Tuesday, September 14, 2010

On Staying Organized

There is no place more terrifying for my husband than my office. There are stacks of books and paper on every available surface, poorly scribbled sticky notes stuck on the top of my desk. If you open the closet, you're likely to be buried under a pile of junk. No one can ever find anything in there, but you know what? If you asked me where I keep the hand puppet I made for the 1992 Arizona State Fair, I'd be entertaining you with a puppet show in less than five minutes.

In his office everything is neatly tucked away. Everything has a place and that place is generally labeled in hand-drawn calligraphy. The contents of the drawers are organized by purpose: pens and paperclips in one, stapler and hole punch in another, and camera cords and iPhone plugs in the bottom; all perfectly coiled of course.

We've had our disputes over the matter. My husband also likes to reorganize, so I'll be trying to cook dinner but not be able to find my pans. He moved the trashcan once and I think it took several months before I quit throwing tissues at the empty spot on the floor.

What is it that makes our organization styles so different?
Memory. I have a good one. He does not.

When he decides the pans would be better off in the larger cabinet (and they are), he moves them. But all I remember is where I put them in the first place and I'll keep going back to their original home because I didn't partake in the relocation or even witness it happening. Of course, he can't stand when I leave piles of old mail on the kitchen table...understandably.

It definitely helps to have both styles of organization. If I forget the date of the show we were supposed to go to, he has it written down on his calendar. When we leave the show, and he has inevitably forgotten where we parked, I'll always remember.

This brings me to the point of this long-winded blog entry. I'm experiencing the same problem in my writing life. After adding new chapters, developing new characters, and changing the order of things in my editing process, all I can remember is how they started. I'm working on the second book and still throwing tissues at the floor.

I painfully have to admit that perhaps my husband's meticulous organization does serve a purpose, and as much as I scoffed at the character bible, I think I'm going to have to make one. I'll still rely on my memory. It comes in handy when a character enters a room and finds the knife that she stashed there eighty pages ago. But by making a bible, I can keep track of the details. It will be like a map to the trashcan in case its location changes.

Do you use a character bible or just write by the seat of your pants? Discuss.

1 comment:

Brigid Kemmerer said...

I totally write by the seat of my pants! I know what you mean about forgetting stuff after you make significant revisions. I had to cut 100 pages in my second round of revisions for Tamar. I condensed scenes, cut paragraphs, things like that. I started losing track of things and wondering if I'd left certain quirks in, or if I'd taken them out.

I usually figure out a character as I'm writing, however. In the book I'm working on, I have one guy who I wanted to be very funny, happy-go-lucky, and carefree. He's still funny, but he refuses to be carefree. He actually cares about a lot of things, and he's turned into a protector for his brothers. Totally not what I imagined initially. I think if I'd had a full character study planned out, I would have had a hard time shoehorning him into that model, and it would have felt forced.

What's your book about? You can email me if you don't want to slap it up here. brigidmary (at) gmail.com. Or you don't have to tell me at all. It's cool. :-) I know how it is to play things close to the chest.