Sunday, March 21, 2010

Writing While Fuzzy Brained

Good morning from the lake house in cold, foggy, Mineola, Texas! While it is below freezing (sorry, plants I forgot to take inside) with light snow at our home in Richardson, about 90 miles away, on Saturday we had cold rain and blustery winds - until this Sunday morning.

Just about an hour ago, before dawn, it began to snow. Right now, soft flakes are drifting down on the deck, the bird feeders, the grass, and our car. We've never been here before when it snowed and it's very exciting to see. I can't wait for the sun to come up to see the lake and trees! (Sorry for the blurry image - I think my hand was shaking from the cold temperature outside.)

I've also included a photo from our absolutely gorgeous day on Friday, when we were out working in the yard and garage in our shirt sleeves. This is facing west over the lake with the rising sun reflected in the water. Mist was rising from the lake because of the warm weather. Many of the trees are budding out and blooming, although you can't see them in the photo. Much more springlike than the actual first day of spring!

One of my goals for the weekend was to get my next release almost finished. My understanding editor gave me another month after my three weeks of absolutely fuzzy-brained non-production from the middle of February to the first week in March. I had a bad sinus infection, then strep throat. I took lots of medication which left me goofy and sleepy until I finished all the doses. I then had about four days of clear, energy-filled, fired-up creativity and dedication.
Then I got a cold. The sniffles have just about departed, depending on how much time I spend outdoors in all the pollen. I'm not coughing very much. We even went out to dinner last night at Kitchens restaurant and I could taste my food!

I thought I'd share some techniques I've been using to try to keep writing while on medication that made me less than cognizant. (For example, I stared at my computer for a full two minutes the other day and couldn't remember a major character's name! ) Ever since I started writing series for Harlequin American - first Ranger Springs and now Brody's Crossing - I've maintained a separate Word file titled "People and Places." I add to this file with each book, listing the most current hero and heroine at the top of the list with their ages in the year of publication, their status, description, family situations, etc. I then list any new characters I've introduced in that book with their physical descriptions, ages, etc. Near the bottom of the list I have various places around town where my "regulars" work and congregate, such as Clarissa's House of Style, the Cafe, Dewey's Saloon and Steakhouse, etc. I include descriptions and any relevant history of the establishment in these listings. I save this file under the folder "Brody's Crossing" in my Harlequin American folder so I can find it easily when I can't remember who the police chief is or what month and year someone got pregnant. It's so much easier than trying to remember what book I mentioned that factoid in and trying to find it by doing a text search in Word. I also created a Word file with a map of fictional Brody's Crossing so I know street names, locations of places in relation to blocks of the downtown, etc. I don't think I can upload that image, but if you'd like a copy, I'll be glad to email it to you.

The second thing I've been doing in this book, tentatively titled Texan in Her Heart, is create another word document for "What Leo knows about Amanda" based on what she's told him in conversation., This is where the fuzzy-brained condition really played out; I couldn't remember if he'd assumed something, she'd mentioned it in introspection to the reader, or they actually had a conversation. So when they talk about her mysterious (from Leo's perspective) reasons for being in Brody's Crossing, I copy and paste relevant parts of their dialogue into a file. I also note the page number where the conversation took place. Although this might change later, it probably won't be too far off because I write the book front to back. (Many authors write scenes and place them later, or write out of order when they visualize a scene farther back in the book.)

I also sometimes create a document for "Go back and add" things. These are notes to myself to check on things I'd written, or add something like a motivation or description. In other books, when I used to print out the manuscript as I went, I used Post-It notes to tell myself where things happened or where I wanted to go back and add something. In the interest of saving money and not cutting down so many trees, I've stopped printing out as I go along. I've had to learn new techniques to keep up with the story.

I hope this might help aspiring authors who are having the same fuzzy-brained moments as I sometimes have. Also, it might give readers some insight into how we keep up with characters and events in our books, especially series where it has to make sense over a longer period of time. Brody's Crossing originated in 2006 and will go on through 2011 at least, so that's five years of characters, places and descriptions to keep up with in my mind. That's a lot of details!

Have a great springtime. I hope yours is less cold and rainy than mine!


Laura Marie Altom said...

Thanks for the great tips!! I've always done this on the rough draft read-through, but duh, it might be a whole lot more useful at the start, huh?!

Here in Tulsa it's MISERABLE. I just took a kiddo to work and the wind nearly blew me over!! Stay warm!!

Pamela Stone said...

Cold and an inch of snow in Waxahachie too. When I went to bed around midnight, a very fine blowing snow was coming down. This morning it's 32 and white. What a winter.

Victoria, thanks for the insight. I have a similar process that involves a spreadsheet with columns for each character on one tab with pertinent info like age, description, and anything else that seems important. Then I have a scene by scene tab for each book with columns tracking everything from POV to stages of romance to weather. Both are works in progress as I write. Valuable tool when one is fuzzy brained for sure. Enjoy the lake.

Marcie said...

Wow! Great tips. Thanks.
There was an author who posted on her blog a couple months ago that she lost her notes on an earlier book she had written. She was revisiting the characters about 8 books later. She asked her readers for help by emailing character descriptions to her. I'm not sure if they were on paper or comp, but either way make sure you back-up your files!

With the weird weather - I think someone upset Mother Nature!

Estella said...

I live in western Oregon---rain is a way of life in the Spring.

CC Coburn said...

Hi Victoria! I'm here in Australia laughing about your freezing temps. It's beens o unbearaby hot and humid here that I've decided I definitely prefer the cold to the heat. In fact it's been so hot that only last week it cooled down enough for me to venture out into the backyard for a swim (otherwise I hide inside with the air-con switched to frigid!)
Thanks for those techniques. They're a great tool esp for someone like me who "pants" and therfore easily loses long trains of thoughts (and characters!)

Hope to see you in Nashville.

CC Coburn said...

Oh, and I meant to say that picture os your lake looks gorgeous! Lucky you!

Victoria said...

Thanks, C.C. You need to come back to Colorado! They had the same snowstorm that we got here in Texas. This week has been beautiful, though. About 67 degrees yesterday and warmer today. Thunderstorms tomorrow, then warm again. Springtime in Texas! Just wait for summer, though. I'll be just like you - holed up indoors with the AC on high. :-)

Victoria said...

I forgot to mention that I apologize for the weird fonts. I'm not sure why part of my post is small and the rest larger. I didn't "tell" it to change.

Also, the plants at home survived. Yeah!

Have a great week.

karma1086 said...

Thanks for the tips. they are really useful.I am not a writer, at least I am not professional writer, but I wrote some stories couple years ago, just for fun and if I will write some thing again I will definitely use them. I like your books and I like to read Harlequin series. If I could I would buy all he books from all the series they released.
Thanks for all.