I soon learned to cut the rubbish out with a ruthless hand.

I think that as a writer, we should do the same thing. Having taken part in Jurgen Wolff's Massive Action Day on bank holiday Saturday, I felt empowered to, not just focus on my tasks and increase my productivity, but also to extend that to the 'writing stuff' section of my filing cabinet. BTW anyone who needs a bit of focussing and allowing themselves the time to be creative will benefit from Jurgen Wolff's MAD days. It is a day when we reach out from our solitary cells to join in an interactive day of creativity, encouraging others, asking for help with problems and listening to Jurgen's tips on how to make the job of creating easier.

Anyway, back to the the filing de-clutter thing. This morning, I decided was 'the day'. I spent some of Saturday playing with Scrivener, software that many writers use, which keeps every part of a writing project, from synopsis, through scenes, chapters, research and the like, easily accessible in one folder. The software isn't a doddle. It needs time and for the user to progress through the interactive tutorials. I thought a productive way of gathering together all my writing odds and ends would be to make a project in Scrivener called Catalogue of ideas and plots. First job was to empty the filing cabinet of all the flotsam and jetsam I have gathered over the last 25 years and collate it. That alone took nearly two hours, mostly because I have 'bits' all over the place, a dreadful admission for a professional librarian to make. Then I looked through all the material, some of it going back to the late 1980s and added it to the Scrivener file. I can't make up my mind whether the result is encouraging or awful. One thing has emerged. I love plotting, playing what-if with ideas, twisting them round. I'm not so good at the follow-through. So here, ladies and gentlemen - as they say in the best circles - are the results.

I have two Luke Ballard alternate history mysteries plotted and unwritten. I have three Georgia Pattison, musical mysteries plotted and unwritten. I have, wait for it, ten full length plots for romantic suspense novels, including four that are partially written. I also have ten short stories plotted with some unfinished, including one, handwritten in, I think, 1992, which lasts for 3 pages and then stops abruptly just where it is getting interesting.

So, do I feel better for this 'writing audit'? I honestly don't know. Only time and the ease of reference to the different plots in the Scrivener file will tell. Watch this space.


  1. You certainly have a lot of material there!

    I use Scrivener too, and I love the way it keeps everything - work, ideas, research notes - in one place. I often use it for a 'mental de-clutter' - i.e. gather all my thoughts and note them in some semblance of order.

  2. i like the way you can just write a scene, part of a chapter and put it where you want it. I tend to have a list of 'events' in the book and it is great to just put each one down on a separate corkboard card and then rearrange the order to get the plot flowing sensibly.