process

Writing

Organization: Trello

Last time I talked about my bullet journal and how it helps me stay organized. This time, welcome to Trello hell!

As with bullet journaling, I'm not here to say that this is the best and only way to stay organized you gotta try it. It's just a tool that has lent itself to a few of my needs when it comes to writing.

No more talking, let's look at some sexy organization.

What's Trello?

Trello is basically the online equivalent of a wall covered in Post-It notes.

You have a board! On the board you can make columns. Then you organize cards in these columns. The cards can store information and checklists. They can be assigned to people, given due dates, or labelled.

Most importantly, they can be moved around. Right now I use one board for all my writing tasks, but that may change. More on that later.

How Trello helps me

Right now I use Trello to track writing projects three months out. My first three columns are January, February, and March.

Now, my workload isn't super heavy. Under January I have one big thing going on: editing my NaNo 2017 project, which we'll call DTD.

In February, I have a cards for two other ongoing writing projects, as well as a card noting future scenes that I need to write into DTD.

I can see at a glance what I'm going to be working on after my current edits are done. But having those cards in the next month is less overwhelming for me than looking at a big to-do list. I can give myself breathing room by saying there's no expectation for me to tackle all these projects this month.

March is the projected released for Fool For You, where my short story A Spell For Luck will appear. As the date gets closer, I'll start jotting down promo ideas on that card and probably make a checklist for myself with reminders to tweet, post on Facebook, do a giveaway, etc. But again, I don't need to worry about that yet!

What's on a card?

Mild spoilers, I guess.

On the card for my edits, I have a checklist. These are all problems I noted when I was writing DTD, but I couldn't fix them during NaNo. I love checklists, and especially love that Trello's checklists come with a progress bar and the ability to hide completed items.

So, what if I don't finish everything I want to do by the end of January?

Well, I'll just move this card into the February column. Then I rename the "January" column to "April," move it down the row, and start populating it with April tasks. I could add more months, but so far I haven't really needed to. But uh, I do have other columns! Let's see.


It's a resource bank

Wow!

First up, we have my "Tabled" column. These are projects I'm not working on right now. I don't want them floating around in my monthly to-dos and giving me anxiety.

I condensed things ever further by making a card called BOOK GRAVEYARD which is where I keep titles of projects that I'm not totally ready to let go of just yet, but I also don't want to see their horrible little faces on my board reminding me of my failure. They live in the graveyard now, which I'll occasionally open and then grimace at. 

The "Website" column is all upkeep. I keep lists of blog posts I want to write and newsletters I want to send. I curate my reading lists here too, so that when it's time to write them I can remember what books I wanted to include.

In the "References" column I keep useful links. I never use bookmarks, and it's easiest for me to keep writing-related links in the place where I do the rest of my ... writing-thinking ... ya know.

More in-depth editing

I've used Trello for more intensive editing and writing projects before, and it actually worked great. I made a little mock-up of that process.

I would make a board for the book, and then a column where I stored cards corresponding to each chapter. I labelled the chapters with colors corresponding to the character's POV (this was a multi-POV book). On each card I had a chapter summary, what the goal of that chapter was, and a checklist of things I needed to edit — or just things I needed to look out for.

That might have been fact-checking something I was unsure about, or making sure that a character was having the correct emotional reaction.

This system worked really well for me, and I'll probably return to it when my workload is heavier than it is now.

Wrap-up

That's my Trello process! If you're interested in more about my writing process, check out the links below. This is an ever-evolving chaos for me, but it's fun to think about, and hopefully fun to read about too.

Writing

Organization: Bullet journal

Around the time I moved to New York, I got Extremely Busy.

I juggled calendars and Trello for work deadlines, Facebook and text messages for hangouts with friends, and an incomprehensible web of Trello, emails, Notes, and Google docs for my writing.

That same year I started bullet journaling. EVERYTHING IS BETTER NOW.

In high school, my planner was a life-saver. I’ve never been good at diaries, but always liked the idea of being able to look back at memories —without the pressure of Finding My Voice as a diarist.

I was attracted to bullet journaling because it took the best part of planners and the bare minimum of keeping a diary.

My first journal was hideous. My second journal was hideous. But through them I found out what ways bullet journaling could help me organize my wacky life. Now in 2018 I’m on my third (but prettiest) journal. I’m by no means a pro. My spreads are messy, and I make mistakes all the time. But here is a run-down of my journal and how it helps me track work, writing, and personal goals. Also anxiety! How fun.

