October 2012


As much as I like computers (and make my living on them), I’m not the biggest fan of documents on them.  I find them tedious and difficult to reference compared to textbooks and papers, so even when I’m working on projects that are computer based, I tend to print out my references, task lists and suchlike, rather than keeping it all electronic.

I’m currently in the process of doing something similar for the novel, collecting together the various references and bits of background information I have drafted into a single summary document that I’m going to print out, to go with the character summaries I already have sitting in a pile beside me.  This is the Not Much Fun part of writing, I think — collating, preparing, researching.  Occasionally interesting but frequently dull.  I remember reading something to that effect once, by Robert Asprin; he described how, while the writing was always fun to do, the work you had to do before the writing could be pretty tedious.

However, it’s what I need.  In case I didn’t make this point clear, the internals of my brain seemed to be pretty disorganised — there’s plenty in there, but actually getting at it and pulling it out is a challenge.  Having external prompts is a huge help, as I have access to the things I’ve thought of that I might forget about otherwise.  So while it’s not much fun, I think at the end of the day, it’ll mean everything turns out better; and since I’m planning to keep on buckling down through the NaNo period, I really want all this to be complete beforehand…

This relates to the lead-in to NaNoWriMo, but isn’t a NaNo thing in its own right; instead, it relates to something I’m discovering, and which is a simple but pleasant surprise.

Lists are mighty.

Those who know me pretty well (and, given that you don’t exist, dear reader, you must surely amount to a vast zero in number) would know that I’m not gifted with organisation.  I have my moments where everything goes perfectly and I’m one hundred percent on my game, but then I have all the other days — days when I plan my time, but struggle to get everything in order; I get distracted, I procrastinate and I forget things.  Mostly, I think I’m good at what I do, but unfortunately one of the things I’m extraordinarily good at is not doing things.

Enter a piece of paper.  And a pen.  It’s quite a nice pen, actually, but that’s not the point here.

For the last week or so, I’ve taken simply to writing down what I want to do each day.  It’s not a difficult tool; it’s really quite simple.  Before I kick off with the bulk of my work, I create the list; and once the list is created, I start to work through it.  It’s like external crutches for my brain’s poor management system, putting down the things that I want to get done; not in any particular order of priority, just things.  Some important, some less so, but all things I want to get done.

And magically, it has an effect.  I get more things done; usually, I get through everything on the list.  And somehow I seem to get everything done more quickly, too, so I’m more productive and I have more spare time.  (If I didn’t know better, I’d think the list was actually a blood-signed contract with the Evil One.)  In one week, I’ve written every single day; I’ve gotten more work done; and I’ve procrastinated less on moving forward with projects that were indefinite, where I felt I could probably afford to put it off for just another day.  All in all, these lists turn out to be a good thing.

But I’m still not putting lists in my novel.  No sir.