Thursday, July 7, 2011

In-y or Out-y?

Writer. Not belly buttons. Had to clarify that right off the bat.

Hi Everyone! Audra here. Let's talk about how your creative mind works today, or more precisely, how you prefer the layout of your writing environment...shaken or stirred? 

It’s no secret that I operate on the concept of out of sight, out of mind. Except where my filing cabinet is concerned, and that’s only because I have little cards in the front frame telling me what’s in the drawer.

This open-space concept of creativity makes me a confirmed out-y. Books, papers, pictures—everything out in the open, spread across my worksurface for the duration of the project.

I have charts, scenes, research, articles…everything I need to remember to incorporate into a book is spread out around me. My office at work is just as bad, but that’s not really anything we want to get into right now.
To the average eye, my workspace is a mess. But to those who have vision, it’s a viable working solution for someone who needs constant reminders of pressing deadlines, word count quotas, scene directions. AND don’t forget tons of photos to remind me of character appearance and traits--you know, the little things making heroine of book 3 unique rather than a carbon copy of the blonde heroine of book 1, only with dark hair, LOL. Luckily, I discovered and use a cool novel writing program, WriteWay Pro, to help keep me organized within my computer, too. All is not lost.

Can you relate? Do you have burning desire to prove YOU can out-clutter ME? Have I made you scream in terror and run from the computer?

Now that you have an idea of how my chaotic form of “out-y” organization flies, how about “in-y/out-y” insight from the Seekerville experts? Some Seekers are definitely in-ys, some complete out-ys, and some, a nice integration of each.

I’ve coaxed some of them into sharing their writing secrets…

Love Inspired Historical author Janet Dean, who melts your heart with each book she writes:
Product Details
I use spreadsheets to input my daily word count. My d/h sets this up for me since I’m pathetic with this stuff. This helps keep me on track for meeting my deadline. I start a new Internet file for each book I write, using the working title. In that file are documents that help me write the book, including the book itself. I also save the book on disc, zip drive and in Dropbox, an Internet storage site. Periodically I e-mail the book to myself and others. I make document titles concise such as character descriptions, synopsis, GMC, chapter content, research info, editor input, etc. Much of what I need to get the book written is in that file. I print information I want at my fingertips so I have hard copy too. I write Post-It notes reminders of what I need to add or check or where I stopped the day before. When I’m writing a book my desk is a mess. Yet I know where things are. Well, mostly. Once the book is written and turned in to my editor, I save it in a new file with the final title and add the front matter and Art fact sheet documents. Then I clear my desk! 

Product DetailsCamy Tang writing Romance with a kick of Wasabi for multiple publishers:

A couple Seekers have had heart attacks seeing my scene index spreadsheet, but it works for me. I have two tabs on the spreadsheet--one with a summary of the main plot points, one plot point per row; and another with each scene broken down, one scene per row.

Margaret Mitchell has nothing on our Revell author, Julie Lessman who is determined to show Boston society “After all…tomorrow is another day!” :

Product DetailsUnfortunately, organization has flown out the window now that I have a laptop that allows my office to be wherever I want it to be -- from the back deck in spring and summer to my hearth-room lounge chair in the winter. BUT ... I would be lost without my portable calendar that contains all my due dates and absolutely dead in the water without my "Notes" and "Age" docs, which contain research notes on each book and birthdays and anniversaries ad nauseum, an absolute MUST given fourteen characters to keep track of throughout six chronological novels!

Missy Tippens uses her southern charm with flair as she pens romances for Love Inspired:

Hey! I'm attaching a photo of my favorite writing how-to's. And since I'm a slob, I will NOT show a photo of my chaos. :)

I usually start out with a brand new 3-ring binder. Then I print all of the many charts I use. I also have a stack of paper in the binder for brainstorming on-the-go. I keep my Magic Conflict/GMC chart in a clear sheet protector so I can easily refer back to it.

I also keep several things on the computer:

--A Notebook View Word file (used to use One Note until I got my Mac). I have tabs for research, for hero, for heroine, for secondary characters, for premise, for blurb/one-liner, for brainstorming/ideas.
Product Details
--Randy Ingermanson's Snowflake program (I use this to write my synopsis)

--The book file, of course :)

--The Scrivener program file (I'm still learning to use this). For now, I use the cork board feature to plan and keep track of all my scenes. This is also how I organize my scenes into chapters. I plan three scenes at a time (one chapter).

Love Inspired author Cheryl Wyatt weaves consistent character threads as beloved characters pararescue jump into each other’s novels:

Maybe it's because I have a tendency toward being OCD, but I compartmentalize things by task. I have my research books on one bookshelf and have them organized by topic. I have another shelf for topical writing resource books such as The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman, GMC by Deb Dixon, Story by Robert McKee and other character and plotting help books, etc. Also on that shelf are writing help books such as the Chicago Manual of Style, more dictionaries than one human should own, a thesaurus or two and Strunk and White's style book, etc.

Product DetailsI put all of my giveaway items in a carrying basket that makes mail-outs easier. It's actually a cloth sewing kit that I have stamps, envelopes, author labels, Sharpie, pen, pretty stationary and bookmarks and promotional pens. Anything I might want to stick in an envelope when I mail out books. I keep it in the front closet with my cases of books.

I have a desktop in one computer desk that is near my research book shelves and I use that computer almost solely for author Internet dealings such as answering reader letters, online research, social marketing, etc. There are a couple of file cabinets there that hold my writing papers and things I get from conferences as well as letters that readers have hand written. I keep every one.

I type on my laptop which I keep nearby Bible and devotional journal because it helps me to remember to put His words before mine.

I am trying to go paperless and digital in my office so I have more files set up in my computer now than I do in hard copy. I use Gmail's Labels feature for my filing system and have an online backup. I'm also plan to start buying digital versions of writing books that come out so I can begin moving from paper books to e-copies. I can't concentrate with a bunch of clutter around me so this compartmentalizing helps my focus and productivity.