Organization part 2 will be a look at my Trello board. The most erotic sentence ever written.

GOODBYE 2017

I found this spread at Little Coffee Fox and if you think Shelby's journals are intimidating please look at this article about her husband's — it's very cute and that's basically what my first journal looked like too. For readability, the categories here are: top memories from 2017, successes I had, things I would change if I could, what worked, what didn't, and looking ahead to things I can do to make 2018 good.

I didn't do much reflection in my first bullet journals, but one of my goals this year is to be more introspective in a meaningful way. I hope this page will be a fun way to kick that off!

PIXEL MOOD TRACKER

Another spread from Little Coffee Fox! Again, I have never used a mood tracker before but it is so pretty, and seemed like a low-impact way to see if mood tracking is something that works for me. As you can see, I struggled a bit to remember how many days were in each month, despite the fact that I mumbled "thirty days hath September" the entire time I was drawing this.

THAT'S FINE.

HABITS TO GROW/KILL

What's that? Yet another spread from Shelby's 2018 set-up post? Yes. I did this with the same principle as the 2017 reflection page: get some accountability for things that I want to change. I'm not sure how well this one will work out. So far I've done a lot of browsing social media at night, and so much not going to bed before midnight, and every time my 2018 promises are there, staring me in the face ... ah well. 

GOAL TRACKERS

This is my favorite part tbh. What I've added with my 2018 goals is some semi-untrackable promises that I'm making to myself. Some of these could probably go on the habits page, and might later when I finish filling it out.

Reading 40 books is pretty self-explanatory! I'll color in each box as I finish the book, and there's room for (the beginnings of) a list of titles.

My writing goals are almost the same as last year, with some exceptions. I still want to finish a novel — I have a checkbox and a progress bar because I like coloring things in. I've set a goal for two complete short stories. I'll be writing one blog post per month (January, check!), and I'd like to bring video into the mix this year!

The notes below that are inspired by a conversation in QWC. I was considering setting a bi-monthly short story goal for myself. It sounded like a lot, so I asked some prolific writers how they got inspiration and got some great answers (thanks particularly to Edith for the phrase "magic spyglass"). I haven't quite committed to the goal yet but I wrote down my takeaways from the conversation:

  • Creativity is a skill you can train
  • I would want to write these stories without any eye towards publishing them, to free my brain up for experimentation and bad writing. I have a habit of turning my hobbies into jobs, and not starting things unless I have a plan for how they will eventually be THRUST INTO THE WORLD. I think it could be good to just chill out and do some practice projects that will improve my writing and my voice.

Anyway. At the bottom of the page is a graph for the monthly blog posts. I'll fill in a square per post, and if I write more posts in a month, I get to fill in more squares! Love 2 fill in squares.

HOME WISHLIST

Around oh, I don't know, the 2016 election, I became a little bit obsessed with home decor. It's been an interest of mine for a long time, but the confluence of political hell, having money, and my roommate moving out all became a hurricane of I NEED TO MAKE MY HOME THE MOST BEAUTIFUL SAFE SPACE ON THE FACE OF THE EARTH.

I uh, only have so much space to work with in my New York apartment, but work with it I shall! I'll continue to add to this list (baskets for cutting boards), but right now my focus is finishing what will be a gallery wall in my living room. Which means I need to make infinite trips to Goodwill looking for frames. Which means it needs to stop snowing. I'm committed.

2018 ACHIEVEMENTS

Obviously this is blank because I haven't done shit, but here is where I'll jot down the good things I did in 2018! IF THERE ARE ANY.

PLACES

I'm VERY excited about this page. I just moved to New York in 2016, so in my old journals I started keeping lists of bars and restaurants that I liked, or cool things to do. My ultimate dream was to glue a fold-out map of New York into the journal and write the list onto the map. I still think that would look really cool, but there are some logistics to figure out.

But when looking up 2018 journaling ideas, I found this recipe bank from, again, Little Coffee Fox. Instead of writing recipe names down on the journal pages, Shelby jots them down on Post-It notes. This lets her store a lot of recipes on only two pages. I realized this would be the perfect way to keep track of places as well!

