Kim Watters here. My son missed the bus the other morning. Okay, I know. It’s not the end of the world, but if I have to drive him to school, I’m going to be late for work. We never did find his YMCA card on our haste, but fortunately, they will let him into the after school center with just his name. Why didn’t I think of that before I sent him home from the bus stop to look for his card? Because I want to teach him responsibility. I’d asked him at least twice to make sure he had his card. But at what cost? My sanity? To top things off, it was a substitute bus driver who would definitely not wait at the bottom of our driveway so I could hustle my kid out the door and on his way.
So what’s a mom to do? I bundle my kid into the car and chase after the bus. That’s right. I’m going to catch the driver three stops away. It worked. I cut through the neighborhood and managed to wave frantically to the driver passing by on the main street, who probably thought I was some psycho lady. With him now in front of me as I turn onto the main street, I put on my lights hoping that I’ve managed to get through to him. It also helped that there were other parents at the next stop who told the driver to wait as I practically pushed my kid out the door.
He made it on the bus. I made it to work only a few minutes late. So where does that leave me? Determined to pass my pretty darned good organization skills on to my kids. If we’re organized, we save time, right? If everything is put back in its place we know where to find it when we’re looking for it. Like his house keys or YMCA card, his shoes, his schoolwork and a myriad of other possessions. Quite frankly, it’s exhausting trying to keep track of my own stuff as well as every other person in my family.
So how can you incorporate organizational skills into writing? Easily. How many times have you had to reread your manuscript to remember the neighbor’s husband’s name? Or what outfit our heroine was wearing last time we saw her? Or what type of stores lined your town’s main street?
I keep several detailed spreadsheets for each manuscript I write. One is for each character complete with a photograph of what they look like. One is for the all the character names, no matter how brief they appear, and how they relate to our main characters. I keep track of local businesses and who owns them as they appear in the story. I keep a time line and an outline for each chapter along with page numbers and chapter lengths.
My latest book which comes out in June dealt with renovating an old Victorian house so I kept a chart on each room in the house and the progress of the renovations as they occurred. So each time I needed to refer back to something, it was easier to page through spreadsheets than the actual manuscript. I also created an ancestry line for my heroine to keep track of marriage, birth and death dates, which coincided with the building of the original house.
Since time is a premium for me, having everything I needed at my fingertips made me more productive with the minutes I had to write. I work full-time, have two elementary school kids and managed to write the contracted book in under three months. Call me anal, but it works for me. It might just work for you, too.