Seekerville’s own 2011 Rita finalist for Doctor in Petticoats (Barbour), Mary Connealy says simply:

My system is pure chaos. I'm sorry.

Product Details
When I was working on Deep Trouble I had three books open on my desk and constantly cross referenced trail maps of the Grand Canyon, one man’s memoir of walking the canyon, and a book of photos. Plus I create spread sheets, like Myra's Character chart, then change names and ages and appearances--in the book--then forget to change the character chart, so then I forget which is right the character chart or the book so consistency is always a challenge. Was Seth 9 when this happened or eleven?

This happens too much for a grown up.

Living out her dream in Price of Victory (Avalon) available June 2011, Sandra Leesmith writes:

My biggest help is to outline the story by chapters so that I can be sure I have all the elemThe Price of Victoryents needed for each scene. Each of my chapters usually contains three scenes so I just basically outline those. Most of the time I put them on 3 by 5 cards so I can rearrange them, write notes, etc.

Research is usually filed then by chapter. I find the more research I do, the easier the book is to write. Research reveals the possible conflicts and problems that are likely to occur.

I usually do an extensive character chart for each of the main characters. I like to interview them. I include their strengths, flaws, wants, needs, goals, etc. I also include their physical description. This helps me keep each character "in character"

Love Inspired author Glynna Kaye (At Home In His Heart, available August 2011) offers her take on the situation:
Product Details
I create a "folder" in MS Word where I keep all the related documents: the proposal (concept, premise, mini-blurb, synopsis & first 3 chapters), the ever-growing manuscript, scenestorming notes, research, story calendar, sunrise/sunset calendar ( ) timeline doc, character name chart, a clips holder that contains things I've pulled out of the story but wish to retain, and a daily word count Excel spreadsheet (that's where I document how many words I write each day and it auto-calcs the total; I also include in it the reason why I DIDN'T write on a given day so I can keep track of where/why I'm losing ground). The "folder" is where I keep my art fact sheet images, bio, dedication, reader letter and discussion questions that will be forwarded to my editor when the story is submitted.

I also have a 3-ring, slant-D binder (usually 1 1/2" to 2" wide) where I put hard copies of my proposal, story notes, calendars, etc., so I can take that along with me. I get tired of always being at a computer so on occasion take my binder along for a change of scenery when I need to think through story issues. I put clear, top-loading sheets in the binder where I can drop handwritten notes because I'm one of those writers inclined to grab ANYTHING to write on and don't want to lose those snippets of inspiration.

Each day after my writing session, I save the manuscript to a flash stick I carry with me so I know I have the latest & greatest secured! During the writing of my second book, I had major computer problems and couldn't get to my manuscript for weeks and weeks. So now I have a back-up Netbook and the trusty flash stick just in case!

Ruth Logan Herne, who has been accused of being bossy on occasion, writes:

Oh, dagnabbit.

Product DetailsI don't think I organize, but I do. I was working on a proposal and realized I really do HAVE to think a story through now to sell it. So I keep an open word doc. minimized and add to it every time something hits me that should go in the synopsis/story. At first, it's a mish-mosh. But then as things jell and counter-act one another, it becomes the cornerstone of the story. We know I'm allergic to Excel and the word spreadsheet makes me vomit and I don't take copious notes about anything, so I have to work internally.

But first I research. Study. Think about the area, the people, the problems, the geography, the quirks, the setting, and oh, did I mention people? I'm a visual learner but I have a great memory about story details, not about cooking dinner. Too mundane. So eventually all those tidbits of notes on the page make sense in my head. And then the only question is how to go from A = beginning to B = end. And that's governed by the circumstances and the characters personalities. Their personalities dictate so much of the story because they have to stay true to form. They wouldn't do it any other way, right????

I refuse to use the word archtype because I don't know what that means. They're the way they are usually because I'm MAKING FUN OF SOMEONE. And that governs their action/reaction sequence. Very scientific.

Seekerville’s newest published author Pam Hillman--her Tyndale House debut novel, Stealing Jake available NOW as an original ebook--writes:

I use spreadsheets of course. Then I started using yWriter5 because YOU [Audra] (wasn't it you? [yep]) recommended it. yWriter5 did all the things I did with my simple spreadsheets, but so much more. I still haven't learned all the ins and outs of the program and NOW I learn that you're using a NEW, better program. lol But I plan to stick with yWriter5 for now, just to see how it goes.

The secret to organization of any kind is to DO IT NOW.
Product Details
File the email now.

Make that call now.

Follow on the results of the call NOW.

Send yourself an email about the idea you just had.

File it in your folder as soon as it comes in your inbox.

Do not say, "I'll do that later." Do it now, file everything in the proper place, and go to the next item on your list.

There you have it, the “in-ys” and “out-ys” of keeping your writing organized.

What about you? Do you spread your life all over the room, floor, house? Is all your writing and research slotted away in the mega-drive of your computer? Are you a combo of both? Share with us and maybe we’ll all discover new ways to keep the creative juices mingling, LOL!

Leave a comment for a chance to win Writing Fiction for Dummies by Randy Ingermanson and Peter Economy, a writing resource that touches on all aspects of creating a great book.

Product DetailsAudra Harders writes “rugged stories with heart” featuring cowboys who haven’t a clue about relationships rescued by ladies who think they have all the answers. In real life, she’s married to her own patient hero, has two teenagers about the leave the nest, and is surrounded by everything conducive to writing about farming, ranching and cowboys at her day job in the county Extension office. She began writing right after her son was born and sold her first book to Steeple Hill Love Inspired mere months before that same son graduated from high school. Surviving those years in between remind her God does have her plan for her life…and that He has a tremendous sense of humor. You can visit her at her website and her blog. Don’t be shy!


  1. Audra, this was a hilarious post! It's also really neat because it makes writers realize that there are ALL kinds of ways to write and organize writing and no one way is the only right way!

  2. I was actually hoping for belly button photos of Seekers. hehehehe.

    I get a little nervous when I read about organization, but mostly this wasn't painful at all.


