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Digital Notecards

When it comes to tools for writers, there’s a fine line between increased productivity and total waste of time. There are all kinds of programs that exist to help us map ideas, structure outlines, even format our manuscripts for publication, but assuming you have a finite amount of time to spend on your writing (and who doesn’t) you have to be careful that you don’t let these tools suck you in and keep you from actually writing.

For that reason, I actually use very few tools, but I have recently discovered one that is totally worth the time. It’s an iPad app called Index Cards

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I’m a big fan of using index cards to organize (and reorganize) my story. I even use different color cards so I can see at a glance where my flashbacks are or when certain characters dominate a scene. I find them wonderfully useful, but they are not very transportable. That’s why I’m loving the Index Cards app.

It took me about 20 minutes to enter all my cards, and now I have them with me where ever I go. If I have an idea for a scene, I can add it in immediately. It even lets you color code them. I also love that if I’m writing somewhere like a coffee shop, I don’t have to bring my giant stack of cards with me. I carry my iPad with me everywhere anyhow (it’s a mini and it fits in my purse so perfectly), so I always have my story map on hand.

I know a lot of you out there are writers too, so I thought I’d share.

What apps/tools do you use in your writing? Or are you above such inane distractions?

Google Maps Street View:
An Awesome Writing Tool

I‘ve crossed the two-thirds mark on the final edit of the novel! Woo hooo.

I was actually starting to feel really discouraged, because the work was plugging along so slowly, but a fun thing happened last week. I hit a section that used to be right up in the beginning of the story. Before I did some reorganization of the plot line, these pages made up a good chunk of the first 50 pages and as such – they have been workshopped and fine-tuned to the point that they need very little work. Yes, I had to tweak them up a bit to make them fit in around page 140, but that was easy enough. It was nice to 1. breeze through so many pages, and 2. to realize that as I’m editing I actually am making a difference in my prose, enough so that I could recognize the pages that had already been worked on.

So yeah. Encouraging.

While I have your attention, I want to share a brilliant new writing tool I’ve discovered: Google Maps Street View. Around page 98, my main character, Tallulah Jones, stops in a small town outside of Barstow. In editing, I realized that I didn’t really illustrate the scene very well. I couldn’t, because I had never been there, and therefore had no concrete details to share about it. Then it occurred to me – I don’t have to go there.

Desert road - Tallulah JonesI pulled up the town on Google Maps, chose a corner that made sense for this scene to take place on and dragged the little yellow man into place to get the street view. So awesome. It was all squat buildings in dusty shades. I “rolled” down the street a bit to see how the road slowly transitioned from sun-bleached town to lonely desert. There were two traffic signals.

True, I couldn’t smell the air, or notice how the people interact. I couldn’t feel the heat of the day on my face. I couldn’t hear the whistle of a train in the distance. There’s a lot you can’t get from “walking” down a street virtually, but if you’re just looking for a detail or two to set a scene, it’s amazing.

I will always opt to hit the road if given the choice, but it’s nice to know this resource is available.

Goodbye Kleverdogs

It was with mixed emotions today that I packed up my things and left my co-working space

. I’ve been there for 5 months, I love it. There’s coffee and people to talk to, and folks are always baking things to bring in and share.

But I was talking to Daniel a couple weeks ago, about finances and stuff, as married couples are supposed to do, and my office space is a big expense. Well, it’s actually only $300 a month, which is pretty great, really, as office space goes, but Daniel is also paying for an office space, and we had the thought – what if we were only paying for one of those? We’d be saving a lot of money – that’s what.

Daniel works with his sis and it turns out that a space in their building, a bigger space with a separate, second room, just opened up. It’s that second room that’s the big deciding factor. See, one of the reasons I didn’t just move into their space in the first place was that both our businesses require regular phone time, and the space they have currently echoes (hard wood floors, bare walls). Only one person can be on the phone at a time.

But with that back room, we can use it as a conference space/calling room/editing suite. The room is also much bigger than their current space. And it’s only $75 more a month than their current place.

So I’m moving into the office of Divisadero Pictures

tomorrow.

I will miss the Kleverdogs

, but Daniel’s office is MUCH closer to home, it’s literally two doors down from the preschool our little guy will be going to, we’ll save a big chunk of cash every month, and I’ll get to see a lot more of Daniel, which, I’m happy to say after all these years, is still a good thing.

If you happen to be in the market for office space, you should definitely check out Kleverdog. It’s just north of downtown in Chinatown. Tell Kelly an David I sent you.

My Dependence on the Internet

I generally love technology, especially online technology. Because of Google Apps, Dropbox and IM, I can work miles and miles away from my boss and not feel at all out of touch. It’s almost as if I work in the main office, but I can wear jeans and a Tshirt to work and nobody cares. I also don’t have to commute to Orange county – which, if you’re not from around these parts you may not know – would SUCK.

