Incentive to clean

Cleaning meme My house is normally clean and tidy, well, fairly clean and tidy, I do have a teenager and many pets living here after all.  So, on a normal day my house is looking pretty good. The exception to this is when I am involved in a project, and since I’ve been involved in nonstop projects since last June my house has been in various states of crazy for a year now. My usual approach ends up being me concentrating all of my focus to the project while neglecting most of the house cleaning in favor of getting the project down in as little time as possible. On paper that sounds great but it really isn’t feasible. Projects are inherently unpredictable, little things that should take just a few minutes end up taking ten times as long, Murphy’s Law at its most devious. The delays add up and ultimately screw up any chance of making a schedule and sticking to it. Of course, this means that the project isn’t getting that much closer to being finished and the house still isn’t clean. It definitely starts getting a little overwhelming.

The current problem with this system is that my daughter’s BFF is visiting from Hawaii and I’ve got to get this house under control. Last June, we started transitioning her room from Disney Princess cute to Geek Girl Eclectic. We painted the room, I built a loft bed but there was sorting and a few other things to finish. I also needed to get the rest of the house back in order. Nothing like company coming to accelerate my cleaning schedule. Yikes!


Parts of the tool box…

Here’s the update on my current work-in-progress (WIP)… I have a pretty good outline for the first couple of chapters and I am working on a rough outline for the rest.  With any luck I will actually get some writing done this weekend.

Here are some ‘tools’ I have been using to help me along the way.

On my laptop…

Writing software –

One of the prizes for reaching your word count goal for National Novel Writing Month was a 50% off coupon code for a software program for writers called Scrivener.  I actually used my code from Camp NaNo over the summer and I just recently began using  Scrivener for the revision process.   I transferred my WIP into Scrivener and I am enjoying many of the features.  I’ve used the outliner and virtual corkboard to create a good overview.   Chapters and scenes are written separately, allowing the ability to navigate easily or even to move elements around as needed.  Images, notes, web pages and other research can be imported and can be viewed right next to the chapter or scene.

Corkboard –

Mural sample 1Back in May, I wrote a post about using Mural.ly, a web app that can be used for what they describe as visual collaboration.  It’s an interesting concept in that it allows for any number of people to access the board to add input and make changes.  This would have been a great thing to have when I was in college. I could have avoided long nights at Denny’s, rearranging my work schedule to accommodate other people’s schedules and roaming around campus finding places to meet to deal with those annoying group projects.

I’ve been using it as a virtual bulletin board, I’ve added images, notes, mind maps, floor plans and few other miscellaneous items.  You can see more, including a sample board, at my previous post – Bulletin…

Family Tree –

When I wrote  my first NaNo book I had no idea that I’d turn it into a series.  I had some scribbled notes about peripheral characters and how they were related.  My notes consisted of a lot of names underlined or with boxes around them, arrows snaking around the page, not so easy to follow.  When I started the second book that essentially ended up being a prequel, I realized I needed to get everything straightened out.  My first solution was to write everything out, I tried lined paper, blank paper and graph paper.  It was driving me nuts because no matter what I did I’d still have a name crammed in because there wasn’t room to add it where it belonged.  I also started mapping it out in Excel but that took forever formatting everything and then I’d have to move things around to add someone and then more formatting.

Finally I decided to look around online and found a free family tree site, MyHeritage: Free Family Tree, Genealogy and Family History.  I was able to download it to my laptop and easily create a no nonsense family tree so I could keep most of the people straight.  The free version is somewhat limited in what can be printed but it really helped get everything set.  After that I was able to work on the Excel version,  now I have a hard copy so I can add notes as I am writing, or even scribble something on a sticky note to add later without having to stop what I am doing to go digging for it.

Floor Plans –

In my second NaNo project, the prequel, the main character has to pack up her house and move and then subsequently has to search another house for something.  Like with the family tree, my notes about the houses were hard to read and all around difficult to follow.  I found a free floor planning website.  Floor Planner from smallblueprinter.com has been really helpful, it took a little playing around with the features but it’s pretty user friendly.

Tori - Silver Creek

The rewrites I am doing now will be the first time that I’ll be able to use all of these tools in the same project.  The family trees and floor plans took some time and although I am sure it looks like a way a time sink or a way to avoid writing, I think they’ll be helpful.  When I worked on the family tree I found it to be a good way to expand on the character’s back story.  That information may never make it into my writing but it’s helpful to me.  The floorplans were equally helpful with setting up scenes that called for multiple characters and a lot of movement.

There are a lot of different tools out there and different people are going to find different options out there that will help their writing process.  I hope these will help me but I know that the most important thing is to get my booty in a chair and actually write.


Rough draft…

I am currently in the revision phase of a book that I wrote two years ago, well closer to three years ago.  I started writing it during National Novel Writing Month (NaNo) in November 2010.  I finished it in May and June of the following year and received a free proof copy for my hard work.  I love my proof copies, they are so pretty and they have my name on them.  I remember crying when I saw the first one, it’s just an amazing thing.  But I am getting off track here, anyway, for the last two plus years I have tried on and off to rewrite this story.  It needs some serious rewrites because anything written during NaNo is going to have some blah, blah, blah parts because you are just trying to get words on the page.

