I think of myself as an organized person, not compulsively so but near the top of the methodical scale. My shoes are arranged by color on the shelves in my closet—toes out for easy dusting.
My clothes are separated by color, as well, and by function—blouses, jackets, dresses, and jeans. And don’t even get me started on the Tupperware in my kitchen cabinets. I actually had a consultant come to the house to calculate the size and number of cartons needed to store all of the lentils, pinto beans, breadcrumbs, baking soda, and Gold Metal flour in my cupboard. As a result, my plastic fits together like the stone walls at Machu Picchu.
I apply this same organization when I start a novel. I do it because (1) I having Virgo rising in my astrological chart, which skews toward perfectionism; (2) I have a masters degree in business with an emphasis in strategic planning (see #1), and (3) over time I’ve learned that if you let the little stuff slide, it will eventually become the big stuff.
My books take place in Los Angeles where driving to the neighborhood Vons market may take half an hour. To keep track of time and to avoid squeezing too much activity into a day, I buy one of those pre-computer appointment calendars that dentists used to schedule hygienist appointments. Each page has four columns listed in fifteen-minute increments. The first column is Tucker’s schedule. The second monitors the killer’s movements. The other two columns are for characters whose actions affect the plot.
Sometimes it’s difficult to be organized, especially when I’m away from my computer and brilliant ideas pop into my head, at least they seem brilliant at the time. I know I won’t remember them, so I make notes on anything I can find. This includes the notebook in my purse, the note pad at my bedside, Post-it notes, that paper napkin I spoke about in my chainsaw juggler post, or on a page of the morning newspaper. Sometimes there are too many brilliant ideas in too many obscure places and one slips away.
As of last Tuesday I have the manuscript for my fourth book organized in a three-ring binder. (Which do you think came first? The three-ring binder or the three-hole punch? Just curious.) Ordinarily I wouldn’t do this but I’m sailing to Avalon on Santa Catalina Island this weekend and I don’t want the pages to blow away.
I plan to read the manuscript there, hoping it’s not as bad as I fear it is. Catalina is a good place to think, because I'm away from ringing telephones, the siren call of email, and my least favorite thing—routine.
I finished my first novel in longhand on a lined spiral notebook in Catalina at a place called Cherry Cove. As I recall, the penmanship was messy but the words were on the page. And that's what we're all trying to do—get words on the page so little things don't become big things.
On another note
I’m the Vice President and Program Chair for Mystery Writers of America, Southern California Chapter. Last Sunday afternoon MWA So Cal partnered with the Library Foundation to host an event at the Mark Taper Auditorium in the Central Library in downtown Los Angeles. “T. Jefferson Parker in conversation with Christopher Rice.” Our very own NakedReader Groupie was there, along with the lovely Sue, which made the conversation even more intelligent and amusing. Here’s a photo I took of Jeff and Chris with several of the MWA board members.
From left to right: Christopher Rice, Theresa Schwegel, T. Jefferson Parker,
Dianne Emley, and Linda Johnston.
Dianne Emley, and Linda Johnston.
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