  3. I keep a folder for each ms, with all the files relating to it in there. But I also keep a hard copy in a three ring binder, with brochures and the like tucked inside the cover flap.

    Okay, it's coffee time. Big pot ready.


  4. I'm a hybrid. Stuff everywhere, but I have found when you just can't get to that post it or the little notebook stashed in your purse, e-mailing yourself is extremely handy! Like Ruthy, it's amazing what all I can keep straight in my head regarding my story and characters, even weeks later. But walk into the grocery store and the two things I "had" to get... no clue what they are now :p

  5. Files? Spreadsheets? Characters charts? GMC charts? I have none of that. In fact, if I happen to make notes on the plot or the characters' physical features, I usually lose it immediately and/or never refer to those notes again. If I were to lose all my research and notes, it would make no difference. I could still write the book just as well, because everything is in my head.

    I do research in the beginning to make sure my plot and characters are feasible. Later I do research on an as needed basis, in the middle of writing the rough draft when I need to know something. No files, no clutter.

    It's sad, I know, but there it is. I have absolutely no organization whatsoever. Except in my head. My head knows where everything is.

    And yes, Audra, this post scared me very badly. I don't understand how you people can operate this way. What if something destroyed your precious files? I'm prepared for that nuclear disaster or next outbreak of horrendous tornadoes that will destroy our world as we know it. You, clearly, are not.

  6. Good morning, all.

    Important stuff first...french roast coffee (because it's Thursday and I'm TIRED) with a variety of gourmet creamers on the Keurig holder/dispenser tree thingy beside the coffee maker.

    Oh wait. Scratch that. Out with the boring coffee pot and in with the Mega-Keurig...industrial size even...choose your coffee, choose your creamer, add some delicious pastries from the little Bavarian bakery in the heart of Longmont and NOW we can get down to the business of organization.

    Camy, you're right, there are all sorts of ways to TRY and organize your fictional thoughts (does that mean my thoughts don't exist?). I happen to feel the need to spread my life across every horizontal surface available to make it look like I know what I'm doing, LOL!!

  7. Seeker belly buttons? I'll see what I can do for my post ACFW conference blog : )

    Tina, no pain. Especially when you can close the door and leave the mess behind.

  8. Helen, you dear. I should've KNOWN you'd have coffee ready, too. Short of claiming Helen's entire urn of coffee as mine, how about I'll guzzle from the straight brew, high octane, mornin'-get-er-done coffee and leave all the cute flavor K-cups to those who sip?

    Helen, the files on my computer are as scattered as my desk. BUT, I know where everything is. I think that's the important part, LOL!

  9. Nancy, you are so right on the grocery store memory loss. What am I here for again? And shoot, I left the list on the kitchen table. Don't remember what's on it, but I do remember the list was almost 2 pages long.

    Email is not just for gabbing! I email stuff to myself all the time. It's a wonderful tool and I don't have to worry about leaving THAT info behind on the kitchen table.

  10. Audra, I confess, that desk photo had me running from the computer screaming. 8-) My brain shuts down just looking at stuff spread all over.

    The older I get, the less chaos I can stand. I use a spreadsheet and a couple Word documents to track my stories. Books I use for research are neatly shelved in the bookcase behind me. I find that the fewer documents I have to deal with, the better.

    BK Jackson

  11. Hidee Audra,
    I started to read this post and saw that it was about organization - I figured it wouldn't apply to me. I'm a lost cause.

    However, after seeing that their are like-minded people within the Seeker bundle, I'm feeling much better about my propensity toward chaos.

    WHEN I set my mind to being organized, I use OneNote. I have a tab for each character (which involves their personality traits, history, and LOTS of photos with different facial expressions - if I can find them)

    I have a tab for each chapter - with photos of 'scenes' that inspire me for that scene.

    But just because I use OneNote doesn't mean I keep a clean desk, or purse. My desk is loaded with WIP(s) stuff, I have one entire bookshelf with 'research' books and another smaller bookshelf with writing books. And I purse is filled with little notebooks and scrap paper or napkins with important information on how a Glock is a lighter automatic and more concealable than a 44 Magnum.
    Important stuff ;-)

    But the problem is that I have to FIND this information when I need it - which is always the tricky part.
    I'd have to say my 'best' tool is my head. All of my stories have little files in my head with the gist of each novel. Scary place to be :-)

    Sorry for the novel. Time to get ready for work.

  12. Melanie said: I'm prepared for that nuclear disaster or next outbreak of horrendous tornadoes that will destroy our world as we know it. You, clearly, are not.

    Audra said: Wow. You kept all that research for The Healer's Apprentice in your head? All the wonderful little details of Medieval life that made the story come alive just milled around in your mind until you needed to use them?

    Wow. And you have kids running around the house?

    Wow. I sit in awe.

    Maybe I should've written about belly do you feel about those, Mel?

  13. Ah, BK, I tend to stalk folks like you hoping that if I can maybe observe you long enough, or rub up against your little finger, or pick up a notebook filled with secrets you might've left behind, I too will be able join the Clean Worksurface club.

    Alas, I"m not holding my breath.

  14. No, Audra, I research as I go, remember? Plus I lived in the German town I based that town on and I referred to pictures. I did research as I wrote it, and I researched as I revised it. For three years. Lots of research, actually.

    It's okay, Audra. Breathe!

    Plus, also, I was sort of exaggerating my lack of stuff lying around. I got stuff. Believe me. I just forget to refer to it, and I do keep the plot in my head. Can't stand to write it down.

  15. Audra, loved your post! Delightful to see the processes Seekers use and the unique ways they express them!

    Tina, you had me snorting at the computer. Belly buttons were my first thought, but Seeker pictures?? LOL

    Sandra, I'm with you. I'd be lost without my chapter outlines. So much easier to go in and find what I want.

    Thanks for the coffee, Helen. I'm starting to feel human.


