A writer’s workspace (mid-book)

by Toni McGee Causey

JT has her idea box and her official book box. Alex outlines (I think?). Allison brainstorms as she goes. Rob has a hole in a cave somewhere. (Kidding.) 

I have whiteboards.


(photos taken with my iPhone because my big digital camera died on me)

I also use Scrivener for Macs — which has many of the same capabilities of these whiteboards + a Word-like software… and I will dump a lot of photos there, images of my characters and such. But when I am working on specific scenes, I like having the photos right there on my board.

 (photos are random, from the internet… not my own)

I like Scrivener for the organizational information-at-my-fingertips convenience. I am actually very lazy about organization–and I’ve paid for that countless times by wasting hours looking for something that I couldn’t remember how I worded (and therefore a simple “find” search wasn’t helpful). Or I’ll forget a character’s last name from the time I mentioned them (which drives me nuts when I can’t find a last name, and then I can’t remember if I actually used it or changed my mind but maybe mentioned them by last-name-only somewhere else). So the organizational ability to just plop a folder under a heading called “characters” on Scrivener, and drop bits of info in there (cut and pasted description, a photo of an actor or anyone I find on the internet who most resembles the character)… and later on, it’s there to remind me of details without me having to search. 

Mostly, though, I use the whiteboards. And lots and lot and lots of Post-It notes.

I hate writing a linear outline. I don’t “see” the story like that. I see it playing out horizontally, like a movie. And that might seem like splitting hairs, but I was finally able to structure a story solidly once I allowed myself to write it out horizontally and “hang” the bigger turning points along a timeline, rather than try to write down the page, vertically, in a paragraph-by-paragraph explication.

[So far, I have never had to go back and make any big structural changes–once I get this structure up on the board. When I start blind, without the structure, I end up re-doing the first act too many times to count.]

When I start a project, both of those boards are empty. My husband, Carl, made those for me. [We ordered the magnetic whiteboards online where I found them at a pretty significant savings over Office Depot–especially for these sizes. Carl then framed them and hung them for me.][Yes, he is my hero.] The first thing I’ll do on the board that you see on the second photo is draw that timeline across the time–Act One, Act Two, Act Three lines in place, then turning point lines, climax, resolution. And I start plugging in the major emotional moments / major plot issues. 

Weirdly, I will not write down every scene I “see” in this pass. I don’t need to–if I have a major turning point, I’ll know what I’ll need to do to build up to that turning point. Those things will fluctuate and change, though, so I’m not fond of nailing them down too severely. 

The Post-It notes start showing up at some point around the mid-book process. I’ll start seeing too many things at once and I don’t want to forget the smaller details. I’ll have a note up there about motive, or a twist, just to remember to layer in those clues as I go so that when I get to that scene, it’s ready. As I write, I’ll realize I’ll need to go back and layer something in earlier, or give it more depth because it’s turned out to be more important or useful than the initial throwaway comment indicated back when I wrote it. (I often find I planted things I had no idea I’d planted… I’ll think, ‘Oh, I need to go back and do X’ only to go back and lo, there it was, already there.’ That, my friends, is freaky.)

By the end of the book, I’ll have dozens of Post-Its up there, of things I still need to go back and check. I’ll discard the ones I know I already finished, so it’s not confusing.

[During the edits and then later, the copyedits, I will do more Post-Its. I think the company owes me a thank you for keeping their revenue up.]

You see that notebook on my desk? That’s the second one for this book. It’s a five-subject college ruled thing, nothing fancy, and I’ll brainstorm in there. I will work out motives, or the characters’ traits, backstory, habits, etc., and I almost never go back and refer to anything there because once I write it, I know it. It’s very stream-of-consciousness and hard to follow, but I will often start babbling in there if I have a knotty story problem and usually, the physical process of writing it down helps me brainstorm it out. I don’t know why. I can’t actually write the story in longhand–I freeze up. I’ve been typing too long, having started writing back in the early eighties on an IBM selectric typewriter. 

My office used to be in a front room of the house–a room not-quite-double this sized room, and with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. I never got anything done. Part of it was the fact that I was too accessible to everyone (kids, employees, husband), and part of it was that the wall space was too visually busy. I don’t have much on the walls in this room, and I like that it’s in the back of the house, where almost no one but my husband will go. I can write in public places when I have to, but it’s difficult because I am naturally nosy and want to eavesdrop on everyone, and then I end up in conversations. Which are great, but then I get nothing done.

[I am just one of those people that complete strangers will tell absolutely everything to. If I’m in a restaurant, people will want to tell me stuff they’ve never told anyone else. Little kids love me. They will be terrified of everyone else in that place, and if I sit down, they are going to try to come over and crawl in my lap. I have had new moms hand me their infant and say, “Can you hold her a sec? I just have to run to the restroom.” or in the grocery story, “Oh, here, I’ll be right back, I have to grab some cereal.” And then I’m standing there, with this kid I’ve never laid eyes on, who, for some reason, thinks this is perfectly okay. At least they don’t cry.]