During July’s Camp NaNo I reapplied myself to making revisions.  According to the good people at NaNo they count every hour of editing as 1,000 words.  My word count goal was 20,000 words which equals 20 hours of editing.  Sounds easy, right?  As it turns out, not so much on the easy.  I knew going in that I needed to change the beginning, there was too much lead up and I really needed to get things moving sooner.  Ok, so I had a plan and I again I thought ‘this will be easy’.  I got about two pages in and realized this was going to be a bit more complicated.  The timeline needed to be changed, a character that had several scenes in the original version was down to one scene that wasn’t very important, scene locations had to be moved as the story evolved and the list goes on.  The biggest realization was that it had been so long since I’d written the book that I couldn’t remember the sequence of some of the smaller events.  Even worse I didn’t have a handle on the characters anymore.  I remembered what they looked like and what they did but that was two dimensional I needed to refresh myself on how they talked and felt and all of that other three dimensional stuff.  Clearly, I needed to read the book.

Now I have a proof copy that I could read and make notes in, but honestly the thought of writing in a book horrifies me.  I don’t know if it was my Catholic school upbringing or my OCD mentality or my over all affinity with books but I have never been comfortable making notes, highlighting or making any sort of permanent marks in a book.  We were encouraged to do so in several classes during college, I tried it for about a week but I had to really talk myself into it every single time that it was taking me forever to get my reading done.  I finally resorted to using sticky notes and removable flags and that was a good compromise.  I guess my point here is that I’ve got a pretty proof copy and I don’t want to write in it.


I could print out the 200 plus pages but not my favorite idea either.  Reading from a stack of 8.5 by 11″ paper would not be comfortable and  it would feel like I was grading papers.  I, also didn’t want to spend $20 on the ink and paper it would take to print the darned thing out.   The other thing to think about was the fact that there was no guarantee that I wouldn’t end up feeling the same way about making notes on the clean copy of the story.

After a good three days of himming, hawwing and occasional whining in Sully’s general direction I had an idea.  Didn’t I read somewhere about side loading stuff (books, documents, etc.) onto my Kindle?  A quick check of Google revealed that I did in fact read about this and with the help of the Calibre program it would be pretty easy.

Loading my book onto the Kindle was super easy and I couldn’t stifle the giddy giggle that bubbled up when I saw my book and my name on my Kindle book list.  I just finished the first chapter and I have already figured out several things to fix the timeline and the character/scene problems.   There’s a note feature on the Kindle so I can just click a button and then type in a few words.  My notebook is also with me so that I can make more detailed notes and keep an eye on the timeline.  I am actually very excited to get started on these changes.



In recent weeks I have been looking for some different tools to help me work out some of the funky parts of my current writing project.  This book is my second but it’s really the first of a series, so there’s a lot to keep straight.

In my research I found Mural.ly, which is described as a visual collaboration.  For me, it’s an online bulletin board, you can drop in websites, photos and audio.  You can add notes, pins and arrows to connect different elements.

I made up a sort of sample board to show here.

We’ve recently started watching the show Castle and I thought it would be fun to use it here.

Mural sample 1

You can zoom in and out easily, leaving this large overview or focusing on specific parts of the board.

I used different areas of the board to separate my different sections.  I dropped pictures in of the characters along with their names, I could add a sticky note with more info or stickers to highlight something or someone.  I put a chapter (episode list) in the middle that I could draw lines and arrows to connect characters and events to a specific chapter.




I like using family trees and floor plans to keep track of my characters and where the action is happening.

Family tree

I dropped in a family tree of the British royal family rather than building my own.  It was a bit quicker and only a few of the Castle characters are related so it would be a small family tree.


                                                      For the floorplan,  I’ve used a sticky note along with some lines and arrows to label and tie things together.

On the board for my work-in-progress I have my characters, floor plans, a family tree, a section of sticky notes for the mystery subplot, a section for my chapter flow and an area with notes for things that needed to be added or changed.  It’s great to have everything on the same board, rather than here and there or photos in a file that I have to pull up.  I can’t wait to get a second monitor so that I can keep Mural.ly up while I am writing.

In some future posts I will discuss some other tools that I use to help me keep track of things.



The last few days the temperatures have been climbing towards 80 degrees, it’s beautiful out but its not quite Spring yet.  Or at least Spring in Arizona.  I think most people here think of Spring as temperatures between 80 and 99 degrees.  Regardless of the temperature, it is time for Spring cleaning.

Mba spring shower

Good shot of the shower curtain and matching towels. Cat not standard accessory.

I decided to start in the Master bathroom, I was ready for the Winter Snowman decor to come down and the Spring Butterflies decor to go up.  It was easy to clean as I took stuff down.  I started in the shower and worked my way across the bathroom, dusting off walls, wiping off doors and light switches.  Winter deco got carried to a table in the great room to be packed up later.  Spring deco was moved in as each section of the bathroom was cleaned.  It worked well, much better than my usual system of bringing in all of the new stuff and switching things piece for piece.  Having half snowmen and half butterflies is a little too discordant and invariabley the next thing that you want to put out is packed at the bottom of the plastic crate.  I still have a few things to deal with but I will be able to do them this week without too much trouble.

Mba spring curtain

I love this doorway into the walk in closet. I started hanging curtains here last year and it really adds so much to the room.






All in all, the day went well.  I am very happy with my progress in the bathroom.  Next is the bedroom, my plan is to continue to work my way across the house.  It might take some time though, I want to be somewhat thorough.  I will most likely have to mull some stuff around in me head to figure out what I really want to do.