  16. Ah Pepper, definitely my kinda gal! We're kindred spirits, LOL!

    And we don't worry about FINDING that scrap of paper in the midst of the chaos, just knowing it's THERE, somewhere, is comforting enough, LOL!

    Here's a thought to ponder--theoretically, theives tend to target well-maintained, tidy houses because everything is in it's place making it easier to steal.

    LOL! Not that we have anything of value, but it's comfortaing to think I won't have a thief rummaging through my office and disrupting my chaos!!

  17. Melanie, don't burst my bubble. I think you're Super Woman!!

  18. Janet, I loved reading all the methods Seekers use to stay in the groove while writing.

    I have heart shaped Post Its all over my corkboard reminding me of bizarre little details that need to be carried over from book to book in a series.

    Where would we be without sticky notes??

    What's DropBox? Can you clue us in?

  19. Good morning Audra! Love hearing about all the ways Seekers organize--or don't!!

    I'm the world's worst about writing story ideas on scraps of paper, index cards, a steno pad, in the margins of another WIP--then losing them! So that's been my project over the Indpendence Day holiday--trying to pull all those scraps of paper into one central location where I can lay my hands on them! Then maybe some day in all my free time (ha ha) I'll type up the illegible scraps. :)

  20. Keeping things consistent, simple things, is hard for me, too. I try to keep all my background information on the computer for easy access when I’m writing, but would like a printed version as well. I’m not an organized writer, even though I would like to be. Can anyone sympathize with not enough room to be organized? Lol.

    Throw me in for drawing for Writing Fiction for Dummies.



  21. Isn't that what God creative scrap paper for? Creative minds on the go? Glynna, I have a hard time imagining you being disorganized in anything!

    Like you, I took a couple of extra days off over the 4th weekend. I cleaned up my scraps of paper : ), put away old research and made room for new, and set up the "book" template in WriteWayPro for my next book featuring hunky Nick, the bull rider : )

    Really, Glynna. We've got much better things to do with our time than clear away clutter, LOL!

  22. Whitney, I hear you. Give me more room, so I can clutter it up!

    My son keeps reminding me I have 1TB of memory on my external drive--plenty of room to store all my writing work and keep it out of the way.

    Works great in theory, but remember, I'm an out of sight, out of mind girl.

    Tends to work the same way with bills, too.


  23. Wow! That's a LOT of information!

    I must definitely be an organizer, and an In-y.

    When I saw that card sticking out of the insert on the filing cabinet door, I grabbed my scissors and slashed my computer screen trying to fix it.

    I'm OCD like that.

  24. Audra asked my thoughts on belly buttons. Here they are. Belly buttons should not be made public. Especially if they belly button is mine. And they also should not be pierced. Especially if it's mine.

    That's all I got.

  25. It's all on my computer. And ALL OVER my house. Uuuuggghhh! NEED a system. May have to pick somebody else's - will definitely read this more closely when I have a bit more time.

    Would LOVE LOVE LOVE the Dummies book (cuz I am one LOL).


  26. AUDRA!!! I just KNEW we were twins separated at birth (uh, give or take 20 years!!) because your desk looks JUST like mine did at work AND in the office I share with my hubby. Ahem ... except, you will be glad to know that by the time you come to stay with me for ACFW, the office will be pristeen!!!

    But like you, I HAVE to have everything out where I can see it unless I have a sticky note to remind me. It's kind of pathetic, actually, because when I work in the hearth room, I have papers lined up alongside the chair!!

    You said: "The secret to organization of any kind is to DO IT NOW." Oh, AMEN TO THAT!!! I usually do that for a while after I clean things up, and them BOOM ... within months it's back to bedlam!! Sigh.

    Thanks for all the great tips from fellow Seekers and for your great blog today, sweetie!!


  27. Oh Lord! To an organized soul this IS a mess LOL!

    But hey, mine gets partially that way too - sometimes - although I am a 100% SOTP writer and therefore have NO clue about character charts, photos, etc. Spreadsheets I'm familiar with - though NOT pertaining to writing project - only in tracking submissions and bookkeeping.

    Amazing how we can or cannot get in the creative zone.

    Love the post!

  28. This was a fun post. Guess I fall somewhere in the middle. I like things tidy, in general, but I'm also prone to making story notes on scraps of paper, so I collect a number of piles of said scraps over the course of a project. Before all is said and done, I go through all those piles to make sure I didn't forget to incorporate some brilliant phrase or story idea or character layer into the actual story! I keep little trinkets (arrowheads or stones or 18th century ink bottles) on the desk that remind me of my story world and characters, so that can look a bit cluttered. Now and then I have research books open to key passages, but mostly I try to keep some portion of the top of my desk still visible. The mess ebbs and flows.

  29. I'm afraid I'm feeling a little bit like a lunatic right now reading all these systems.

    And I have a sick need to go clean out a closet. I won't ever do that, you understand, I'll just sit here and feel the sick need.

    I live in a small house with one man. We should not have so much JUNK. For some reason every time I get upset about all our JUNK I start to fantascize about renting a dumpster. (I'm sorry, my 'fantasies' as also sick) If I only had a dumpster right outside my kitchen door, I'd clean everything out. But without a dumpster, I'm really at the mercy of the clutter I'm afraid. Where would I put it all if I did drag it out of the closet, huh?

    This article is about cleaning out closets, isn't it, Audra?

    A shiny object distracted me and now I can't remember.


  30. For some reason when I was reading Pepper's post she wrote this:
    WHEN I set my mind to being organized, I use OneNote.

    But I read this: WHEN I set my mind to being organized, I use Oreos.

    Because I use Oreos, too. An Oreo or two (or seven) and you stop caring about the stacks of paper and torn off notes with weird circles on them because I used them as a coaser for my Diet Coke can.

    If I only had a dumpster it would all be fine.

  31. I'm a combination of organized and messy! I try to keep each project in a binder, but things end up in piles on my desk and dining room table. Then we're having people over, I have to scramble to tidy up and hope I can remember where I put everything later!

