Monday, January 2, 2017

A Writer's Tools: The Cork Board

I love index cards. They're the key to my plotting, the tools I use to conceive, arrange, and rearrange scenes. I describe how I do this in my writing workshops and in my writing books, most notably WRITING WITH QUIET HANDS.

But some of you complain that you live/work/write in small spaces, and so you use Scrivener, which features a digital version of index cards that allows you to do the same thing electronically. (Some of you prefer doing everything digitally, and to you I say, good for you, you digital natives you.) But if you love the feel of cards in your hands, and the sound of the magic marker scraping against the paper as you write, and the flash of creative lightning that strikes when you flip and shuffle and place those cards, then try my solution to the small space problem.

I converted two closet doors to corkboards. Well, I personally didn’t do it, I sweet-talked my love Michael into doing it for me. But it was my idea, for what’s that worth. (See photo.) Michael tells me that it was pretty easy, but if you are as mechanically disinclined as I am, I trust you can use your writer’s powers of persuasion to convince someone handy to do the same for you.

My doors have four sections, which allow me to assign each quarter its own purpose: one for fun, one for plotting, one for inspiration, and one for whatever pleases me at any given time. These corkboard doors are located at the edge of my living/working/writing space on the way to the kitchen, so every time I pass by for a cup of coffee I get a shot of creative energy that spurs me on to the next scene of my work in progress. I often stop to play around with the plotting cards, especially when I’ve come to a knot in my plot. Right now, I’m reworking a major storyline thread in my mystery at the request of my editor, and the plotting board is a critical part of that process.

So if you’re short on space and long on plot, try creating a corkboard of your own. You won’t regret it. And be sure to send me a photo…happy plotting!

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Sunday, January 1, 2017

Here's to a New Year of Writing!

There are two kinds of writers in the world. And no, I don't mean fiction writers and nonfiction writers, plotters and pantsers, or literary writers and commercial writers. I mean the writers who make New Year’s Resolutions and those who don't.
I fall in the first camp. With a vengeance. An inveterate list maker and planner, I view the new year as the Super Bowl of Goal Setting.
2017 is no exception. My calendar is already full of sales objectives (for my clients), events and conferences (for agency business), writing deadlines (for my publishers), and more. So many of the hard targets I aim for this year are related to these enterprises; hitting them is not an aspiration, it's an imperative.
But I know that freaking out about having too much to do in too little time will only sabotage any progress I hope to make—and kill the creativity I count on to keep me on track.
My New Year’s Resolutions are the ones critical to my creative process. They're the ones that I've proclaimed loudly and in technicolor in the one place I'm bound to visit more often than I should every day: my refrigerator.
That’s right. Last summer I painted the bottom half of my refrigerator with chalk paint, thinking it would prove an amusement for my grandchildren. But over time the space morphed into my own personal and professional planner.
This morning, in honor of the dawn of 2017, it reads: Breathe. Read. Write.
Breathe, because yoga is the fastest way for me to plug into my subconscious.
Read, because as Stephen King says, “If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write.”
Write, because real writers write. End of story.
Okay, so my kids will all tease me unmercifully when they see it, my non-writing friends will think it's weird, and my neighbors may view it as downright subversive, but I don’t care. It works, as least for me.
            So … what's on your refrigerator this year?

Note: If you're having trouble getting started, check out my new book, The Writer's Guide to Beginnings.

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