May 26th, 2020
Learning New Tricks: Keeping Sources Organized
By Peggy Thomas
I am a file by the pile person. I keep my research in a big tote, and never can decide how to organize the material because I never know exactly how I’m going to use it. But over the years I've learned several ways to keep my reference citations, especially for quoted material, accurate and accessible.
Going old-school has kept me organized for many years, but I am always eager to learn a better system. Thanks to Pat Miller, fellow NF Chick and creator of the NF Fest, I now use OneNote, which came with Windows 10 and Microsoft Office. It’s a computer program that lets you gather info from all types of media. The ones I am supremely giddy about are video and audio files.
For my new biography, I’ve been viewing dozens of documentaries, TV news clips, old radio interviews, and promotional videos. Much of it has not been transcribed, and it’s annoying trying to type and listen to a video or audio tape. I, for one, have a crappy memory and I can’t type fast enough. By saving the clips on OneNote I have all my quotes in one place regardless of the medium, and I can transcribe them at my leisure.
What is brilliant, is OneNote is also on my phone. I can be in a museum or archive, snap a photo of an exhibit, record my thoughts, and add them to OneNote. All my info will be waiting for me when I get back to my office.
OneNote is organized with files, and pages within the files. To add new info, open a page and click on Insert and then choose image, video, audio, screen shot, etc. OneNote automatically adds the link (also brilliant!). Here are a few examples: a passage cut and pasted from a website; a magazine article from a digital archive; an audio file; and video file.
What are your favorite ways to stay organized?
by Susie Kralovansky
When I’m stuck on a word, line, phrase, or rhyme to improve my writing, my first instinct is push onward until I’m totally frustrated. This pressure totally eliminates my usual “I love my job!” vibe. To get back to my happy place, I force myself to loosen up by taking a walk, or a nap. And magically, as I relax, those elusive words pop into my head.
Wondering what other writers do when the words have stopped flowing, I’ve queried my very best ninja author buddies for their solutions to getting stuck. Here are their suggestions:
Pat Miller’s strategy for dealing with the danger of being stalled is a digital tomato timer. It goes off every 20 minutes for a mandatory 5 minutes away-from-the-desk activity. The mini deadlines keep her focused and the breaks give fresh eyes.
Peggy Thomas switches projects. Having more than one manuscript going at a time allows her to shift gears. While she's actively working on another story, she knows her subconscious is busy thinking about the first problem. She also agrees that a nap helps.
Nancy Churnin and Michelle Medlock Adam’s favor music – Nancy likes songs that tell a story, and Michelle is a Sinatra fan. Also, hot cocoa and fresh popped popcorn are big hits.
Stephanie Bearce loves sewing and making up her own patterns. "If I don’t have some sort of craft or creative element in my life - I have a much harder time writing."
Wendy Lanier prefers making lists and brainstorming with her husband when they’re eating out or running errands.
Linda Skeers plays Tetris. “I'm doing something with my hands and one part of my brain, but the other part can wander and work on plot points, phrasing, new ideas, etc. It's my go-to for relaxing and pondering. That and taking a shower. I get my best ideas in the shower!”
Christine Liu Perkins digs deeper into research. “I've made some terrific serendipitous finds this way.”
So, the next time you’re stuck, frustrated, or pounding on those computer keys, the ninja consensus - finding what relaxes you is the key to creativity. Whether it’s listening to music, crafting, taking a walk, a talk, a break, a nap, or a shower: find your happy place and the words will flow.
What techniques work for you? Please share in the comments.
originally appeared 12/18/2018
When I started writing for children, I wrote pretty good first drafts. But when critiques came in, I didn’t know how to address the issues they raised. I could make minor tweaks in wording and add or drop sentences here and there. But I couldn’t figure out how to rework what I had written, how to see it differently, how to imagine something new.
One strategy that helps me get beyond seeing only a single way to write a chapter, article, or story is to brainstorm multiple openings. For thirty minutes or so, I push myself to keep writing until I’ve created five or six different beginnings.
Writing multiple openings lets me experiment with the tone, focus, structure, etc. It eliminates the pressure of "getting it right" the first time. Also, this process usually clarifies which opening is most promising: the one that makes me want to keep writing—and hopefully, makes the reader want to keep reading.
The first chapter in one of my works-in-progress describes the early life of the First Emperor of China (the one often known for his army of terracotta warriors). How could I start the chapter in a way that would draw readers in? Here are several openings I drafted:
Question: which opening do you think works best?
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Disclaimer: The Nonfiction Ninjas are a group of writers with diverse ideas . The views expressed in each post are those of the author and may differ from others in the group.