Category Archives: organizing

September Round Robin: Strange writing practices


This month’s theme ism what writing practices do you have that you think are eccentric or at least never mentioned but you find helpful?

Of course, I firmly believe that all my writing practices are entirely normal, natural, and average {grin}.


Well, maybe there are one or two things.

I never listen to music when I write, which I gather is somewhat unusual. I’m a fairly serious amateur musician — I play the flute and the piccolo — and in addition,  I’m very auditory. When I turn on the music, I listen to it to the exclusion of anything else. I do, however, find myself whistling (no particular song) when I’m concentrating. I also talk to myself. This morning my spouse asked me if I found my responses enlightening. I answered yes.

I’m a native New Yorker, born and raised in Manhattan. My mother was very fond of classical music. She and her friends had subscriptions to the New York Philharmonic, and when one of the group couldn’t make it, she would sometimes take me.  I would try to pick out the voices of the individual instruments from the sound of the orchestra as I listened to the music. I got pretty good at it, too. But it did leave me unable to ignore most music when it’s playing.

Another habit of mine that may be unusual is that I put *** FIXME **  with a comment into the text of whatever I’m working on whenever there’s something that I need to come back to. This makes it easy to search for whatever it was that I wanted to deal with later.

** NERD ALERT ** I earn my living as a computer software engineer, and I picked up this particular habit from some open source software that I was porting to a proprietary operating system. The debugging information involved a then-new scheme, and the code (not all of which would work with our software in any case) was peppered with the original coder’s comments, prefaced with — you guessed it — FIXME.

The other thing I’d like to mention is something *everyone* should be doing: backing up your work. I keep copies  of my work in a cloud — I use Google drive — which not only backs it up, but also makes it accessible on any computer. This has saved my ass more than once, most especially the time where my now happily former computer suffered a head crash. The computer wouldn’t boot up, and I was forced to restore the original copy of the OS, minus all the software I’d installed and, most importantly, any documents I’d saved on my computer.


Check out the posts of my fellow bloggers:
Skye Taylor
A.J. Maguire
Beverley Bateman
Dr. Bob Rich
Rachael Kosinski
Anne Stenhouse
Connie Vines
Helena Fairfax
Victoria Chatham
Margaret Fieland
Rhobin Courtright


Writers To Do list for the new year

rndrbnlogo This month’s topic is what one (or two) projects do you hope to accomplish, and what will stand in your way?

Gosh, a confession — I have more than two things I want to accomplish, and thereby hangs a good deal of my problem: too much to do and too little time to do it.

I have a day job, so I do my writing in the evening and on weekends, but you’d never know it from my project list.

First: I’m part way through revising another science fiction novel, one that would be a prequel to my Novels of Aleyne science fiction series — the fourth novel in the series, “Rob’s Rebellion,” came out at the end of December. I keep getting side tracked (read on for at least some of the reasons why). But I’d really like to get this novel revised and submitted this year.

I also have a fantasy novel I set aside about a year ago that has about a quarter of the first draft written. This would be my first fantasy novel, and I’m excited about it. However, it keeps falling to the bottom of my to-do list.

I’m one of six authors of a poetry anthology that is out of print because we didn’t renew our contract with the publisher. We want to republish the print version and then put out an ebook. I’m on the line to do the formatting. I started, but I’m not done. Oh, yes, and a couple of us are contemplating putting together another anthology.

Why? Well, I also work as an editor for a small print house, and I’m editor for a wonderful Young Adult novel. This, at the moment, is at the top of my list. I owe my author the next round of edits (mostly typos, with a few questions — the manuscript is really in great shape), but if I find an error in a chapter, then I have to go back over it again until I read it without finding any errors. I’ve discovered that this is the only way for me to find all (or most) of the errors.

So this weekend I’ll be working on the edit (I’m up to chapter 27), trying to promote my latest sci fi novel, and work on the formatting of the poetry book.

Anyone want to sign my petition in favor of 36-hour days?

