Organized Writing is the Best Writing

Interestingly enough, the idea for this post came off a napkin.

 

Or rather, I wrote the idea down on a napkin.

 

I do that a lot. If you opened the drawer of my nightstand, you’d find a small notebook full of ripped paper, napkins, and sticky notes all covered with late-night scrawls of half-thought out ideas. Not all of them are good, but I generally find that my best story ideas come to me as I’m lying awake at night, unable to sleep. For this reason, I keep a pad of blank paper in the drawer next to the notebook.

 

Now, the idea for this post didn’t happen late at night (hopefully not indicating non-goodness), but it did come to me in the middle of work, which isn’t necessarily the most convenient time to have a thought. What’d I have available in a kitchen? A napkin. Works for me.

 

It’s pretty easy to write down ideas as they come to you on anything that you happen to have nearby (and honestly, I’d recommend it), but that also means those written thoughts are pretty easy to lose. Organization is the key to writing and writing well, because if your thoughts are a jumbled up mess, so is your writing.

 

Not so good at keeping organized? Don’t worry. I got you covered with a few tips for jumpstarting your organization.

 

1) Transfer your scribbles to one location. I’m not really the best at this (as you can tell by the description of my notebook), but I can attest to the fact that it’s very difficult to put together a story with all your ideas on random pieces of junk. Not only is it hard to store all these objects, but it can also be difficult to read the hurried writing, which means ideas could become skewed or even forgotten if left alone for too long. Rewriting or typing these thoughts onto regular paper in a timely fashion can save you the headache of writer’s block later on.

 

2) Store your rewrites in one spot. In addition to the messy notebook, I’ve also got various ideas typed out on several word documents, each with a similar title to the others (“story ideas,” “musings,” etc.). Why have I done this? I’m not sure. It would certainly be a lot easier to have all my ideas in one word document or on one pad of paper where I can easily read and see them. Don’t follow my example.

 

3) Categorize. Categorize. Categorize. Start by making headings for each novel or piece of writing you’re working on. Then, make subcategories for character descriptions, locations, plot, dialogue, etc. Write down any of your ideas under the appropriate category so that they’re easier to go back to and find. Writing made easy. If that sounds like too much work, there’s a lovely little app that organizes for you, which I highlighted in a post here.

 

Of course, these tips are just to help really unorganized writers like me start to create some order in their writing process. If organized writing makes for easy writing, and easy writing makes for good writing, then that must mean that organization leads to good writing (If O = E and E = G then O = G. Hey, look. Math.).

Got your own way of organizing your writing? Tell me in the comments. Or, click on the picture below to see how famous authors kept notes.

J.K. Rowling’s method

Quote #3

“Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”

– G.K. Chesterton

Book Review: An Abundance of Katherines

There’s a saying out there somewhere which describes the intense odor of fail that so often emanates from the unturned pages of authors’ first novels.

 

However, since I can’t seem to produce that actual quote, I’ll just assume that I made that up and this is all just based on my own opinion.

 

See this book at Barnes & Noble

See this book at Barnes & Noble

Nevertheless, debut novels (whether they get thrown out or actually published) usually don’t measure up to the quality of work put out by authors later on in their careers. And as I was under the impression that An Abundance of Katherines was John Green’s debut novel, I was ready to write it off as a sloppy yet decent first try. Turns out his real first novel, Looking for Alaska, was pretty successful and I actually just finished reading his second (and clearly less successful) book.

 

Well that doesn’t fit the formula.

 

But, while I can’t tell you why the quality of his work seems to have declined during his career, I can explain to you a formula which is intended to predict the outcome of your romantic relationships. Yes, the main character of this book spent much time obsessing over creating this formula…also math…and anagrams…and his unfulfilled genius…and girls named Katherine.

 

He also enjoyed engaging in what I believe was very unrealistic dialogue and overly cliché post-break up behavior. After being dumped by his 19th Katherine, Colin (main character) and Hassan (trusty sidekick, AKA “Daddy”) embark on a road trip that spans about .0034% of the book, after which the plot becomes increasingly predictable.

 

As an unpublished and still-learning writer, I really have no room to give this criticism. Maybe the incessant footnotes, factual tangents, anagrams, math, and constant use of the fake word “fug” are supposed to be reflections of the boy’s genius (did I mention he’s an alleged child prodigy?). I have no idea. But as a reader, I found these factors majorly unappealing.

 

What I found interesting (but still not that appealing) is that the main character Colin is really just John Green. For those of you who are familiar with Green’s personality (either because you’ve met him or are a member of his immense Nerdfighter following), you’ll know that he often goes off on factual tangents himself and is an all-around smart guy. I think that’s why I was so disappointed by this book.

