East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Getting (reasonably) organized


Lady-Juggler-2Ok – getting organized.

Right now I’m writing the final 5000 words of my novel (that will probably grow to 7500, but that’s another story) and I’m

. outlining the sequel
. planning a number of proposal for another novel
. getting my full-year writing project underway
. setting up the early stages of a roleplaying game project that will probably also involve fiction-writing
. trying to schedule future outings – short stories, novelettes etc., and the marketing and distribution of the same.

So, two problems, one psychological, one practical.

Psychological problem – avoid that the enthusiasm for what’s to come distracts me from completing what’s at hand.
Because once the story is outlined… well, I sort of know what’s going to happen, how the dialogue will play, what the big scenes will be about. The next project is an uncharted territory, and therefore it is much more exciting.

The trick to avoiding this pitfall is, for me, to leave ample margin to my characters to do the unexpected. Maybe it’s because I come from a roleplaying game background, but I think of my stories as a set of problems a set of characters has to solve. This means that I do not know that precisely how things will play out, even if the outline of the story is well established.
Instant excitement, just add a keyboard and some tea.

Practical problem – keeping all the projects going without getting lost in a blizzard of post-its, scrap paper, hastily-named txt files and what else.

So, here’s how I do it.

The sweep file (aka the Dustbin) – I create a secret pinboard on Pinterest, called Sweep File, and I pin into it all the snippets of information, the websites, blog posts and stuff that might come in handy later but still does not have a project attached: story ideas, promising character portraits, curiosities.
Project pins – again a secret pin, this time dedicated to a specific project; everything useful for the project that can be pinned is pinned in there. Nice and smooth.
The sweep folder (aka the Dump) – I’ve a folder on my desktop called Games & Projects. I put in there everyhting that’s related to my projects and cannot be pinned, to wit, quick txt notes and snippets of text.
P16387890The old relieable – a big fat copybook, together with a four color pen, the geeky kind that can write black, blue, red and green. I carry this with me whereve I go, and I jot down ideas – different project, different color. Beats a smartphone every day of the week: you won’t get mugged by someone wanting to steal your smartphone, and you get a lot of weird stares as you write away standing in line at the supermarket or in the doctor’s waiting room.

This set-up is pretty useful in the early, hectic, strange and wild phase that marks the start of any new project.
Once the current project is closed, I pass to the following… I extract all the relevant stuff from my pins and files and copybook, and go through a full review of what’s there.
Then I can start.

I can even follow two projects at the same time – I just do project A in the morning and project B in the afternoon, for instance.

It seems to be working.

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

4 thoughts on “Getting (reasonably) organized

  1. You are amazing!
    It will work for sure.
    You are really well organized. Do you offer consulting for those like me who live in chaos? šŸ™‚


  2. Hi Davide,

    My name is Fabio Leone. I follow you for a long (blogs and ebooks) and I want to make you my compliments for your stories and your publications (I only read your books in Italian. I read in English for my job and I find it hard to relax if the novel or the story is in English. I hope to read fiction in English in future)

    I have also many ideas and hints for furure short stories in my drawer (still in ideas and hints stage because of my attempts to take off my research work – I’m a fresh PhD , like you).

    With regard to your modus operandi for writing, I want to ask you whether or not you use a list of to-do projects or stories (let’s say, before you start writing a single specific story. For example, a list from which you find and select your next project)

    I thank you for your answer and your kindness.
    Congratulations again


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