Check out the posts of my fellow bloggers:
Victoria Chatham
Margaret Fieland
Skye Taylor
Diane Bator
Beverley Bateman
Connie Vines
Bob Rich
Rachael Kosinski
Judith Copek
Kay Sisk
Anne Stenhouse
Hollie Glover
Helena Fairfax
Fiona McGier
Rhobin Courtright

My Guest is Carolyn Howard-Johnson

With Carolyn’s (and Erica’s) permission, I’m reproducing some of their article on the joys of journaling. Read down and you’ll see that Carolyn asks Erica about organizing journals.

This is especially interesting to me as I have quite a number of journals from at least fifteen years ago. I wrote these journals at a tumultuous time in my life, and I haven’t gone back to read the or mine them for writing material. There are several reasons for this:
.The organizational problem is daunting
. My handwriting is really, really terrible.

However, after reading this article, I’m encouraged to think that organizing them MIGHT be possible.

I’ve started journaling again, and I’m making an effort to write more legibly, and to date them.

Meanwhile, read on

P.S. Tour with VBT-Writers on the Move through February. New and famous authors, plus useful information. http://tinyurl. com/yhkt7v8

Empowering Women to Change Their World…
The Joys of Journaling:

A Dialogue
©2005 Erica Miner, Carolyn Howard-Johnson and All rights reserved.
Erica Miner, Journaling Queen

Carolyn Howard-Johnson, Queen of Frugal Promotions
website is:

The Joys of Journaling:

From Carolyn: I am pleased that the Queen of Journaling for can find the time to help. One of
my problems is that I’ve been writing stuff down for
so long it is impossible to find anything. Do you have
any ideas for me?
From Erica: In order to help you organize your journals I’d need
to know more about what your processes might be.
What format do you journal in? How many journals
do you have? How much is written in each of them?
Enlighten me so can better respond to your journaling
From Carolyn: Oh, my gosh. You’re going to hate me. I have journals
cum scrapbooks from vacations, diaries from high
school, loose letters I wrote to my husband when I
was furious and never gave them to him, ideas for
poems I stuff in my bra for lack of a better place and
then put open a journal and stuff the old crinkled
paper under the cover…you get the idea.
I maybe have 150 different books. They are all
different sizes and thicknesses and some of them
bulge so they can’t be stacked. And, of course, unlike
computers, none of them has a “find” function. That
means the only way to glean information from them
is to spend hours browsing. That is the only technique
I use. If I look for something specific I get frustrated
and give up. Quite unqueenly!
From Erica: You present a number of issues I usually address in
separate stages of my lectures and I want to give it
some thought before I plunge in. I will give you a
point-by-point response. Promise!

I’ve thought of something else I need to know in order to
help you. How did you transform your journals to your
creative, published work?
From Carolyn: I conceived of THIS IS THE PLACE when I was in high
school in the 50s. I still have the diary. (I don’t think
anyone ever heard of a journal in the sense that we use it
today and “journal” certainly wasn’t ever used as a
verb!). The diary was lime green leather with gold
lettering. It had a little brass lock with a key on it. My
aunts (both of whom were only a little older than I) gave
it to me for Christmas.
Anyway, in it I dreamed that one day I would write the
next GONE WITH THE WIND but this one would be set
in Utah rather than the South. From that day on I
thought about the book (untitled, of course!) when I
wrote about events in my diaries, especially those about
our family history. The entries were cursory at first, but
even at that they worked well many years later to jog my
memory some four decades after I made those entries!
STORIES REMEMBERED is a collection of related stories
that didn’t fit in THIS IS THE PLACE. The stories are all
connected; the reader will see some characters again and
again and by the end will see that it is the story of
family’s trek from Michigan, through a now defunct
railroad town in New Mexico, into Utah and then on to
the golden state of California where people tend to be
more open, more accepting of people different from
I know, way more info than you needed, but it’s a start.