    One day, I hope to have an entire room to organize with actual file cabinets, etc. Though that still won't guarantee tidiness! LOL.

    sbmason at sympatico dot ca

  32. I like to think my writing is organized - books put away, computer files backed up and labeled - but when I look at my desk I see reality. Sigh.

    Although I know I work better with a clean desk and organized files, anything that's out of sight is definitely out of mind. There has to be a compromise somewhere!

    But I think I can blame the chaos on moving for another month or so. After that I'll have to find something else to blame it on.

    And belly buttons? The only visible ones should be on children under the age of four. Then they're cute.

    Put me in for the drawing, please!

  33. Had to go back and find out what Dummies book you were referring too. I was hoping it was Getting Organized for Dummies. I'd buy that.

    Then I'd lose it.

  34. What a fun and informative post, Audra! Thanks for showing us all the different ways to do things.

    Of course, when I called myself slob, I meant that in the nicest way possible! I don't want people to picture me as Oscar on The Odd Couple! LOL

  35. Melanie, you're one of the lucky ones! I can't trust my head to remember anything beyond two minutes. I have to write it down! :)

  36. Oh, Pepper, when you said hidee, you reminded me of my grandmother! She always said that. Actually, she'd say, "hidee do." Thanks for sending me down memory lane this morning. :)

  37. Mary, I'm with you on sick needs to clean. They stay sick needs.


  38. Well Audra,
    If I can't find anything too valuable in my house, I'm sure thieves won't.
    My kids are the most valuable things - and if thieves took them...they'd probably bring them back pretty quick ;-)

    And I'd be HAPPY to be your twin, partner in crime, hugging buddy, or whatever. Meeting you at ACFW last year was a HIGHLIGHT!! Totally! And I get to see you again in September. Woohooo!!!

  39. Mary,
    I meant Oreos and wrote OneNote

    How did you know that?
    We are so like minded.

    Did you know I found a chocolate laptop at a bakery. A TOTALLY chocolate laptop! Who could EVER get any writing done with that?!? I'd be missing keys by 9am

  40. Oh I loved this post. Audra, this is hilarious.

    I'm soooooo happy to find kindred spirits. My work area is always sooooooooo cluttered. I'm with you Mary. I need a dumpster.

    And some of you said the same thing. I love organization and files, but once something is filed, I forget it. I need it all out there. Visually.

    I read somewhere, (wish I had filed it) that a creative person has a cluttered desk. A left brained uncreative person is always super neat. See. I loved reading that. It validated my cluttered mess.

    Audra, where is that bakery? I'm ready for some of that pastry to go with my coffee.

  41. Hi everyone! I'm at work - blood mobile here today but my iron was number too low - wish I'd known they were doing it today - I'd have eaten a burger instead of chicken yesterday!

    man hanging out here sometimes is like going behind the scenes at Disney World! kinda takes the magic out of the books I read - I just figured ya'll woke up one day with a story - wrote it - and then I buy it at wal-mart or somewhere! Didn't know it was so much work!


  42. Wow...reading this post made me feel a little overwhelmed...all of the files and programs! Most of which I haven't heard of. My organization consists of a few file folders with some articles, a chart of the outline of my story that I didn't finish, a laptop with some research in my "favorites", and a bunch of word files saved on my computer and a disk...and that's it! Granted, I'm not a published writer and still have lots to learn, but I kind of felt relieved to read some of the comments and find a few kindred spirits! : ) I think I could really use the book! : ) Blessings~Stacey

  43. Great post Audra. I loved gleaning ideas from each of the authors. I use character charts, and have a 3-ring notebook full of research for the book I'm currently writing. Also close by are more books with information - writing books as well as my 1897 Sears catalog and Instruction to Light-Keepers manual, dress/paper doll patterns, etc. I tend to have everything close by, at my fingertips. Most times my desk is a mess, but every so often I get the cleaning bug and try and de-clutter to some degree. I also have photos of the lighthouse I'm writing about, and a basket of seashells I picked up on the shore while visiting the lighthouse this past November. Of course there also is 'The Writer's Prayer' by Debby Giusti, a 'Willow Tree - Love of Learning' figurine that I just won from Martha Rogers blog contest, as well as verses of scripture to encourage me.

    Thanks for all the great information.

    Jodie Wolfe

  44. Loved all this back and forth! I write at my desk before working hours. Or at home with my feet up on the love seat. Or in an Adirondack chair out back with a glass of lemonade and birds chattering around me. Basically anywhere I can be alone and think for more than 5 minutes.

    Get the picture? Anyway, I pretty much carry everything around in my head but I jot tidbits down when I can find a piece of paper and a pen. Your hand can work, too, but you have to transfer the note before it gets too blurry.

    I'm working on my first series right now for Love Inspired, so I'm learning as I go. When some of those minor details (was his name Tom or Tim?) escape me, I refer back to the 1st book to make sure I've got them right. Of course, I'm new at this so I don't have all that much to forget. I'm tucking these ideas away for later on. I'm sure they'll come in handy!

  45. It's always so much fun to see everyone's processes. I am so much an Outy that even the thought of spreadsheets makes me twitch. I've tried. I've tried lots of different methods of writerly organization, but have found some of them actually inhibit my creativity.

    I suppose it doesn't help that I write most of the time on a shared computer and my housemates are as messy as I am. :)

    Like Mary, I really need a dumpster!

  46. Pam, I'd LOVE to have you come organize my office...when are you available??

    Melanie? Belly buttons have their place...I prefer mine behind layers of clothing.

    Julie, you will always be the Queen of Sticky Notes. And honey, what's a little clutter between friends : )

  47. Audra, busy day today for me, but I'll be back to read your post and comment. :D

  48. Joanne, I've got my life spread all over the house. Oh, other people live there, too? Hmmm. We've all learned to adapt.

    Pam T, I'm with you on the SOTP thing. Still, charts and spreadsheets come in handy so you remember that excellent plot twist and where to place it : )

  49. Lori, where would we be if not for all the scrap paper and tiny trinkets that help keep us in the mood to write?

  50. Mary, we can clean closets all we like, they'll just fill up again, LOL.

    And we do have a dumpster. Gets emptied every other week. I can't believe I just admitted that.