Anyway, I digress.

I have worked in a very tiny office space made out of a closet. A back porch that we turned into an office. A converted dining room. My “desks” have included everything from a piece of plywood or a lap pillow to an old table to a hand-me-down desk, to, finally, a new desk. I’ve worked with just a typewriter all the way up to my Mac and a big honking monitor. (Yes, I know it’s huge. That wasn’t on purpose. That is just one of those, “Well, fine, if you insist,” moments when they did not have mine fixed, couldn’t fix it, and had to replace it with something bigger. I should get an Oscar for the straight face I had when they asked me if I would mind the bigger monitor.)

I’ve also written while lying in the backseat of a truck, just after having had surgery, while my husband drove us to Colorado–pen and paper and only occasionally, the laptop that was on its last leg.

So I’m curious about your workspace, no matter what you do. What’s on your desk? If you don’t work at a desk, tell me something about what you do and see when you arrive at work? What’s your ideal working environment (whatever you do!). What is the one thing that will derail your efficiency? (Mine is the dog barking next door. There is one of seven which sounds like you are stabbing her, and stabbing her some more and oh, wait, stabbity stabbity stab, and I swear, I think she’s dying and it upsets me. But that’s just how she barks.) (Not too coincidentally, I have begun to write to music all of the time, now.)

Tell me about your workspace!


39 thoughts on “A writer’s workspace (mid-book)

  1. billie

    I am up very early today because we got our new Corgi puppy yesterday – and he needed to be taken outside and fed and played with and now he’s conked out again and I’m… awake!

    I love seeing photos of writing spaces – and loved seeing yours. I don’t have boards like that but often I do need to draw the timeline of the book, what happened before the book begins, and sometimes what happens after the book ends. I go back to those drawings often when writing, checking things, adding things, plugging in the things that I’ve come up with so I can see them as the will play out in the entire book.

    And like you, I very often have a brilliant revelation about a twist or a clue or something, jot it down, and then when I get into the word doc and go to actually write it into the story, it is already there. And I think: when did I WRITE that? I just thought that up this morning! It’s the weirdest and most wonderful thing about writing. I love it.

    With one book that sort of boggled me in terms of the timeline and plot/subplot, I actually took the printed ms and spread it out on the floor trying to get a better sense of things. I don’t know what doing that actually DID, but for some reason it helped me sort out whatever issue I was having with it.

    My writing space has shifted over the past 7 years or so. From table in coffee house to my actual office (psychotherapy office) to the garret upstairs in our house. At some point I had my desk in the living room, and then I felt the need to have a more protected space, so I moved it to a corner of the bedroom, where I have favorite photos on the wall in front of me (crows, water, trees), and the window a couple of feet to my right looks out on the front pasture and the grass paddock. Interestingly, the horses and donkeys know exactly where it is and they will often congregate outside this window when it’s time for something, like feeding, or when something is amiss, like a donkey in the barnyard when he isn’t supposed to be.

    I wish the desk were cleaner, and I do clear it regularly, but it’s just the nature of this beast that stuff piles up. Books, papers, camera, – but I also have a lamp, some figures and rocks, and crazily, my laptop, which for awhile I was running in tandem with the desktop.

    Sometimes I want a more private space again, but I like being out of the main part of the house but at the same time accessible to teens and animals.

  2. Karen in Ohio

    Maybe the reason I have not been able to write is because my office, which used to be down in the basement and totally private, is now in the family room. There is no wall space available, but right in front of my lovely little Arts & Crafts desk, is a ginormous picture window (this space used to be a two-car garage, 50 years ago), that overlooks our very peaceful, private green bowl of a front yard. I’d love to have your huge whiteboards, but my view is really pretty. Can’t have it all, I guess.

  3. PK the Bookeemonster

    My home office is messy — packed with books. I have three of the five bookcases in there and more on the floor. My useful stuff for working on Premeditated (I’ve got a very rudimentary website now: premeditatedonline.com) is all on my computer.
    At the day job, I’m more concerned of how it looks. Less clutter. Since I can’t have books around me like I do at home, I have book "things" there — a clock that looks like side-by-side books, four very pretty photos of book-ish things, etc. The thing I like best at that space are the two flat screen monitors next to each other from which to work. It is so convenient when I have multiple programs up (all the time) to work between them and not be constantly minimizing and maximizing. I would like that set up at home.

  4. JD Rhoades

    I’m still nomadic: the big computer desk in the front room (where I can be too easily distracted by the TV) the small, minimalist desk in the bedroom (where I’m too easily distracted by my wife putting away laundry. it’s also unusable after she goes to bed early) the front porch or the deck (it’s just too damn hot right now) or sometimes the law office (when my son hasn’t commandeered the conference room for his D & D game).

    There’s just not room in my life for me.

  5. Cornelia Read

    My workspace is pretty much in my head. If I have research stuff I know I’m going to need to incorporate, I have a separate Word file on my desktop (for this book, I have about 60 pages of notes on arson investigation.) I usually write in bed or lying on my sofa. The worst productivity zapper is getting too intent on email or online reading in the morning. I can lose hours to that.

