Thursday, January 17, 2008

Let's get organized!

"Let's get organized!"--my stepmother's battlecry everytime there was a new project. After a while it became a family in-joke. We threatened to get her a t-shirt with it printed on it.

As I mentioned before, I cleaned my desk. Rearranged stuff. Put away stuff. Sigh. Now I can't find anything. So here's a picture... look quick because you won't see it that clean again.

I'm not an inherently neat person. Especially with papers. I'm a great vertical filer. As long as I don't have to move the pile for some insane reason (such as cleaning the desk so I can move it!), then I'll know exactly where a particular paper is in a particular pile.

It used to drive my boss insane. One time when I was in the hospital, she decided to "clean" my desk and file all of the papers in a drawer.

Some things we never found again. Every time she asked for a file that she had put away for me, I would look at her in helpless puzzlement and she finally sighed one day and promised that she would never, ever touch my desk again.

Everyone has a system. Vertical filing is mine.

One of the things that I'm asked with fair frequency is how I keep track of all the people, words, locations, etc., in my series. For each series, I have a notebook. If you look on the right side of the desk, you can see the notebooks on the corner. Each book in the series has a separate section of the notebook. There are village rosters, family charts, maps for each book. In the front of the notebook is a glossary that's updated with each book's additions.

Masters of all the papers are kept on the computer, but I find it easier to consult the notebook than flip back and forth through computer files when I'm working. So the notebook is the "bible" I work from. Each notebook also has a master name list so that I don't use the same name twice. In real life, we run into people all the time with our name, but readers find it confusing, so I don't re-use names in the same series.

The maps are updated with changes with each book. As the Mystic Valley series progresses, there will be more and more physical changes in the valley. And since I would prefer that my characters are going in the right directions, I always use a map to plot their actions. Sometimes I also have floor plans to keep track of where I place the furniture--or the bathroom!

Some writers use dolls to keep track of body parts during the hot and heavy action. I haven't reached that point, but I suppose I could add a sketch or two if it gets weird. So far, I'm tame enough with the action that I don't require visual aides.

I have a neighbor who draws like a dream. I think I might ask him to draw some pictures for me. The drangs, dintis, packits, and grimahrs for a start, plus the valley fashions (shardas, sheras, and meerlims) and maybe some of the houses. If he does, I'll post them one day.

And it might be interesting to have the dragons and the tooth fairy from the Camelot series, too. Percival, Bart, Pansy and Gerard would all make wonderful illustrations. Yes, I think I'll do that. I'll keep you up to date on my progress.

Another question I am asked is how many books will there be in a series? And the answer is, "I don't know." I have a rough list of possibilities for each series, but they will only happen if the characters are willing to tell me their stories. Some characters are stubborn and just refuse to talk. I have too many other stories in my head to waste time fighting for a story that isn't happening. Maybe the answer is, "Until I run out of stories set in that world."

In the meantime, I will soldier on, trying to get organized.


Stop by Kelly's blog for a squizz at her new cover and the Saga at and then rush over to Amarinda's place to find out what she's been up to at and then? Blessings on your day.


  1. Which writers use a doll???? How for your desk. I will have to take a picture of mine (the dining room that no one actually gets to eat in) and everyone will be like 'how the hell does she write there???'

  2. Dolls? That's sort of scary.

    What a lovely clean desk. Mine is truly terrifying. I do have a dragon and a bear watching me from atop my monitor and elemental sprites pinned to the rather pictures of them. They tend to get a bit snippy if you pin actual sprites to the wall.

    I'm beginning to understand a bit of the need for organization. I now have an excel file with a dictionary of made up terms I've used, characters, which story they belong to and their lineage.

  3. Between your blog on organization and the inbox junk mail telling me to get organized, I'm seeing a theme. Are you guys trying to tell me something? Maybe you're stating a clean club cult?

  4. Great working spot. The neatness gene also passed me by. I used to keep notebooks too. Lately, I've just been putting all info, descriptions, etc in a rough draft in the computer.

  5. DOLLS?!? Do you think maybe you could work that into the saga? 'Cause that would be awesome.

    I too am a fan of vertical filing. Drives me batty when hubby tries to "help" me get organized.

  6. I also have a notebook where I keep a record of names, timeline, and other pertinent info.

  7. Hi Annie, I have been MIA on emergency babysitting all day. Now I am tasting the sweet taste of selling a first book. As for my desk, it's always a mess when I work. I need to SEE all my papers around me. But I always clean at the end of a project. I'm due to clean tonight. At least I promised my DH I will, cause he is ORDER in capital and we share the desk across from each other. I look at his neat area, he scowls at my mess.