Tips, Tricks, and Tools I Use to Organize My Writing

Putting me and the idea of organization together in the same sentence is optimistic at best. However, I’ve been trying to do better.

If you’ve been here for any length of time, you know I’m not a plotter. At all. That’s just not the way my brain works. And I’m also a very visual person. Pinterest is great for people like me. One of the things I like to do while I’m working on a story is create a image board. I look for images that either remind me of my characters or of the general situation they’ve found themselves in. I don’t necessarily plot according to the pictures I’ve pinned, but often, they do spur ideas. And if they do spur ideas, the boards are a great place to help keep track of them.

Here’s an example of a finished board for my book, In Bounds (aka Sportsball that released late last year.) screen-shot-2017-02-21-at-9-06-25-pm

And here’s an example of a board in progress for my upcoming book, Mist and Stone. 

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I also use bullet journals to keep myself on track with both writing and life in general. The daily #bujo keeps me on track with daily writing, editing, and life-in-general tasks. This is my daily journal with a sample daily task list.

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I’ll be opening an Etsy shop, soon (Granola Girl Creations) where I’ll be featuring custom made #bujo covers and other organizational supplies. 

I use the Piccadilly Essential Large Ruled Notebook. For me, it’s the perfect size, and the paper quality is great – even markers don’t ghost through the pages.

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Purple signifies writing related tasks, light blue is editing, green is family and personal stuff, and pink is health. As you can see, February has been a bit of a bitch in terms of getting stuff done. But, I’m pushing through. img_4223

This is my #writingbujo.

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I use this journal to keep track of story notes, character details, and progress. Since I currently have multiple series plus a number of stand alone books going, the #writingbujo helps me keep everything in a centralized location.

There’s not currently a lot of info on this story, but you get the idea.  Also, sorry about the shadowy pictures, but it was late when I remembered I needed pictures, and the lighting in my house suuuuuuucks.

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This is about it for me today, if you have any questions about my “process” such as it is, or if you’d like to order a journal cover of your own, lemme know. 🙂 And be sure to check out the other bloggers’ posts to see what kinds of tips and tricks they have–I know I will be. Deelylah, Gwen, Jessica, and Jess.

How I Create My Characters AKA The Children’s Book Proposal that Tanked: If You Give a Bron a Line of Dialogue

I feel like if you’ve been here any length of time, you probably know where this post is about to go. But if not, buckle up. We’re doing this thing.

I usually get a line of dialogue or a snippet of a scene rolling around inside my head. The first thing I do after that happens is figure out what kind of person would say or do the things pop into my brain.

For example, in In Bounds, the book that will be releasing soon, I had a line of dialogue in my head: “Butterscotch chips can’t dance with all that skirt.”

So, I had to rewind a little bit and ask myself: Who the hell would say that? And more importantly, why?

Remembering my former sister-in-law’s butterscotch colored bridesmaid dresses, I thought to myself: Someone who was forced to wear a hideous bridesmaid’s dress. That’s who.

That thought inevitably led to: If someone forced to wear a hideous bridesmaid’s dress felt like she couldn’t dance with all that skirt, what would she do? She’d lock herself in the bathroom stall at the reception and cut off the the bottom of the skirt to an appropriate danceable length, of course. With the nail scissor tool on the Swiss Army knife she keeps in her purse. For emergencies. Like dancing. 

Which led to: Who the hell would do that? 

Followed by the rapid realization of: A drunk person!

That answer only produced another question. What bridesmaid would get that drunk at her BFF’s wedding reception? But happily, it also produced an answer. Oh…one whose long term college boyfriend/fianceé dumped her the night before.  

Followed by another realization: You know what else that drunk, depressed, butterscotch chip of a bridesmaid might do? Hook up in a utility closet with the bride’s younger brother. Who’s hot. And has an English accent. And also really hot. And English. And plays sportsball.

And that, dear readers, is how I came up with the character of Ivy Wright, heroine of In Bounds AKA The Sportsball Book. 

After that initial fit of character creation, I realized that Ivy is an elementary school teacher and reading specialist. She’s also done her best to pretend the drunken hook-up  (12 years’ prior) with her best friend’s little brother never happened. She’s carrying around a lot of baggage from that time of her life, but she’s doing her best to push past it and move the hell on.

Once I’ve gotten that much down about a character, I start thinking about what she looks like. For me, the easiest way to do this is to cast a movie in my head. I know some writers refuse to use actors or other public figures as character inspiration, but I find it helpful to use existing sets of features and sometimes mannerisms. So, I pick someone she resembles. In Ivy’s case, it’s a slightly heavier Rose McIver with darker hair and gray eyes.

After that, I just let the rest of the story and her character unfold as I write it. I don’t use an outline, because clearly, that’s not how my brain works. I also don’t use those character sheets where you answer 75.7 trillion questions about your characters past, likes, dislikes, favorite childhood stuffie, etc. Not that there’s anything wrong with those. I think they work great for some people. I’m just not those people. But, I am a big fan of sorting out the character’s goals, motivations, and conflicts in the first chapter or so. Sometimes, I know what they are as soon as I start the story – other times I figure them out along the way.

As I’m sure must be fairly apparent by now, I have ADD. Some days, it’s a fucking curse. Other days, it’s an absolute gift. It allows me to make connections that probably never would have happened for me if I were trying to do it in a more linear fashion. Storytelling is one of those occupations where weird leaps of logic or thought might mean you run face first into a wall. Or it might mean that you end up with a drunk, recent college grad who’s holed up in a too-small bathroom stall with a giant taffeta dress, the scissors tool on her Swiss Army knife, and the beginning to a story you’ve fallen in love with.

Thanks, brain. Let’s keep doing this.

Be sure to check out how Jessica and Torrance create their characters.