  51. Audra sent out the request for blog info during the RWA conference. I read the email on my BlackBerry and then never sent a reply. Probably because I don't use as many programs, spread sheets, grids, charts, etc, that the other Seekers use. Also, typing on a BB takes time, which I didn't have in NYC. :)

    Yes, I have a file for each book and everything goes into that file...letters to my editor, initial story outline, detailed synopsis, shorter synopsis, character names and info.

    I'm visual so lots of paper and notes clutter my desk while I'm working on a manuscript. I often print out part of the work and edit with a mechanical pencil. Once those edits are in my computer, I store the hard pages close to my desk for reference. Towards the end of the book, but usually prior to writing the climax, I print everything and insert the pages into a three-ring binder. That hard copy allows me to read the pages in semi-book form, which helps me pick out holes or errors.

    I make digital copies of my final manuscript and also save the Author Alterations pages from my editor as a final hard copy.

    I've been thinking of getting The Plot Doctor's notebook. Isn't that Carole Greene? Missy, you use her charts, don't you? Anyone else like her system?

  52. Susanna,

    Your comment made me smile. With every new book, I have to learn--yet again--that writing is hard work. I keep thinking it will get easier! LOL

  53. Sandra,

    Creative people have messy desks? WHEW! I'll tell hubby. He's organized and neat. Every paper in its place. I'm the exact opposite when it comes to my writing area.

    Thank you for giving me a great excuse! :)

  54. Sue, you are a woman who lives in the real world : ) You could give me tons of filing space and loads of closet shelves and I'd still have papers and books surrounding me.

    I'm resigned to my lot in life.

    Jan, when you're done moving, see me and I'll give lots of other excuses, LOL!! BTW, I am organized. Each of my piles has a method to it's madness.

    And sometimes I remember exactly what method I used : )

    Mary? Pepper? Oreos?
    Makes for ever expanding waistline. Not good for belly buttons.

    Missy? I proudly wear my Oscar button...not to be confused with the belly version.

  55. I tried to rent a dumpster once, when my mom and dad were moving from their ancient, derelict farm house to town.
    50 years of accumulated junk.

    It was pretty expensive.

    Plus then you had to like.....pick stuff up and throw it NOT having the dumpster is such a great excuse.

    :( Cleaning is not compatible with creation in my case. I think if things were neat I couldn't write. Best not to risk it.

  56. I agree with Mary's way of thinking. :) Too much organization stifles the creativity.

    Lots of fun here today. :)

  57. Love this!

    I'm organized. Everything on the computer. Photographs, synopsis, scene outlines.

    If I had stuff spread all over, I'd procrastinate by organizing it into neat little piles. :)

  58. Oh dear....LOL This post is wonderful! I loved reading each of your methods and kept hoping I'd be like someone. *grin*
    But I'm not.
    My workspace is neat in that I like to keep the pile beside me in a nice rectangle. I create a Word folder on my computer for each new story and in that folder I store everything from synopses to cut scenes. As for my rectangular stack is a notebook. I write on it but there's no order and sometimes I have to flip through it. Everything else (details about characters) I usually remember.
    I have to say, I'm so impressed with how you all organize! WOW. Oh, I do have a file binder but mostly don't use it. :-)

  59. Erica, I'm so proud of you. And envious.
    I wish I was organized. I do. I really, really do.

    I asked my husband if we could get a housekeeper.

    His response. We're able bodied adults. We live in a small house. We should be able to keep this place clean ourselves.

    My response: There is strong evidence to the contrary!!!!

    He does a LOT around the house. IN fact, let's face it. Either he does it or it doesn't get done. Which means.....a lot doesn't get done.

  60. My sister in law said to me once: If people are going to look for dust in my house I don't want to make them look too hard.

  61. Missy,
    My granny used to say 'hidee' also. Grew up expecting that welcome :-)

    Hidee, from one southern girl to another :-)
    GREAT memories.

  62. Jules,
    I think I may be a contender in the Queen of Sticky Notes reign.

    Just wait until my Seekerville post in August - Sticky Notes is even in the title :-)

  63. Hidee do, Pepper and Missy. Yes, that's a nice Southern greeting, or used to be. I haven't heard that in a long time. Missy, I actually do have sort of a photographic memory about some things, but then I remember very little of what happened five or ten years ago.

    This morning I typed "The End" on my Snow White story. Yay! I feel like celebrating.

  64. Sitting here amidst the chaos of my barely-just-moved-in office arrangement in our new house, all I can do is wish I had a bag of those Oreos Pepper and Mary are talking about.

    I will say I've become a Scrivener aficionado. Still learning everything it can do, but I love having everything right there in the same file only a mouse click away. I can even insert a link to my handy-dandy Novel Planning Workbook to get to all my charts and calendars.

  65. WAY TO GO, Melanie. (I always want to type Mellie ;-)

    The cover of your upcoming book is FABULOUS. I do not know how they are going to top it.

  66. Myra,
    There is something in your brain that I need a WHOLE LOT MORE OF!

    Just sayin

  67. Hello Audra,
    Great post on organization. Thanks for all the tips!

  68. Yay, Melanie!! We'll celebrate with you!!

    Susanna, I just wish the book producing happened that way! :)

  69. I'm always paranoid about losing files because my computer died the same day my purse was stolen with my back-up files on my thumb drive.

    Call me OCD. I'm good with that. :)

    I like to print out things that I just couldn't move forward without--my timeline, character info, ideas and outlines. Plus then I can look at the hard copies and not have to have four Word documents open at the same time.

    To keep these paper files together, I put them in a three-ring binder with cut up manila folders as dividers. Plus I often go away from home to write so I can grab the binder, my laptop, and go.

    sallybradleywrite [at] gmaildotcom

  70. Bear with me kids, I'm trying to snatch a moment or two during work to play here.

    Sandra, dumpsters are awesome! I love ours. Amazing how handy it is EVERY DAY! But really, I love spreading my work out around me, keeps me in the mood. Yep, in sight=in mind.

