Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Manuscript Organization 101

Except for tweeting and some very quick emails, I have to write longhand. Everything. I can't even fill out a simple questionnaire without writing out my answers by hand first. So when it comes to writing the first drafts of my book-length manuscripts, or working on my writing practice sessions, or just tracking my ideas, I need some way to keep each project separate from the others.

For me, the best solution has been good old-fashioned legal pads. After years and years of writing in fancy--and expensive--journals, I've found that nothing beats a good-quality, white paper, three-hole-punched, stiff-backed legal pad--brand name as shown in the photo above!

I started using these wonderful tablets when I found myself writing mainly manuscripts, rather than journal entries, in exquisite blank books, only to then transcribe the writing into proper manuscript form, and then be left with a beautiful, but unnecessary, first draft. My recent move into condo living this year facilitated finally parting with all those gorgeous notebooks, and I must say it feels great. Although I still want to continue keeping lovely art journals and sketchbooks, as well as my commonplace book, from here on out anything that costs more than five dollars is going to be for "special."

So here's how I'm using legal pads right now. To start with, I have about 6-8 going at any one time. These are:
  • Morning pages. Legal pads are particularly good for morning pages. I usually will write my pages for at least a week, give them a quick read-through over the weekend, follow up with any notes I need to keep in a more permanent form, and then tear everything up and toss. Easy!
  • Blog Ideas. During the day I often get an idea I want to share via my blog. So it's good to have a dedicated place to jot it down and even expand on the theme whether I'm blogging that day or not. Added benefit: doing this has helped me blog more consistently.
  • Freewriting. I am a great believer in writing practice and working from prompts as much as possible. None of this is guaranteed to be great writing, or even usable writing, but more often than not I will come up with a scene for my current WIP, or a character or premise I'd like to use in the future. After I've filled up every line and reached the cardboard backing, I can either add my pre-punched pages to a specific WIP binder, or simply file the pages away in various places for later use.
  • Poetry. I like to keep poetry separate from prose. Not only am I using a different voice when I write poetry, but it also just makes everything easier to find when I do file or transcribe the pages.
  • The Novel WIP. My current fiction WIP is already transcribed and printed in manuscript format, but now I'm going through the massive job of re-reading and taking notes on the text. Keeping these together in a single pad/place has been helpful as I go chapter by chapter, page by page, line by line to look for inconsistencies, plot glitches, and places where I could use more foreshadowing, action, or description.
  • The Screenplay WIP. This is where I keep absolutely everything that occurs to me re: my screenplay WIP. It's a place where I can over-write and put in all the emotional/mental content and back story my heart desires--all the things that aren't supposed to go in my actual script. These are valuable notes when it comes to trying to get the most out of the least amount of acceptable page- and word counts.
  • Marketing. At least once a day I try to do something that adds to my marketing efforts. Whether it's simply making a list of potential reviewers, or discovering new blogs to read and comment on, this is where I put my notes and information. I also use this particular pad for practicing my synopses, queries, and cover letters.
  • Fiction Ideas in General. They just won't stop!  And in order to get on with my day and keep them quietly in one place, I've given them their very own pad. Whew.
With the exception of the "Morning Pages" pad, I like to keep writing straight to the last page before I read through any of the previous pages. Once I've reached that point, however, I then file what I plan to keep, and discard the rest.

I also have to say that it's kind of fun to watch the pages fill up on the pad. Seeing that I "did the work" seems to help me get right back into it the next day. A growing stack of orderly pages helps me to feel that I am making some serious progress rather than floundering around jotting down a mish-mash of themes, plans, and journal entries in a single, confusing notebook.  The best part is that I never feel anything is so precious that I can't part with it. Added benefit: more clutter-free closets, yay!

Tip of the Day: If the thought of starting with as many (or more) legal pads as I've outlined here is a little overwhelming, why not just start with 3? I suggest keeping one for your current WIP, one for marketing, and one for general ideas. Let me know how it goes.

1 comment:

Charlotte Fairchild said...

Niche marketing/free marketing/learning from anyone and everyone. Marketing in odd places! Mary Kay and everyone just starting out with a new business would market anywhere and everywhere. Sometimes it just takes one person to make a difference! If stores ask if you are selling, look innocent and tell them you were reading the writing on the person's shirt and you both started talking! 1st Amendment Right of Free Speech!