Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Scary organized

Alexis Morgan is scary organized. Mind you, writer Alexis Morgan isn't the only person I know who's highly organized. As she pointed out in the talk she gave tonight at a local library, in order to write most efficiently, you have to be organized. (And if you're not concerned about writing efficiently, well, we're talking about writing efficiently right now.) She uses charts to check her progress, sets goals to make, not big ones that might be intimidating or easy to fail at, fills out sheets about her characters.

Okay, maybe a lot of you may have seen worksheets to fill out about your characters; if you're familiar with the website Ninth Moon (that's, owner Laron Glover offers useful things for the writer, including charts and cards (and the site's worth a look, so I urge you to do so). But Alexis offered a worksheet that called for way more detail than I have ever imagined I would need for one of my books, and I realized that was my failing. I should need that much detail. I realized that at the end of the book, after the many drafts, most of the time I had detail like that -- but it would never occur to me to put it all into a sheet for easy reference. Like, that would make way too much SENSE. Her books are great; if you're not familiar with them, check them out at her website at

Yasmine Galenorn ( is another writer I know who's organized like that (and her books, too, are great -- the next one in her Sisters of the Moon series comes out in a couple of weeks, and I look forward to it). She too keeps thick notebooks filled with details about her books, but at least she doesn't use charts (okay, I'm not actually afraid of charts, but seeing charts at work everyday, and seeing them used in this way, creates a weird dissonance). And I mention all of this because I have to ask: Am I the only one who uses Post-Its to track details? Yasmine and Alexis both have multibook series with many characters to keep track of, so for them to be super-organized makes not only sense, but really, it makes financial sense. To make deadlines, to be ... yes! efficient, that much organization is the only way to keep on top of things.This comes to mind not just because of Morgan's talk, but because upstairs in my office, I have two characters with green hair and gold hair. And I realized last night that each HAD THE WRONG HAIR.

Crap, I'm going to have to get organized. Darn it.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Movies vs. novelists, and The City

I finally got around to seeing Stranger Than Fiction the other day. If you're not familiar with this movie (and since it didn't set the world on fire when it came out, there's a very good chance you aren't), Will Ferrell plays a depressed IRS auditor who realizes one day that he has a narrator in his head who isn't him, but a novelist who has been trying to finish a novel for ten years. And he comes to realize (because, of course, the narrative tells him) that she is going to kill him off, and she's trying to figure out how. He objects to this because, among other reasons, he has fallen in love with an anarchist baker (played sweetly by Maggie Gyllenhaal (sp. unc.)), and he wants to live!

The writer is played by Emma Thompson, who milks the role for all it's worth. I enjoyed this movie because it's quirky and sweet and it's a good change of pace from the superhero and fantasy movies I tend to see, but I did find amusing how the novelist is depicted. She uses an IBM Selectric, first of all, and second, I could have sworn that the size of the manuscript actually changed from scene to scene in a way that I doubted was deliberate.

The use of the typewriter just did it for me. Mind you, more and more of those who remember writing on typewriters, and manuals at that, are fading off into the sunset, but I cannot imagine writing an entire manuscript on a typewriter anymore, let alone a manual (but I still tend to hit the keys of the computer with more vigor than is necessary). (And the idea of retyping each page, and making the painstaking corrections for each error, makes me shudder. Be glad, you youngsters!) The charm of creating that way remains, I guess. As long as it's just an idea.

That reminded me of the movie The Royal Tenenbaums, which wasn't about a novelist (although if I recall a character was supposed to be one—maybe Gwyneth Paltrow—it's been a while since I've seen it), but used a framing device that was supposed to resemble a novel. Unfortunately, the charm palled when it became clear that the frame was a rickety one (simply a script presented in novel form, which didn't work for me). So enough about that.

What else do these two movies have in common? They both seem to take place in a mythical New York. In Tenenbaums, the myth is deliberate, by referring to the city, and then referring to locales in the city that don't exist in reality. Or didn't the last time I checked. In Stranger Than Fiction, the city's name is never revealed, but there are New York–like details.

Could these stories have been told with any other city as a backdrop? Sure. But you know, it wouldn't be the same, would it?