    Susanna...I laugh at you!! Keep dreaming, girlfriend. We work hard to make writing look effortless, LOL!! Well, it is effortless for Mary, but then, there's one in every crowd.

    Stacey, keep your writing habits as simple as possible for as long as possible. Writers all have the same illness -- acquiring the newest and shiniest gadgets and programs hot off the press! File folders? I love 'em! Had to get a label maker to make them look pretty.

    Jodie, if there's anything to keep close by your side as you meander through your work its Debby's "The Writer's Prayer" and Bible verses as well as the seashells and Sears catalogs and paper doll patterns. I'm impressed. You're a very well-rounded writer : )

  71. I have folders, notebooks, charts sometimes, lots of research books, notes etc. and I still can't keep organized for very long. Confession time--I need to stay better organized because I can easily run into trouble and waste valuable time.

  72. Andrea, congratulations on that sale!! Keep those details straight. SOMEONE out there will correct you (nicely and not so nicely) when you goof up. When's the book coming out??

    Lizzie, nothing wrong with exposing your your housemates, of course. My family kinda drew the line when I started posting hero pictures on the refrigerator door...imagine that!

    Oooo, Erica! I knew I loved you for a reason! Our minds work alike, LOL!

    Jessica, I applaud your little rectangle of knowledge. I'm envious. If I tried to corral all my notes and ideas into a rectangle, I'm afraid it would become a big black hole : )

    Good for you!

  73. Mary said: "My sister in law said to me once: If people are going to look for dust in my house I don't want to make them look too hard."

    Audra said: A friend of mine once gave me a plaque that reads "Dust is a country accent." I'm trying to oblige, LOL!

    Hi Jan! HOpe you got some great tips.

  74. YAY, Melanie! Typing THE END is the best feeling! Proud of you. Now, go and shake out your pretty little head so you can start filling your brain with info on the NEXT book.

    Snow White--I can't wait : )

  75. Hi Sally, I'd be paranoid too if I had my purse stolen with my thumb drive AND my computer crash on the same day, effectively removing all traces of my work. I'd be scrambling to make hard copies of EVERYTHING!

    Cara, you sound like my friend at work. Her desk is spotless. She's efficient. And she's cute. And nice. Sweet.

    When you put her OCD together with my ADD, we tend to offer the folks who meander into the office a good dose of alphabet soup. Okay, aside from that, she always claims she stays organized with everything in its place because she's lazy, she doesn't want to spend time looking for things.

    Hmmm, I still haven't figured out if she dissed me or not : ) I don't care though, the cleaning people think I'M the important one in the office cuz MY DESK IS ALWAYS MESSY!!!

  76. Audra ... "Queen of Sticky Notes" ... I like that!! Which pretty much means I'm Queen of Anality too!! :)

    YAY, MELANINE ... you go, girl!! Can't wait to read it.


  77. Congrats Melanie on reaching The End!

    I'm not the most organized person. Perfect organization always feels like it takes more energy than I want to expend, but when I do organize things, I'm always glad I did.

    I blogged yesterday on a more narrow topic, specifically what is your file management for your wip? Single or multiple files? What's your naming convention?

    My process is still so raw, but most everything is on computer. Hard drive, flash drive and Dropbox. However, I've lately taken to writing longhand, so I have a series of spiral notebooks that include scenes, plot notes, character profiles, etc. It all gets typed up, though.

    I've also taken to walking in the mornings and I find that my creative juices are bubbling so I've begun using the voice recorder on my phone. I have yet to transcribe any of these recordings though.

  78. Here are some Oreos, Myra. And Chips Ahoy. And Pecan Sandies. After all the moving woes you've been though, I think I'll call and have a pizza delivered to you, too!

    I think WriteWay Pro is the PC equivalent to Scrivener. I love it. I need to learn all the cool little gizmos yet. I'll work on it : )

  79. Hi Patricia! Morning walks are lovely, aren't they? I've got to get back into the routine of walking, period.

    Funny you should mention transcribing from your voice recorder. I used to use one, but never took the time to transcibe. What I found out was that the simple act of voicing my thoughts made me remember them. Does that work for you, too?

    Simply scribbling down notes randomly helps me remember that stroke of genius moment--even if I never see the scrap of paper again. Weird.

    Good for you being minimalistic. I'm proud of you.

  80. Audra, I'm back at last! What a day! I won't bore you with the details, though.

    LOVE the post! Great tips!

    What do I do? I keep most everything in a file under the name of my WIP. Having said that, I had to start a new one since its taking me so long to write my first novel. I got tired of trying to sort through the older files to find the newer files. So, I have "Finding Beth 2011." Inside that, I keep all my files for chapters, different wip versions, notes, characters, all that stuff you ladies talked about goes in Word documents.

    I'm not a spread sheet person. Spread sheets have never liked me. Maybe if I had a comprehensive class on how to use the thing? I'm a visual learner. Show me and I'll figure it out. Otherwise, forget it.

    Much of the story is in my head, like Ruthy. I do have some notes and I have found that it helps to do revisions on hard copy and then enter them in the computer sections at a time. It's double duty, but I get 3-4 times more work done than if I tried to do it totally off the computer screen. Weird, but it works for me.

    Once in a while, I'll print out things like my character list/sketch and keep it close by and sometimes I minimize the file on my computer. Depends on my mood or maybe the reason is just mystery.

    My character sketch document is more like a list of names with little notes about each one. Not very pretty or organized, but it works for me. Too much clutter and my brain melts. Too much organization and it freezes. I know. I'm a conundrum! :D

    Please count me in for the drawing. :D

  81. Oh! I have Microsoft live, so once in a while I'll back up my main files onto it. Need to do it more often, but I forget.

