About writing

One Carousel You Don’t Want to Ride

Don’t Lose Your Words: Personal Administration for Writers

Introduction to Part 1

Not having seen every carousel in the world I can’t tell you for sure that the one pictured above is the most beautiful. But it’s the most beautiful one I’ve seen. It’s right along the Seine River in Paris, between the Trocadero (on the other side of the river) and the Eiffel Tower. Even if you don’t like going around and around and up and down and up and down, it’s fun to watch other people do it on gorgeous whimsical and mythological beasts in the midst of flashing lights and evocative tunes.

The beasts we face as writers may be equally whimsical and mythological, but we probably don’t want to ride them for long – regardless of what lights may be flashing or what group may be belting out what tune in the background.

So in the morning you’re a unicorn, dashing into dialogue, skewering villains, saving maidens in distress. You’re pushing pixels as fast as you can pedal.

By late afternoon, you’ve become Sid the sloth. You just can’t do anything else. Not one more keystroke. Okay, one. You hit the sleep button on your computer. During the night, however, whilst you enjoy your well-deserved rest, some troll comes along and shuts down your computer.

Next morning, unicorn again. You fire up the computer, decide to take a peek at what you wrote yesterday before you go at it today. And guess what? It’s not there. It’s gone. Maybe MS Word did a bit of rescuing (i.e. recovered document), maybe Pages saved it in iCloud. Maybe Google docked it somewhere. Maybe not. You have to go looking for it. Because you didn’t put it away so you knew where you would find it. Don’t do this!

And if you think it’s tough with the first chapter, wait until you have thirty chapters. Better still, wait until you have thirty books with thirty chapters each. Yet better again, wait until you combine all those chapters with the blog posts you’re going to write every week, the reviews of books comparable to yours you’re going to write on a regular basis, your grocery lists and the honey-do lists. Do you get a sense of the magnitude of this issue?

So here, in a nutshell, is my advice. This is not just for chapters and scenes. This is not solely for your completed masterpieces. This is not primarily for the edits your publisher demanded yesterday. This is for ALL the time with everything: make copies, electronic and paper. Keep track of what you do and how to access the materials you produce. This one thing will save you more time than anything else. Date copies of your progress from day to day. I add the date, using a ‘yymmdd’ format (as in 190501) in addition to the title of the piece so they stay in order, least to most recent. For this you need a computer since tablets and phones do not have an easily accessible folder format. Save on your computer in a folder whose name is self-explanatory. Save in at least one, preferably more, cloud service (e.g. iCloud, One Cloud, Dropbox) using the same name and date.

Don’t make yourself go round and round and up and down looking through your files and folders trying to find those elusive bits you know you did but you just can’t remember where you put them. Stay off that carousel! Circles, ascents, descents, mythical and whimsical beasts are all well and good in their place. Their place is not in your writing cosmos.

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