 

John Green comes off as this very intelligent and witty guy, so I expected a very complex and well thought out story line that would challenge me as a reader. What I got was basically like one of his YouTube videos. Seen it. I need something new.

 

I wanted to like this book. I did. Katherines honestly had the potential to be like one of those quirky indie comedies that always casts Michael Cera as the lead role, but it fell short for me.  Though I’m giving this novel a thumbs down, I do promise to revisit Green’s work later on so I can better evaluate his work through the more successful of his novels.

 

 big news

 

This past week, LifeAccordinglee hit 200 followers. I just want to thank you guys so much for reading my posts and sticking with me through this journey. It’s been a rough few weeks of change for my blog, and I want to let you all know how much I truly appreciate your constant support. I’d have no reason to write if I didn’t have readers, so you guys mean the world to me. I hope you all are learning about yourselves along the way, because I’ve learned so much about myself since starting this blog. I feel so lucky to have so much support for my passion. With your guys’ help, I know it will continue to grow. Thanks!

I Made Dinner Last Night

I Made Dinner Last Night

Quote #2

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

Fish Tale: Moving Up in the World

I thought fish really loved pots.

 

But not just any pots – pots with holes in them. Pots which are actually more like vases with holes in them.

 

And I thought this not because I felt that fish necessarily appreciate the ornate designs of mock-shattered vases, but because I thought they liked to sleep inside them. In fact, all my hours of research clearly pointed to one solution: buy a pot. Fish like to sleep in them.

 

For those of you who haven’t read Fish, Love, and Companionship, you should probably know that I own a little veil-tail betta named Hemingway. I’ve had him for about four months now, and despite my inexperience as a fish-mom, I’d like to think that I’ve taken pretty good care of him. I mean, I bought him a pot after all.

 IMG_0572

But what I’ve really learned in my short time with Hemmy is that fish, like people, need room to grow. When I bought Hemmy at the pet store, he came in a tiny little plastic container with barely any water or space to swim. I thought I was doing him a favor by buying the largest glass bowl that store offered (which wasn’t much), but he wasn’t getting any happier and I soon realized that he needed more space.

 

So Hemmy got to move. I went to a different store and bought him the biggest bowl they carried, which was a one gallon globe with a light. After some adjusting, he took to the new size really well and enjoyed all his extra space. Four months and several battles with fin rot later, Hemmy required another move. He was probably happy in that globe, content even. But, I knew he was never going to reach his full potential in a space he had clearly outgrown.

 

More research and careful planning led me to a 2.5 gallon tank with a gentle filter, light, and enough space for a pot (bonus). It’s only been about a week, but I can already see Hemmy’s fins growing back together. He’s much more adventurous now, exploring every inch of his new home (having been kept in globes all his life, he was really perplexed by corners). He swims through his plants, sits by his filter, and seems to love life in his tank. However, he hasn’t once gone inside his pot.

 

I’ve been pretty distressed by this. Of course, I thought he would love the pot instantly. I imagined him seeing this new huge thing in the middle of his tank and immediately rushing to swim through the little holes and openings. I was so excited by my new purchase that I forgot he might actually be scared of it. He needed time to adjust. But I’m impatient.

 

So yesterday, when I saw him approach the big opening in the front of the pot, you can bet I was there eagerly watching to see if he’d go in. He didn’t. He stuck his head in a little bit, looked around, and then slowly backed out and went about his business. Though disappointed, I was happy he’d made a little progress. And then I had this mini-epiphany about life which is actually the real purpose of this post.

 

I need a bigger tank.

 

I’m at that point in my life right now where transition and change is good. In fact, it’s needed. If I don’t move on to the next stage of my life, I’ll start to feel cramped and all my fins will start to fall out (metaphorically, of course).

 

Or literally. This is actually a picture of me.

Or literally. This is actually a picture of me.

Granted, it might take baby-steps to finally find the right fit, but once I find where I’m supposed to be, everything else will fall into place. That big pot, that dream that I’ve always wanted, will be right there in front of me. I might be scared to approach it at first, but I have to try. I need to. If I don’t, it’ll still be there, but in a taunting you-never-achieved-your-dream kind of way. I can’t let that happen. I can’t work so hard to get to my own 2.5 gallon tank and then never explore all of it. Even the pot. Especially the pot.

 

And a special note: I just looked over to Hemingway’s tank and watched as he successfully swam through a hole in the pot. He finally did it.

 

Now it’s my turn.

 

Dream big.

Quote #1

“Write every day, line by line, page by page, hour by hour. Do this despite fear. For above all else, beyond imagination and skill, what the world asks of you is courage, courage to risk rejection, ridicule and failure. As you follow the quest for stories told with meaning and beauty, study thoughtfully but write boldly. Then, like the hero of the fable, your dance will dazzle the world.”
― Robert McKee