Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Weekly Clutter Challenge, now with even more motivation

When I started my challenge to declutter my house, my goal was a simple one: to make things neater, tidier and more pleasant, as well as make better use of the existing storage space.

We've recently made a big decision that's given me even more motivation to declutter and better utilize our storage space: we're getting new hardwood floors. Since we live in a bungalow, that means packing up and moving everything in the living room, dining room, front hall and three bedrooms.

That's a lot of stuff.

Some will get thrown out, some will get boxed up and stored, perhaps not to see the light of day for a long time, and some will be temporarily boxed and stored for the duration of the work.

This week, I moved some of my late mother-in-law's papers/cards/notes from the rec room shelves to under the stairs, pending my husband's culling. This is a job he's put off for months, but it's not something I can do.

With my son's permission, I'm recycling his university notes. His textbooks are now in a box with my husband's university textbooks and high school Latin textbooks, which I have not yet been able to convince him to part with. Will he suddenly need to decline a Latin verb? I don't think so, but apparently he lives in hope.

Later this week, I'll be dealing with videos. Some are forever keepers (the family's in them), but I suspect there are many others that can go. The rest will be in the big basket that will be moved downstairs nearer Floor Day (since I still use the VCR), or boxed up and shelved.

So I've got a new motivation along with my goal. Motivation is always good, in life and in writing. I've also got a tentative deadline and there's nothing like a deadline to make one focus. In life or in writing.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Making the tough calls

If you follow me on Twitter, you'll know I recently decided to cut a secondary character out of my current work-in-progress. Believe me, this is not something I do lightly, because it means I'm going to have to lose several pages of material, including action and dialogue intended to reveal more about the main characters.

However, as the story progressed, this character was more often troublesome than helpful. I kept having to remember he existed and thinking that he should be in the scene, or have more to do.

If I had to keep reminding myself that character existed, how important was he to the main plot? Yet if I cut him out, all that material I'd already written would have to go.

Also in that character's favor: My hero would very likely have such a character in his employ. On the other hand, given other elements of my hero's background, I could offer a valid explanation for that lack.

I liked the guy. He had some good lines, too, lines that won't work in any other character's dialogue. You can't just take lines from one character and put them in another's mouth, not unless you intend to change the latter character's personality, so they'd be gone, too.

I had a vague notion he could eventually become the hero of a sequel. But I had no clear ideas for specific story for him yet.

So despite the points in his favor, I made the tough decision to take him out of the story. Now I have to delete all references to him, all his dialogue, all his activity, all reactions to him. This is not particularly easy, nor is it enjoyable, but by taking him out, I'll have a tighter story with more emphasis on the main characters.

This is the sort of decision that makes writing difficult, even painful at times. But it's also part of what separates writing from typing.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Weekly Clutter Challenge, Week 5

First up, I've finished decluttering the first draft of my current work-in-progress. One of the more major casualties was an entire scene in the last chapter. That's the bad news. The good news is that it may be suitable for a sequel, should I decide to write one. I'm not throwing it away, I'm putting it in a better place.

Which brings me to my latest decluttering challenge.

I've been sewing since I was a teenager, and I've been saving patterns for years, storing them in a large wooden chest (one of the first things I ever bought for myself). As you can see from the picture below, there was a lot of wasted space in that chest.

The other problem was that the top of the chest doubles as a coffee table, so I'd often have to clear it off to get to the patterns.

I decided that not only would I cull the patterns, I'd put toys that my kids haven't played with for years (but which I have no intention of getting rid of) in the chest, freeing up other, more useful storage space on shelves elsewhere.

I now have fewer patterns in a more accessible space, while keeping things I don't use, but don't want to part with, in a place where they aren't a nuisance.

(Bonus points if you can identify some of the items in the chest!)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Weekly Clutter Challenge - Week 4

As I set about decluttering my house, it's occurred to me I'm doing something very similar to the book-in-progress. I'm cutting out what is no longer necessary, or repetitive, or just plain dull. Not always easy, but I'll be happy when it's done - sort of like the Weekly Clutter Challenge.

