Saturday, April 11, 2015

Should I Use Index Cards When Writing?

Do you remember the school days when you were assigned a paper and were told to make an outline before writing? You were also told to use index cards? When I was younger, I was a pantser. I wrote everything without even a skeleton of an outline. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t. By avoiding outlining and index cards, I avoided a lot of work. Maybe I’m not a pantser but just slightly lazy when it comes to pulling together my ideas.

I have matured though. I am no longer a pantser. I am a plotter. Pantsing might work for literary fiction or short stories but if you are writing anything with a complicated plot and subplots then outlining is necessary. My first attempt at writing a mystery without an outline went poorly. I stopped at a 100 pages. It’s still sitting in Google Docs waiting for me to revisit and rewrite it. I am now onto mystery number two and this time I outlined and I am keeping index cards.

What use do the index cards have? As I write, I keep track of characters including locations, their characteristics, their beliefs and potential clues. If I mention a character on page 5 and then again on 30 I can just refer to the index card to remind exactly what I wrote about the character. This is to make sure everything is consistent. It’s easy to lose track of what you wrote from one page to the next and nothing makes rewriting worse than chaotic facts and descriptions about what you wrote.
Where do you keep mounds of index cards? I have a cheap index card container for every story. For my current book, The Deep Forest, I bought a container for $1.00. I put a sticker on it with the title of my book. So far there is plenty of room. If I outgrow it, no big deal. I just spend another $1.00. The bottom line is that you don’t need anything expensive to keep the writing process organized and helpful. I was reading a blog where one writer spent almost $40 on an index card case. Don’t do that. Keep it simple and remember your chief goal is just to stay organized not fashionable.

Despite now being a plotter, if you are a pantser index cards might still be helpful. I’ve started keeping track of ideas on index cards. I keep a stack next to my computer. As I read the news or other content on the internet, I jot down things that are interesting or might become a story later on. I have a larger container for these cards and I revisit them every month or so.

Writing requires some level of organization of thought. Outlines and index cards help order the chaos. Does it require more work? Yes. But every piece of writing needs a certain amount of perspiration before it can be considered good.

Friday, April 3, 2015

I'm Back!

It's been awhile since my last blog post. Part of the reason was that I had no idea what to do with my blog. I've been reading several marketing books that pertain to authors including Blog It by Molly Greene. The conclusion is a blog is an important tool to market your books. By blogging you create an audience and potential customers for your books. So that means I need a blog. Now what should I blog about? This is a question that everyone who uses the internet and reads blogs asks themselves. I figure I could get a clue by figuring out what kind of blogs I was reading. My online reading basically boiled down to three things: writing, reading and food. So what if I write about writing, reading and food? I actually have a food blog that is in the beginning stages – Chez Yummers. So The Writing Life will have limited information about food but plenty of information on the other two. I will also throw in some chicken stories to diversify.

Speaking of chickens, my four wonderful chickens are doing great. My oldest chicken, Violet, has this crazy and adorable crab walk. I stand outside, call her name and before you know it; she starts go diagonally across the yard real fast. Her little feet move so quickly. Of course, Violet is also the biggest pain. She likes to crow at weird hours. We're afraid the neighbors will complain. If I'm home, I run outside and sing and dance in front of her. I sing about eating her.

I'm gonna put you in a pot and get you real hot
I'm gonna heat your chicken thighs and put them in my pies
I'm gonna take your chicken skin and put them in a tin

The weird thing is that she stops crowing. I like to think she is stunned by my talent but I really just think she is so baffled she forgets she was crowing.

Back to writing, I have a commitment of 1000 words a day. Now some writers out there will think that is lame. But I work more than 40 hours, go to class each week for my MA/PhD in psychology, do homework and generally try to be a scholar. To be honest, some days I am so tired a 1000 words seems impossible. So I do 500 words. The object is to show up each day, at my computer and put in some work. That's how things get done. That's how a book is written.

I'm working on The Deep Forest, which is based on the Grimm fairy tale – The Robber Bridegroom. I'm going in a wildly different direction though. The forest looms large and I'm trying to make it spooky because, well, I find forests spooky. Remember The Blair Witch Project? Just the fact they were in the forest made me scared.

Easter is on Sunday. I got my man an Easter basket with lots of treats and a big stuffed chicken. Today is also the beginning of Passover. I'm making matzo ball soup and lox and artichoke/spinach dip with matzo crackers. We may even dive into the Seder story. On Easter we're having a picnic and are giving our chickens their favorite treat, macaroni n' cheese.

I have a lot to do this weekend, so I will end here. Have a great Passover and Easter!