But what to do when the Internet goes down?

I’m actually writing this to fill a little time (off the official clock of course – just in case my boss is reading this) while I wait for the Internet to come back up. About half an hour ago it got slow, and then it just dropped out, and I can’t seem to make it come back. I’m sincerely hoping it’s a problem that some dozer somewhere is working on and not something I did wrong.

Because the thing is – I can’t hardly work at all without Internet. I can’t review our project list, I can’t edit web content, I can’t even fill in my time sheet unless those little bars at the top of my screen fill in.

This is not the case with my fiction. Oh, sweet fiction, how I love you.

Yes, I do write my novel on my laptop, but I don’t need an Internet connection. And I print copies regularly so that if there’s ever a crash of ginormous proportions I will not lose my story.

Which reminds me –I read an article in National Geographic a few months back that said this is about the time scientist are expecting a series of major solar storms. They come in cycles apparently (I’d look it up and give you the link, but well…) and the last time flares this big hit earth people in Salt Lake City saw the northern lights and telegraph wires didn’t need batteries connected to them.

The article suggested that similar flares could be detrimental to our modern technology. So maybe this is it. The end of days. If it is, I suppose you’ll never read this blog post.

(It wasn’t me, it was some server issue… Anyhow, glad you get read my post. Here’s the link to that National Geographic

article.)

New Gig

One of the perks of living in LA (and I have to admit that there aren’t many) is that I get to meet famous people.

Okay, maybe meet is a strong word. I get to notice famous people, as they live their lives and our paths occasionally cross. And it’s the strangest thing, because you see someone, and you’re thinking “I know this person,” but then, after you’ve been staring at them for an uncomfortable period of time, you realize, no, you don’t actually know this person, you just recognize their face from your favorite TV show or something. Then you feel kind of like an idiot for staring. Then you tweet about the famous person standing next to you. Then you go on about your day.

But sometimes I actually do get to meet said famous people, either because my guy is working with them, or their kid plays on the same soccer team as ours. And sometimes you actually get to know them a bit. Which leads me to my latest news – I have my first celebrity ghost-blogging gig!

I just turned in my first post, and I actually enjoyed working with him(her?) quite a bit (can’t give you any hints as to who it is or I wouldn’t be a very good ghost blogger now would I?). I hope this turns into a long-term, reoccurring assignment, because it really was fun to write. No offense to the executives I ghost blog for (not that I think any of them actually read my blog), but writing for a celebrity is much more fun. They have pretty glamorous lives.

As much as I enjoy bashing LA, I have to admit, I never would have made the connection that landed me this project if I lived in, say, Portland. So I guess I’ll have to take that into consideration from now on (but I still miss the REAL stars).

I Figured It Out

Okay, I figured it out. It actually wasn’t so hard. It just required me taking a good, honest look at how I’m spending my time.

I’m actually quite good at time management. I track my work hours to the minute using TaskTime4 (which is great), and I’m a planner by nature, so the problem was not in either of those arenas.

The truth is, I’m losing 3 to 4 hours a day to two new activities.

The first I’m actually quite proud of. I’m training for a seriously hard-core obstacle race called the Tough Mudder

. My friend Alex, who is also in my writing group, convinced me to run it with her in February. It’s 10-12 miles, with a crazy obstacle ever mile or so. I’m a little scared, no wait – correction – I can’t believe I’m actually doing this. I’ve never run a race of any kind, let alone one designed by British Special Forces to kick your ass from here ’til Sunday.

So to avoid any serious embarrassment on the course, I decided to train using the Insanity

workout program. It, too, is stupid hard. I mean ridiculous. But for the first five weeks it was a 35 minute workout, which (even with a shower after) fit nicely into a lunch break. Now that I’m into the second half of the program the workouts are closer to 50 minutes. Once you factor in shower and a snack after, it kind of starts to spill into the category of time suck. Still, I only have three weeks left. After that I should be in perfect shape, and will never have to work out again. Yep. Never again.

Okay, not really. But I am loving how I’m feeling, so while I may not keep up my workouts at this intensity after three more weeks, I will need to find some consistent method of keeping in shape.

The other 3 hours a day that I am pissing away, I am not so proud of. I’m ready to admit, here, on my blog, that I have a serious “Breaking Bad” problem. I can’t help myself. My guy and I watch an average of three episodes a night, all the while cursing Netflix for their convenient streaming form of distribution. We both have so much we could be doing with that time, but now that we’re in the fourth season it’s almost as if we’re pushing through to the end just so we can be done with it and go on with our lives. How appropriated that it’s a show about meth. We are junkies for it.

So mystery solved. If I want to have more time to work on my novel I need to put down the remote and step away from the TV.

Or, I could go for the cigarettes in the closet option and stay up all night tonight to watch all the remaining episodes straight through.

But that would be crazy. Right?