  82. ROFL... Mary! You're a riot! I think you were a little high on Oreos today. ;-)

    Looks like I missed the fun today. Sigh..... Oh well. Maybe next time. :-)

  83. Missy, what part of the Snowflake do you use for your synopsis was it? Is it the 10 step design part?

  84. The thing that's so interesting about writing is it's a really messy process and it stays that way until the book is actually in print. Everyone does it differently and seems to keep on looking for the perfect (read easy, organized, not messy way). If anyone finds it, let me know.

  85. Thanks for the yays and congrats! I did sort of celebrate today.

    Now I need to start revising!

    Gotta go back and remember all the things I forgot, including characters' names, since it's been so long since I started this book! Uh, I guess it might have helped if I'd at least made a list of characters' names. I actually do that, but then when I decide to change a name, I forget to go back into that file and change it, so it ends up that my file with my list of characters' names is pretty useless by the time I reach The End.

    It's sad, I know.

  86. Thanks for the yays and congrats! I did sort of celebrate today.

    Now I need to start revising!

    Gotta go back and remember all the things I forgot, including characters' names, since it's been so long since I started this book! Uh, I guess it might have helped if I'd at least made a list of characters' names. I actually do that, but then when I decide to change a name, I forget to go back into that file and change it, so it ends up that my file with my list of characters' names is pretty useless by the time I reach The End.

    It's sad, I know.

  87. Am I the only radically unorganized person in the bunch????

    Oh dear heavens, I need a Snapple.

    Quick. Jack. Get on that, won't you????

    Oh my stars, I'm vershimmeled by how everybody has, like, a plan. Or something. Notes. Plots. Those spreadsheet.... things.

    I hire my niece to do up tax spreadsheets for me because I can't get the little cells to behave.

    I hate those things.

    But I LOvE ME SOME LATE-NIGHT SEEKERVILLE! Oh, gracious, I might be late to the party, but I brought chocolate. And ice cream. It's summer, after all!

    Gotta see how y'all react to this. And I'm thanking you in advance for being NICE TO ME.

  88. 1. I love Nancy.

    2. I love Mary.

    3. I can't believe people really do these things.

    4. I want Mary's Oreos. Like now. Bad.

  89. Linette, we missed you today, but glad you made it back.

    I start out with one folder, but it tends to multiply as my generations of revisions grow. I don't delete anything. Heavens! Just as I start housecleaning my files, I'll have to have the one I just deleted, LOL!

    Why am I laughing! I've done that! I've learned! I won't do it again!!

    Doing thisgs like Ruthy isn't necessarily a BAD thing...just don't let her know, we'll never hear the end of it.

  90. Oh, Ruthy, you're not the only one. I'm right there with ya.

    Thanks for the chocolate! I've been out of chocolate for DAYS. I won't tell you what I resorted to eating yesterday, but it had an orange cream center. Don't people know that chocolate and citrus do not mix? Ick.

  91. Melanie. Sometimes you leave me speechless. That can be a good thing.

    Since you're revising your name list, how about adding Audra to the list? It's a good, solid, old-timey name. Think about it : )

  92. And I agree with Cara. It's just messy. That's all there is to it.

    And I don't know why my posts are showing up twice. Totally blogger's fault.

  93. Cara, yes writing is messy work, but someone's gotta do it, : )

  94. Chocolate's so much better when it's messy.

    Oh wait...are we talking about chocolate? ;-) I'm much better at talking about chocolate than organization

  95. Audra, one good turn deserves another! Since you named your heroine after me, I am definitely planning on naming one of mine after you! Besides, I really like the name Audra. Although it isn't very Southern. Need to go check and see if Audra was used in medieval Germany. It actually sounds quite German, now that I think about it! Only, my next medieval is a Cinderella story, darn it. Audra doesn't sound anything like Cinderella.

  96. Ruthy, what kinda ice cream? Low fat, low calorie? Melanie was talking about belly buttons today...a lot. I believe she's thinking of piercing. We've got to intercede.

  97. Pepper, chocolate in any way, shape or texture is fine by me. Even messy. Speaking of that, have you tried the Death By Chocolate, slow churned, less fat and calories than regular ice cream by Dreyers? O. M. G. Yumbola! FINALLY something that is semi good for you tastes good, too.

  98. Ooo, Audra
    Sounds like a great way to die

  99. Don't know about Southern, but Audra (pronounced 'ow-drr-a' with a slight roll of the tongue in Lithuanian) is very European. AND, I can count to 10 in German -- does that help?

  100. I was not the one who brought up belly buttons. And I clearly stated I am against belly button piercing, especially when it is my belly button.

  101. I just had a really great idea. I will name my next Southern heroine "Audra" but all her country neighbors and relatives will call her "Audrey" because that's what Southerners do to a name that has a short "a" sound at the end. They turn it into a long "e". Or they change it into an "er" sound. So that Anna becomes "Anner." I know you don't believe me, but it's absolutely true, or it was true of the old people when I was a kid living in The Back of Nowhere, Alabama.

  102. Hmmm, my name is Audra, but all my relatives call me Audrey. Do you suppose my folks were from SOUTHERN Lithuania??

  103. Okay Mel, no piercing. I have one hole in each earlobe for small, tasteful earrings and will be happy to let that be : )

  104. After reading the comments, I am very much like Melanie D. I keep everything in my head. Although my desk is still a mess like Audra's :) How can that be? :) What is all this stuff? lol

  105. Dorks R Us.

    That's my final take on this. And yet somehow, in all our differences (Mel, I got your back!) we get it done.

    Only my way is way more fun.

    Neener, neener, neener...

  106. Eva, we're a creative lot. That explains it all.

  107. Loved this! I use spreadsheets--for books and life and general. I'm terrified of losing a spreadsheet, so I email it to a private yahoo group I set up to store stuff I want access to in the event of a *shudder* crash.

    Since I lose papers, I really need to set up binders. Really.

  108. Southern Lithuania, Audra? Maybe.

    I saw that Mary has a heroine named after you. Mm-hm. Saw that.