Behind the Scenes of My Current Project

Before I get to the actual post, I just wanted to say we’ve got a new blogger in our lineup! Torrance Sené has joined us! Yay, Torrance, and welcome!

As I mentioned in an earlier post, this year has been rough writing-wise, but things are starting to pick up a little, and in a month or so, I’ll be releasing one of the next Bound books.

My next contribution to the series that Jess Jarman I write, is called The Sportsball Book. 

That is a lie. It’s actually called In Bounds. But I still call it The Sportsball Book. Because I’m not really into any kind of sports. And with the exception of baseball, which I get, but don’t really have any interest in, all the sports are sportsball to me. So I had some research help from a couple friends including Kayleigh Jones. Because she’s awesome. And knows about sportsball things.

The hero, Will Darby, is an injured football player (British football – not American) and his visiting his sister while he’s recovering from surgery. Also visiting his sister is one of her best friends, Ivy Wright. The same woman he had drunken sex in a closet with at his sister’s wedding, twelve years earlier.

Ivy’s in England staying with her friends and tutoring their kids after losing both her elementary teaching position and her husband to his affair earlier in the year. She’s horrified to see Will and is seriously hoping he doesn’t remember her. Unfortunately for her, he remembers everything. Which makes things super awkward since her BFF has noooooooo clue Ivy hooked up with her little brother. The BFF’s. Not Ivy’s. Ivy doesn’t have a little brother.

In case you were wondering, the above is in no way a blurb. I haven’t written that, yet.

In my head, Will looks a bit like Richard Madden. A sportsball playing Richard Madden.

And Ivy looks a lot like Rose McIver.

So…there’s some sportsball that happens in this book. And sex. Kind of a lot of it, really.

And angst. Because, really, what fun is a romance without some angst? And maybe some heartbreak?

The Sportsball Book will be out in about 6ish weeks. And I’ll be revealing the cover later, but trust me – Norris outdid herself. Again.

But here’s a short (unedited) excerpt from The Sportsball Book. 

“I don’t want to do my lessons.” The petulant child crossed her arms over chest and glared balefully at Ivy Wright. “I want to play footie with Uncle Wills.”

Ivy stared down at eight-year-old, Phoebe, her best friends’ daughter and one of her two pupils for the summer holiday. Well—her summer holiday, anyway. The children were currently attending classes, and she was tutoring them in their off hours. “I understand that, but we all have to do things in life that we don’t particularly care for.” And wasn’t that the understatement of the year? “Right now, you need to do your reading assignment. You can play soc—footie,” she corrected herself when Phoebe rolled her eyes, “with your uncle afterward.”

The uncle, in question, was slowly jogging down the hill toward them from the huge manor house. Jogging slowly, she assumed because his knee was in a brace. Ivy forced her features into a semblance of pure, professional detachment as the man drew closer. She hadn’t seen him since Caleb and Charlotte’s wedding reception, and she prayed to the deity of drunken hook-ups that Phoebe’s uncle didn’t remember her. It had been twelve years and zero contact. Chances were good that she might look vaguely familiar to him, but he’d never make the connection. At least, that was her fervent hope.

“It’s not fair,” Phoebe whined, stomping her foot.

“Few things are,” Ivy murmured. “Let’s get this over with, and you can run and sweat to your heart’s content.”

And Ivy could go back to the guesthouse she was occupying for the foreseeable future, crack open a book and a bottle of wine and think of a good excuse not to go to the main house for supper. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to have a meal with her friends and their children. However, she’d prefer to avoid as much contact with Charlotte’s brother, Will, as possible. The last thing Ivy needed to top off this shit sundae of a year was for him to remember her and that they’d had ridiculously tanked sex in a closet at his sister’s wedding. Well, she’d been drunk off her ass, anyway. She wasn’t sure about Will. Hell, she wasn’t even sure if he’d even been old enough to drink at the time.

A little hand tugged on Ivy’s, and she smiled down at Kit, Phoebe’s younger brother.

“Can I take this back to the house to finish reading it?” he asked.

She glanced at the dinosaur book he held. “Sure, honey. Go ahead.”

“Hey, Kit,” Will called to the little boy as he drew closer. “You want to kick the ball around while your sister does her lesson?”

Ivy tried to ignore the way the low timbre of Will’s voice combined with his English accent settled heavily in the pit of her stomach. She couldn’t remember if his voice had been that deep before, but the accent was the same. And there was something stupidly arousing about it.

She needed to shove that thought right away. There was nothing arousing about Will Darby. Nothing at all. Not his soccer—she corrected herself—football-chiseled body. Not the myriad tattoos curling down his arms and legs. Not the honey-streaked, too-long, brown hair pulled up in some kind of ridiculous man bun. Not the brilliant green eyes that currently watched her from beneath dark eyelashes or the short, trimmed beard that covered his beautifully sculpted face. And certainly not the large, broad hand he currently extended toward her.

“You’re Caleb’s friend, from the States,” he said with a devastating smile. “I’m Charlotte’s brother, Will.”

She reached out and shook his hand—his big, warm hand. The hand he’d clamped over her mouth as she’d orgasmed, muffling her scream in a broom closet at the wedding reception.

“Nice to meet you,” she said, forcing a smile and hoping he didn’t notice that she hadn’t offered her name. He didn’t look as if he recognized her, but the oddball name, Ivy, might be enough to ring a bell. Or maybe not. The man played professional football. He’d probably had enough concussions to knock any memory of her right out of his head. Was it wrong to hope that he’d had enough head injuries that was the case?

Okay – that’s it from me this week. Be sure to check out the other bloggers’ posts by clicking their names.

Jess

Kayleigh

Torrance

Gwen

Jessica

Kris

Paige