From Erica: We have so many parallels. I am mining my own high
school journals for my ‘labor of love’ – a novel series
based on my own experiences in the 60s — in
Michigan, by the way! Those diaries have been lost,
but because I journaled faithfully all those years my
recall is so vivid that I can write the stories as if they
happened yesterday. The series will follow the
journey of four young best friends. Show how their
paths diverge and come back together over the years,
eventually focusing the protagonist. It ends up as one
woman’s trek, but she still ends up in California. See
what I mean by parallels! And by the way, I think a
lime-green journal with gold lettering sounds
From Carolyn: Your story illustrates how the universe puts people
together, leads people away from some things,
toward others. It seems as if events that I thought
were the most awful things that could happen to a
person (cancer, as an example) turned out to be
blessings. The trick is to look at experiences and ask,
“What was my part in that — both pro and con?” and
“How can I make what I am learning here work for
the betterment of all including me.
The other thing — and you alluded to it — is that
journaling helps us see/remember/mold events so
that they might be analyzed and seen in a different
way. Some people wouldn’t recognize opportunity if
it came up and snoozed in their lap. Journaling can
help them see what the universe is trying to
communicate to them.

From Erica: I agree. There’s a reason for everything, but we don’t
usually find out what it is until much later. When we
do, however, it is always a revelation. Journaling
helps us look learn from those experiences. It’s all
about the insights, both from the Universe and from
within us.

From Carolyn: I’m curious .Do you know of any journaling techniques that help
us do that — specifically? You know, see patterns or underlying
meanings we might otherwise miss?
From Erica: Great Question!
I have a number of these; my favorite is what I call Journaling
Meditation. You quiet your mind and go back to a time when
you felt at peace. Try to reproduce that feeling and when you’re
‘in the zone’ then start writing. Describe where you where, how
you felt at that time.
You then distill some calming phrases from your words which
you can turn into affirmations, or a mantra. Use this mantra to
connect with your Higher Self and thus empower your insights.
You can even record these on a tape and use them as your selfguided
meditation. You may want to look up the works of Ira
Progoff at your library for more on this subject.
And on the subject of Meditation, I’d like to add the following:
I think as women our hearts are definitely connected. And with
that collective energy, great inspirational benefits can come.
When I think of my heart being connected to other ‘soul sisters’, I
feel a great meditative connection to my higher self. That
meditative state is a powerful conduit in my journaling practice,
and I like to bring this into my journaling workshops. I’ve done
many of these workshops and seminars in my Southern
California and would like to expand into other parts of the
From Carolyn: Not to nag you but back to that question about organizing my
journals. Did you sleep on it?

From Erica: Oh, yeah. Guess we got off the track, huh. We’ve been having so
much fun. This is a huge topic, Carolyn! 150 journals! In any
case, here goes:
I think a ‘boot camp getting organized’ solution might suit your
needs. Before you even think about organizing these into vastly
different categories you need to do a left-brain exercise. Here’s
what I would suggest:
1. Schedule yourself a chunk of time – literally, write it in
your date book – for going through your various journals.
Clear away a space in which you will arrange all of them–
a large shelf if possible–just for your journals.
2. Pull out a few at a time, sit on the floor and organize them
according to type (diaries, letters, scrapbooks, etc.), then
size. (For the ‘bulging’ ones you may need a separate
3. Do this for as long as you have patience; when you can’t
deal with it anymore, put them on the allocated shelf in
order of size (I know this sounds silly, but it will give you
a visual advantage when you want to search for
something.) If you need another day, another hour, allow
for that; but try to do it all in one week, an hour a day
perhaps, until you have sorted everything.
4. Then put them in chronological order. This is probably the
most important step, but you can’t get to it, dear Frugal
Promoter Queen, until you’ve done the above left-brain
5. This is where your computer will come in. Once you’ve
got everything organized according to category and
chronology, you can start a new file on your computer – I
suggest Word or an Excel spreadsheet – that will keep
track of what, where, when, etc. THEN you will be able to
keep track of all your writing and look up what you need
when you need it and not ‘get frustrated and give up.’
It sounds like a lot of work, but it will be worth it in the end,
especially when it comes time to refer to these when writing
your next novel(s)!
By the way, thanks for bringing up the subject of ‘unsent letters.’
I have a whole mini-lecture on that, which I will address in my
next monthly e-mail newsletter, so stay tuned!

I hope I’ve given you a bit of help with your question. Take
courage, and if you need more motivation, don’t hesitate to
contact me.
From Carolyn: I think you put your finger on it. I shouldn’t expect too much,
but there is a lot I can do with that messy pile of papers and
books. Once done, I’m sure I shall have more stories to tell,
maybe even another novel ready to knead into something

And do check out Carolyn’s page on Amazon