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Discovering the Method in my Madness

Confession: I’ve been taking another online class.

I know, I know. I’m supposed to be working on my novel. I HAVE been working on my novel. (I said so in a recent post.) I LOVE to take classes, especially online. They allow me to work at my own pace and still do my laundry. Plus, I learn stuff, new stuff, interesting stuff, helpful stuff, fun stuff!

This class WILL help me with my novel.

I know, I know. I say that about every new class and technique, but it’s true. Each one plugs some gaping hole in my knowledge. In this class I’m learning how to harness the power of Evernote.  Their promo page promises, “Discover how organized you can be. Collect what matters and find it when you need it, wherever you are.” I don’t know about you, but I NEED to be more organized.

So many apps and programs promise to make writing (and life) easier, but I don’t have the time or patience to sift through them. When I noticed Mastering Evernote offered by Lisa Norman through Margie Lawson’s Writer’s Academy, I couldn’t resist signing up. I previously overcame my fear of starting a website by taking her Crazy Awesome Author Websites class. (You could blame her for this site’s existence, but not for the quality of content-that’s my fault.) Here is Lisa’s affiliate link if you’d like to learn more about Evernote.

I have a love-hate relationship with technology. When I left the workforce being savvy in the office meant sending a fax or changing ink cartridges in the copy machine. Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE the ability to use a word processor, send e-mails, and research online. I HATE anything more complicated to use than a refrigerator. You know, open the door, insert items, close the door. My gainfully employed family members are forced to learn and adapt to new software through the course of their jobs. As a stay-at-home person, I’m not required to design spreadsheets, create presentations, or configure databases. I read blogs, archive family photos, and write. I complain when my favorite software gets updated, or worse, eliminated, but I do attempt to keep up-to-date.

I signed up to learn how to use Evernote, but under Lisa’s expert guidance, I’ve learned that refining my writing process involves much more than learning a technical program. What style of organization works best for me? How do I capture and retrieve research? How do I keep track of description, setting, characterization? When and how am I most productive?

After multiple rewrites my work-in-progress exists in several versions. Each version features some type of minor to major revision. In one manuscript I may have added a new character, while in another I may have changed character names or locations. I’ve been overwhelmed by the sheer amount of words, scenes, character traits, and descriptions that need to be reconciled.

I’ve searched for a method to keep all these details organized. I’ve tried using notebooks, note cards, outlines, highlighters, even scissors and glue. Whether my ideas are online, on paper, or on Post-its®, at a certain point my thoughts end up as scattered as a pile of pages tossed into the air. I’ve found it impossible to force my scrambled story lines into back into a coherent and entertaining whole.  As I tell my family when I go to the grocery store, if the item isn’t added to my shopping list, it won’t magically appear in the pantry.

Through the class, I’ve learned that I’ve been fighting some of my natural tendencies. Her links to how other writers use the program made me realize I need to adapt it (or other tools) to my style. When my methods seem contrary to popular advice I tend to judge myself harshly, but maybe my style isn’t inferior, just unique. Cooperating with my process frees me to do my best work. Fighting it makes me unproductive and blocked. To quote her wise counsel, “The idea with all of these methods is to only snag the ones that work for you. As soon as something doesn’t work…toss it out.”

I signed up for the class to learn a software program, but what I’ve learned is how to evaluate and improve my process. That’s something I’ll profit from both now and in the future. (Thanks, Lisa!) So, you see I’m correct. This class WILL help me finish my novel. Ooh, I need to add a note about my protagonist’s eye color. Weren’t her eyes blue in the last version? Wish me luck.

What’s your favorite organizing tip? Share in the comments.

2 thoughts on “Discovering the Method in my Madness”

    1. Thanks to the class I’m reading The Story Grid What Good Editors Know by Shawn Coyne. It’s really helping me to build the structure of my novel. Thanks again!

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