New Sponge Day

Today is New Sponge Day in our household, when I replace the kitchen sponge.  It’s also New Contact Lens day (monthly disposables…) and New Razor Blade Day (for me — daily facial shavers around here replace theirs more often.)  I used to do all of those things whenever I happened to think of them and let’s just say that we conducted a few science experiments in our kitchen, every once in a while.  (No new life forms created.  Fortunately.)

I decided to use the first of the month as a trigger, because it’s easy to remember, because it always stands out.  I built my rituals around that known repetition.

I have rituals when I start writing a novel as well.  I begin with a long-established Scrivener template, and I start to fill in the blanks — the day the action starts, character descriptions, color-coding for point-of-view characters, etc.  I create a new folder in my online file structure, adding the files that I know I’ll need.  I add a “to-do” note to my calendar, so that I can track concrete obligations, such as tracking deadlines and payments.  I add “appointments” to my calendar for the due dates of specific chapters, and for the revisions of those chapters.

After all those ritualistic i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed, then I’m ready to write.  Just like in my kitchen where, after I replace the sponge, I’m ready to wash dishes.

So, how about you?  What writing rituals do you employ?  And if you aren’t a writer, what rituals do you build around your reading?  (Cups of tea, anyone?  Glancing surreptitiously at the last page, to learn a print novel’s length?)

Mindy, curious to see what rituals she should add to her list :-)

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  1. 1. Mary

    Thank you for mentioning Scrivener. I’d never heard of it before (probably because I don’t use a Mac), but it really sounds as if it could be a major improvement on my current methods of keep track of works sort-of-in-progress:

    1) coming up with clever file names for revised sections,
    2) searching fruitlessly through previous versions of early chapters to see if I ever gave the third body guard a name, or mentioned the color of someone’s eyes or their home town,
    and
    3) tearing up small Post-it notes into even smaller pieces which I stick onto sheets of blank paper that I keep inside a manila folder which still says, “Medical bills 2007″ on the tab.

  2. 2. Marlene Dotterer

    Some of your rituals sound helpful. I especially like the idea of appointments in the calendar to stay on task. I think I’ll steal that one!

    I tend to just start writing, not being of the advanced planning genotype. What usually happens, is that about three or four chapters in, I realize it’s time to figure out where I’m going. That’s when I set up a new journal in One Note, where I plot out the action, settings, characters, etc. This is usually a dynamic document. I add to it as the novel progresses, but mostly it’s useful for reminding what needs to happen next.

    I like timelines, but haven’t found a way to make them simple. I use Excel, but what I’d really like is big white board, with lots of room to see the action in one place. In my dream office…

    My other consistent ritual is a list at the beginning of each book. It’s a list of things to fix just before declaring the manuscript agent-ready: look for its/it’s, you’re/your typos, remove as many Buts/Ands from the beginning of sentences as possible, look for extra spaces and tabs… these are all issues I know creep into my writing, so I remind myself to fix them.

  3. 3. Deborah Blake

    I tend to use outlines (to different degrees, depending on whether I am writing something complicated, like an urban fantasy, or something reasonably simple, like a romance). So my first ritual is to write up character profiles, then a two or three page “blurb” that summarizes the story, and maybe even a shorter “back of the book” type blurb. Then I do the outline. THEN I get to write.

  4. 4. Daemon

    One of the most important things to me is setting up and keeping myself in the right head-space. Music, for example, is a big help. I will often give key characters theme songs to quickly orient me into their head space, and entire playlists for different genres/worlds/etc.

    As for scrivener… They are FINALLY coming out with a windows version. Sort of. Apparently it’s not going to be so much a windows version of scrivner as a compatible program with the same name developed by different people with the original people’s permission.

  5. 5. Mindy Klasky

    Mary – The Scrivener folks are just coming out with a Windows version, but there are definitely differences (see Daemon’s comments, below yours.) I know some Windows writers use Simon Haynes’ ywriter5 program to accomplish many of the same things. As for the searching for names, colors, etc. – I just want back a *fraction of the time that I’ve lost to such things!

    Marlene – Steal away! I use an electronic calendar, so I’ve created an entire sub-calendar for writing, which has its own color and everything… I find my outlines to be most helpful for the “what happens next” – it keeps the story rolling forward even when I’m most dazed and confused :-) Another SFNovelist, Diana Pharaoh Francis, just indulged in a white board for her novel planning… And *I* intend to steal your idea of creating a master list of all my faults, so that I can double-check against it as I finalize a manuscript!

    Deb – It sounds like you have all the material ready for your query letter, if your finished novel matches up to your starting material!

    Daemon – I know a *lot* of people who factor music into their start-up. I, alas, have never been very tied to music; it doesn’t work the same inspiration for me as it does for so many others. I hadn’t realized that the Windows Scrivener was being developed by a different crew (although it makes sense, given the variation in platforms.)

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Author Information

Mindy Klasky

Mindy Klasky is the author of eleven novels, including WHEN GOOD WISHES GO BAD and HOW NOT TO MAKE A WISH in the As You Wish Series. She also wrote GIRL'S GUIDE TO WITCHCRAFT, SORCERY AND THE SINGLE GIRL, and MAGIC AND THE MODERN GIRL, about a librarian who finds out she's a witch. Mindy also wrote the award-winning, best-selling Glasswrights series and the stand-alone fantasy novel, SEASON OF SACRIFICE. Visit site.

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