Document management

My day job is all about electronic document management. That’s why it is so embarrassing to discover how bad I am at paper document management.

Before I got started on the next writing project I thought I’d pull together all the work I’ve done on it so far. It is not that there is a lot, but it is everywhere!!!!! Just when I think I’ve got it all, I find a notebook with a few random pages of scribbles.

What I wonder is how did I ever expect to use all these notes when I seemed to be doing my best to hide them so well? I know how it happens, I get an idea and I don’t want to lose it, so I write it down in whichever notebook I have close at hand. But that is the best way to lose ideas, not record them.

My recently finished project was started and finished in a short period of time, which might account for my extremely helpful decision to make all my notes in the one book. Everything I had ever thought about the story was in one place.

So I think I’m going to invest in an expanding file and rip out all the ‘novel notes’ from my different pads and put all the related story ideas together. Yes, it does sound like another excuse for some heavy duty procrastination, but I think it is necessary!

Now if I could just work out how to apply metadata to paper…

The Last Unicorn

I’ve just finished reading a book I wish everyone would read; The Last Unicorn – a search for one of the Earth’s rarest creatures, by William DeBuys. It is a non-fiction account of a journey into the jungles of Laos in 2011 to find evidence of the continuing existence of the saola (not actually a unicorn, thought I’d better nip that one so you don’t get disappointed).

The saola is the last large mammal to be discovered by western science. Unknown to us until 1992, this creature has been living in the high altitudes of the mountains between Vietnam and Laos for centuries in tiny ‘islands’ of habitat that have been ever decreasing. There may only be 70 of them left on the planet.

It would have been easy for this book to be a dry procession of facts, but William DeBuys really brings the reader along on the trek. You feel like you are in the jungle, you sweat, get sick of sticky rice and feel the sting of infected insect bites. It is, simply, beautifully written.

There were parts of the book that brought me to tears (not good when I do most of my reading on the bus) when you see the devastation happening to the forest and the biota, and knowing it is all happening in our lifetimes. Technology and population explosion seems to have sealed the fate for all the animals, not just in Laos and Vietnam, but everywhere. But amazingly, this book doesn’t leave you feeling hopeless and hollow at the end. There is optimism.

The one thing missing, for me, was the call to action at the end of the book. I desperately wanted to do something to help; donate money, raise attention, anything, but he didn’t tell me what I could do. But maybe that’s the point? If biological diversity is to have a hope of surviving on this planet there is no one place we need to focus our attention. All of us need to do everything we can to live more environmentally sensitive lives. All of us need to be aware.

Please read the book.

Random writing

After the success of my pantsing trial and subsequent lack of writing over the past month, I’ve decided it is time to try out another method. A lot of my writing friends regularly use this one, but I’ve always been too afraid to give it a go, until now. This is what I call the write the interesting bits method.

In this method writers write the highlights of their novel, not necessarily in order, and then go back later and write the connecting parts to turn it into a complete novel. I guess the theory is that you’ll be more inspired and they are the bits you can normally see more clearly.

I’ve always thought this was fraught with danger because if you wrote an earlier scene after you wrote a later scene, things may come out differently to how you expected, and that might have a knock on effect. But I also thought pantsing had too high a risk that you might never finish, but I did.

So I’m going in with my eyes open, I can imagine there will be some massive editing involved when I’m finished. The project I have in mind is pretty well mapped, so I can’t see myself going massively off track, regardless of what order I write it in. My biggest challenge is working out how to save all the parts I write in a way where it is clear about what scene comes before or after the other scenes.

I’ll let you know how I get on.



A couple of months ago I was working on my novel nearly every night and each day of the weekend. Now I rarely ever turn my computer on at home. I’d like to try and blame it on external factors; work is very full on and stressful, I’ve been really busy… but I know that those things applied equally a couple of months ago too, but I worked around them. 

Is it possible that sometimes you just need a break?  

While I was in swing of things with writing my previous novel it felt like I had completely changed my attitude to writing and this new method was going to stick. I even blogged about it. The moment I finished the novel all drive dried up.  

A writing friend of mine was going through a non-writing period at the same time I was going through my burst, her energy was instead directed into a different creative pursuit. She is now writing again, and I don’t think it is just that we are sharing the same writing daemon and he can only be in one house at a time.  

I can feel the stir of anticipation as I start to get into the next project. Maybe this month off was necessary to cut ties with the last piece so I could dedicate myself to the next. Or maybe I just needed a break?