In my spread, each Post-It note will be an area of New York (i.e., FiDi! East Village!). I'll write down names and short notes on the places I go. This might work, it might not, but either way ... if it doesn't, I can just throw out the Post-Its and try something new! 


MONTH SPREAD

Finally, we're getting to the meat and potatoes. This is my spread for January. You'll notice that I uh, got tired of making lines and I'll do it later I swear, it's gonna look great. This is the first time I've drawn out a calendar — in my old journals I just made a vertical list of numbers corresponding to the days, and jotted down my schedule. I was happy with that, but I wanted to try something new.

Honestly, I really like how visually appealing this is. It was hell to draw but I'm happy with how it looks. I have space for multiple appointments, can arrange them according to time of day, and there's room for more notes in the margins of the month for more nebulous goals.

MEDIA LOG

It ain't pretty but it's functional! I always have trouble remembering what I'm reading and watching. In my old journals, I rectified that by adding a media log. It's pretty simple. I write down whatever I watched and read that week. The item moves week by week, and on the week that I finish it, I put a little X next to its name.

This is helpful because I can cross-reference the media log with my yearly reading goal to make sure I don't miss anything.

I used to split the list up by Reading/Watching but for this journal I'm no longer doing that because I ... can remember whether "Paul Hollywood's Big Continental Road Trip" is a book or a show, thanks.


WEEKLY SPREAD

After much workshopping, this is my favorite weekly format! Nothing too fancy. I write down my tasks for each day, and there's room for further notes on how the day went.

New to me are the boxes at the bottom. Previously I had sections for general notes: what you need to do on one side of the journal, and how the week went on the other. Now I have a small box for weekly to-dos that aren't confined to a specific date (AKA shit I'll never get done, sorry me).

I added a small box for meal planning. I cook a fair bit but I want to do it more and save my ass some money. This is my good faith effort to start planning ahead by deciding beforehand what I want to cook that week, and assigning myself cooking days. We'll see how it goes!

Finally, there's a larger box for reflection on how the week went.

WRAP-UP

Whew! That sounds like a lot now that I've written it down! If you're a regular bullet journaler, you might have noticed that I didn't include a yearly spread. I tried it in my first two journals and it just ... didn't work for me? I would always forget to write things down it, or to look at it, period. So I nixed it. I do have an index though, written on the back of the journal cover.

Materials: Moleskine notebook (thanks bro), extremely shitty metallic calligraphy pens, Huhuhero fine-tip drawing pens. I used a bookmark as a ruler. I'm lazy.

Part 2 of this series will be about my beautiful/hideous Trello board, which is completely writing-focused!

Writing

Never take writing advice from me

AKA How I Write Books

My friend Henry Casey on Twitter asked me to write about my process, and that's sort of what this post will be about. But since my process is half organized and half a flaming pile of magical bullshit, it's gonna be a wild ride!

I think the big takeaway is that I have a lot of fluid back-and-forth between all the apps that I use. The most important part of the process for me is being able to access my notes and prose any time an idea pops into my head.

1) The Idea

When I've finished something I think I'll never have an idea again, because plots and characters are hard to come by, and surely I've used them all up by now.

But ideas happen, as ideas will—uncontrollably and inconveniently. I jot them down in the Notes app on iOS. Since I hate having a bunch of notes, and I also hate myself, I'll usually use the same note for multiple projects. Live your dreams!

Browsing my notes right now, I can tell you that my current worst offense is that for some ungodly reason I have a single note that consists of:

  1. Excerpts from a book about fairies by Yeats
  2. Snippets of dialogue and plot notes for a fanfic
  3. Prose for an entirely different fanfic
Thanks, Yeats!

Thanks, Yeats!

"Daria," you're saying, "How do you find stuff?"

I'm glad you asked! I don't know! When I'm writing I'll usually cross-reference my Notes and sometimes make cool discoveries about things I forgot. It's kind of fun.

Other places I jot down ideas include TextEdit and in Gmail drafts.

Ultimately, I really like taking notes for ideas in apps that feel as simple and barebones as possible. And I don't tend to use apps like EverNote, even though it's specifically for that purpose, because it has a sheen of professionalism that I don't want associated with my note-taking. If I'm spitting plot ideas into the Notes app it's available across devices, and it feels very low-pressure. That's why I dig this system, as chaotic and inefficient as it is. Like I said earlier, it's fun to go back through my Notes and revisit old thoughts that I have yet to incorporate into an MS.

