What I’ve learned since becoming a writer #IWSG


Insecure Writer’s Support Group

It’s IWSG posting day, and the question of the day is: What is one valuable lesson you’ve learned since you started writing?

OK. One valuable lesson I have learned is that I am disorganized as hell and I can’t be fixed. Which I suppose is just another way of saying that I have Asperger’s Syndrome, a disorder in which lack of executive function— a scientific term which means ‘disorganized as hell’— is a feature. And not one of the cool features.

One way ‘disorganized as hell’ works out in my writing life is that I lose vital stuff and never find it again. For example, years ago I came up with the absolute perfect system of military rank for my Starship Destine series. I remember that each rank had 3 grades, and there were no captains in the rank system. ‘Captain’ was just a title for the guy who commanded a starship.

I wrote this system down in a composition book, then misplaced the composition book. I couldn’t recreate the system from memory. This stalled the Starship Destine project for years. A year ago I finally bit the bullet and created a new system.

What I have learned from such experience is that every writing project must have a home. A physical home, such as a plastic box in which to keep the composition books, three-ring binders, and random paper scraps related to the project. And an electronic home, such as one or more Scrivener projects, backed up on Dropbox. (If you don’t have the money for Scrivener, try YWriter which is free. Or give up some of your expensive habits, like eating breakfast, until you’ve saved up for Scrivener.)

Physical printouts of your work is important. With my poems I have a Scrivener file for them, in which they are sorted by year and month. When I write a poem into the Scrivener file, I ALWAYS print out a copy and put it in a file box.  When one of my computers died in 2015, I got a new one, re-downloaded my Scrivener, and retrieved my poetry file from Dropbox. I found that several of the most recent poems were missing from the file. But since I had my hard copy, I printed out the missing poems and nothing was lost.

For my Starship Destine series, I had one Scrivener file which was all my worldbuilding encyclopedia. I wrote out topics about my Starship Destine world/galaxy such as the different alien races, what Terra was like in that time period, how intelligent races were classified either as dominant, non-dominant and sub-dominant, how interplanetary affairs were conducted (no, not THAT kind of affairs….)  Printouts from this file are housed in a 3-ring binder which has a set of alphabetical dividers. So if I want to check a key fact about the Mender race, I find it under the letter ‘M’. in the binder.

Later I decided to use the Starship Destine world of an earlier era for my Western-with-aliens series which was to begin with a story called ‘Sky Machine over Texas.’ I did some outlining and character work on that and did some work on creating a Mender language— at least enough of a language to come up with personal names, place names and the like. I think it was based on a combination of Biblical Greek and ancient Egyptian. But I wasn’t being very organized at the time and some of the notes I made, including a language list of a couple dozen words/names and a list of Mender noble family surnames, has gone missing. I’m going to have to do a revamp of my Destine worldbuilding file to include the new material and a place to house the notes for both series. Will have to clear off some shelves to house some of this material when I’m not currently working on it.

I find that using this system helps me feel more confident. It’s a bit of work to keep it going and I have to remember to have composition books, 3-ring binders and plastic boxes around to house my hard copies, and have to remember to keep up with the Scrivener files and make sure to back them up to Dropbox. But I’m hoping I won’t have to drop writing projects for years any more because of lost notes. And for sure I mustn’t procrastinate recreating stuff that has been lost— I’m going to get out my Egyptian language book and my Strong’s Concordance (for the Greek) and create a new list of Mender words/names, as well as adding old Mender names and a word to my Scrivener file, by the end of this week.

Have you every had problems with organizing the notes for your writing or other creative projects? Have you come up with a system that works for you?


Blog posts I’m reading:

Since it’s IWSG posting day, I will be reading LOTS of posts from the IWSG list. If you want to read some for yourself, the list of blogs is here: http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/iwsg-sign-up.html

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6 thoughts on “What I’ve learned since becoming a writer #IWSG

  1. Your organization plans sound amazing to me. I need to take your example at get better at least doing more backups. Happy #IWSG day and happy writing!

  2. The way you are creating language from Egyptian and Greek is so interesting. I have written a few science fiction stories and trying to come up with names for the characters and planets or worlds is a challenge. I am starting a story now. I would like to print out my chapters as well because I like having a hard copy and editing may be easier on paper. And I can see how it is important to have the work organized and backed up where you can find it easily. 🙂

  3. It sounds like you’re super organized! But, I know that I have to be on top of things all the time or I slide into a pile of books and papers that’s three feet high and taking over the dining room table … and my desk. So … I print out my WIPs when they get to be at the halfway mark, make up a Table of Contents scene list and then work my way onward from there. It really helps me visualize the project getting done.

  4. I found this cool box of color tabbed post it notes at Office Depot and used it recently to pilot out my scenes. I love it. I can shuffle the cards if they don’t work where I originally planned. Organizing is definitely difficult and I wish you all the best 🙂

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