How am I doing so far? Pretty good on the book and not too bad on the house, although I found myself leaving too many things lying around in Daughter's Room after clearing space for the Insulation Dudes to get to the attic. The kitchen counter is still clutter-free, and so are most of the other spaces I've worked on. The desk in the office/den continues to be the most difficult to keep tidy, in no small part because I'm working on a book. I tend to spread out hard copy pages. Still, it's tidier than usual, and that's a good thing.

This week's challenge is an area that has been cluttered for months - the laundry room counter. It's been the depository for things like packages of paper towels and cleaning products.

I have now reached the point where in order to tidy up one area, I need to find space in a cupboard or other area. Fortunately, there are many areas of under-used storage real estate in the house, like a shelf in the rec room closet and a drawer in the downstairs office. The items on the shelf, which were mostly papers, are now in the drawer, and the paper towels are on the shelf. I found more under-utilized space for the cleaning supplies and a small compost container in a cupboard in the laundry room (we have another dedicated container for compost in the kitchen). The container isn't easily visible in the laundry room cupboard, though, so I'm writing a reminder note and taping it to the inside of the door of the cupboard under the sink in the kitchen.* One of these days, when I declutter that cupboard, I'll move that container there, as it does occasionally** get pressed into service. But that's a project for another week.

* Could I have used more prepositions in a single sentence?

** Do you have words you can NEVER remember how to spell correctly? "Occasionally" is one of mine.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Notes on the page

I've mentioned a few times that I'm an "old school" sort of writer. I find it very difficult to revise solely on the computer. For one thing, I move scenes and parts of scenes not just within the same chapter, but sometimes many chapters sooner or later. The easiest way for me to keep track of those changes is to do a literal cut and paste. I cut the pages apart (noting the chapter and page number), paste parts of pages on scrape paper so everything is 8 1/2 by 11, then put them into the new spot.

I also make a lot of notes on the pages. Here's an example of the notes on one page of the manuscript I'm currently revising. (R is the hero, T is the heroine.)

How does he look? (refers to the hero)

clarify/expand a bit

Where is he? (meaning, in the room)

How does he look now? Same?

See next page.


No change until T. orders her?


Speaking as if R isn't there - T still baffled

Imagine this times about 300 or more for a full manuscript. So you can probably also imagine that by the time I'm done, I've got quite the marked-up, cut and pasted, mangled-looking manuscript.

Then, of course, comes making the noted changes on the computer, until I have a completed second draft.

Then I print the entire manuscript again and go through it from start to finish again. At this point, I'm hoping all I have to do is polish and expand. (My initial drafts are always lean and light on description.) But I'm not surprised if I discover that I have more major fixes and adjustments to make, so I wind up printing and going through the manuscript from start to finish a fourth time, possibly a fifth before I feel it's ready to go.

Then, and only then, does anybody else get to see it, and that's my editor. Who will probably want more changes made, so the process starts all over again.

So to all those folks who think writing is easy, I say, typing is easy. Writing is work.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Weekly Clutter Challenge, Week 3

First, a check-in on previous decluttering challenges, and so far, so...pretty good. The kitchen peninsula is still clutter-free, and I've done well with keeping the bedrooms tidy. The biggest challenge has been the office/den, with files and papers on my desk. I'm doing my best to keep that sort of clutter from moving to other areas, but it's a challenge.

This week, I have two goals.

1. Put away the laundry as soon as it's folded. This is something I can put off for days, in part because there doesn't seem to be enough room in the necessary drawers, or the items aren't required right away. But that's just an excuse. As of now, all the clean laundry is in its proper place, and I hope to keep it that way.

2. Delete emails and files I no longer require, like responses to social events held literally years ago. This is one of those tasks that isn't important and it doesn't really bother me often. On the other hand, who needs that sort of thing taking up real estate? So over the course of the next week, I'm going to start the winnowing.

Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to delete I go!