2) The Outline

At this stage of the process I'll move to Google Docs. I'll usually make a document called "PROJECT TITLE OUTLINE" or "PROJECT TITLE PLANNING," and usually I'll stick the word "NIGHTMARE" in there to make sure I don't get too confident.

I'll use this doc for a few things. This is where I'll work on a plot summary, and outline scenes. I like to divide things up using headers and the table of contents tool so I can navigate quickly, since this document tends to get... horrible.

The planning doc for  Sparkwood  still has Luke's name listed as Dylan, for some ungodly reason...

The planning doc for Sparkwood still has Luke's name listed as Dylan, for some ungodly reason...

This document also serves as a story bible! It has a list of cast members and their roles, and a list of locations.

This was especially useful for Sparkwood, which had a ton of characters and a bunch of named shops and things.

This quote never ended up being relevant, but there it is. Also I never did name Robin's dad. Um.

This quote never ended up being relevant, but there it is. Also I never did name Robin's dad. Um.

Another list I kept in the Sparkwood NIGHTMARE PLANNING doc was lists of fairy names that I didn't hate. Since I didn't want my fairies to be named things like "Dewdrop" and "Meadow," every time I came up with a decent fairy name, I would write it down here.

This doc is also where I keep a list of links to useful research.

Sometimes I'll even start writing prose in this doc! Either as an expanded outline that gradually turns into prose, or just prose that I store here until I'm ready to make an official doc.

3) The Writing

Back at it again with good ol' Google Docs! This doc also gets a table of contents. I start writing in chapter order, but if I have inspiration for a later scene, I skip ahead and get it on the page.

Some cuts from the original draft of Sparkwood.

Some cuts from the original draft of Sparkwood.

Anything that gets cut from the prose doc goes into a chaotic section of the outline doc, called "CUTS." I don't like to totally delete things until I'm sure I won't have to use them, so I'll copy/paste cut sections into the outline until I can purge them with fire from the face of the earth.

A good portion of my writing also happens in on a site called myWriteClub. MyWriteClub lets you list projects with due dates and goals. It also has sprints, where you can write on the site in a text box that will automatically back up to a synced Dropbox. It tracks word count, has a constantly refreshing timer, and your friends can join you there. You won't be able to see the content that everyone is writing, but you can see everyone's word count and chat as well. It's a great way to stay motivated and make writing a group activity, even if you're not physically with other writers.

MWC is great when I don't want to deal with the pressure of a blank Google doc, and it's also great for rewrites. I paste sections of text into MWC and rework them, then move the old writing to Cuts and replace it with the new prose.

Some of my goal trackers on myWriteClub.

Some of my goal trackers on myWriteClub.

Even though MWC syncs to Dropbox, I always copy/paste what I wrote into my Google doc at the end of a writing session. Better safe than sorry!

During this time I'll continue jotting down notes and prose in the Notes app, or in email drafts. I do most of my writing on my laptop, but inevitably I'll do a lot of it on my phone as well. I have Google Docs on my phone, and I'll write prose on the train, or in bed when my computer is put away for the night.

The phone is honestly the most important tool I have. If I'm stuck on a project, I'll often find myself rereading it on my phone in my bed in the dark. This usually helps unstick me.

And I really, really like writing on my phone. It's a pain for my hands and wrists, but there's something mentally freeing about not sitting down specifically to work on something (i.e. at a computer). It untethers the whole writing process and means I can do it wherever I'm most comfortable.

Speaking of untethering!

4) The Aimless Wandering

There's a Note for that!

There's a Note for that!

I spend a good amount of time "working" on a project just by running dialogue and scenes in my head. I'm a super visual writer, and I have trouble writing without describing every single bit of blocking the characters use, as if they were actors in a play. Sometimes this is helpful, and sometimes it makes everything stilted and horrible because good lord, you don't need the characters to move after every single line of dialogue, calm down.

All this is to say, I lie in bed running scenes, I walk around running scenes, I ride the train running scenes, and I shower running scenes. If I'm stuck on a plot, nine times out of ten I won't work out the kink in front of my computer. It'll happen when I'm doing something totally unrelated to writing. That's one reason I'm so glad I can write on my phone!

So that's pretty much how the sausage gets made. Thanks for reading!