    Great post, Toni!

  6. Louise Ure

    What a fine room and system, Toni. You also said: "I often find I planted things I had no idea I’d planted…" Oh yeah, I can identify with that.

    My work space is a small room, windows on three sides, overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge. The view is too good. I leave the curtains down most of the time.

  7. Alafair Burke

    My workspace, like Cornelia’s, is mostly my (cluttered) head. My desk is a mess, to be sure, but that’s because I throw unread magazines, old mail, and other junk there so it won’t clutter up space I share with the husband. Walking the dog and the internet are my big time-suckers.

  8. JT Ellison

    Oh, wow – it strikes me that this would be a really fun two week project… email to come, Murderatis…

    I adore your white boards. I used to do it that way, but now I’m writing in my living room – actually, I just bought a new office yesterday, in the form of a great big couch with a chaise. I can’t seem to be terribly productive in my real office – I’ve decided that because my back’s to the door, the feng shui is all off…

  9. Allison Brennan

    I’ve tried. And tried. And tried to use Scrivener. And white boards. But I want to try again because I’m stuck in the rut of writing and rewriting and rewriting the first act so many times I scream. Once I get past page 150? Relatively smooth sailing.

    "I almost never go back and refer to anything there because once I write it, I know it."

    This is me! My entire life. If I took good notes in school, I never had to study–I just remembered whatever I wrote down. But I haven’t done it for books. I need a new process, but every time I try, I fail.

    The good thing is I can write anywhere, on almost any computer (or iPad!) as long as no one interrupts me. Noise? No problem. Interruptions? Scream.

  10. Alexandra Sokoloff

    I have my story grid and index cards (sticky post-its these days) up on two walls of the dining room.

    I have taken to writing lying down on the very red couches in the living room rather than sitting at a desk – it’s a LOT better for my back and makes work not feel like work. Occasionally I’ll sit at a cafe table in the living room on a high stool to stretch my legs, but mostly no, flat on my back.

    I work better at home than anywhere else except an airplane, which is always good for me, and the Weymouth House in Southern Pines NC, which is the mansion I used for the haunted house in THE UNSEEN. I’ve never in my life written so many pages per day as in that house – every single time I go.

  11. Eika

    I have two workspaces: one at home, one at college. they’re essenitally the same: monitor stacked up on four or five favorite hardcovers so it’s at the right height for my eyes, computer tower with my muses on it (at college, they’re some cheap vending-machine dogs; at home, his name is Kachill and hers is Convection, and Convection is the soft and cuddly thing I would’ve slept with when I was younger and Kachill was a fancy gift given to me when I graduated middle school, a statue with real fur- gotten humanely- and wearing a harness I fashioned out of a ribbon). I talk to my muses, out loud, in either area.

    Whiteboards, post-its, outlines don’t work for me. I have a character-folder for writing stories, and the folder (or document, depending on story size) contains each character’s full name, family, anything about their looks I know, etc. They get updated sporadically, but it works. When I’m writing essays (hey, college student) I have a separate document just for quotes I might need: the quote, page number, reference, and further down in the document, a list of all the works I need to cite. Etc.

    Want to know what lets me get things down? Most of the things I write, I work out in my head; usually, if I write an idea down elsewhere, it stops being relevant (I get bored if I know exactly what’s going to happen). And I can never come up with a thesis statement for my essays until after it’s written (it drives me insane, and in turn I drive my professors insane. But it works). But, whenever I come up with a problem, it helps me to talk. Not write- talk.

    Sometimes it’s idea-bouncing; I have some writer-friends I go to through the computer, or I snag the teacher or a fellow student for college. Other times, most times, it’s just a lot easier to put my thoughts in order if I’m speaking them aloud. Which may be why my muses are all toys…

  12. becky hutchison

    "…most times, it’s just a lot easier to put my thoughts in order if I’m speaking them aloud. Which may be why my muses are all toys…"

    Eika, my muse is my dog, for the same reason. He seems to agree with everything I say too. Smart dog!

    Toni, I’m envious of your office, especially the neat looking, large whiteboards and the clean desk. I use the Writer’s Cafe program on my PC to organize my character descriptions and general plot points, and I brainstorm on paper. Lately I’ve noticed a few other authors using whiteboards to grid, outline or timeline their WIP. Now I want to try it too. I’m a more visual person. If I don’t see it, I’ll forget it. So I’m thinking that plotting on a whiteboard might be helpful. Who knows? I might actually finish my WIP!

    Now about my workspace. I love to be where sunlight is shining into clean windows. Unfortunately, it’s not at my house for the last month or two. I used to work at the breakfast table beside a big picture window overlooking the woods in my backyard. The room is opposite the two-story front hallway with a palladian window through which sunlight would pour into the house in the morning. However, my junk was all over the place and my hubby and I felt it was time to work someplace else.

    About two months ago, after getting the piles of stuff out of a spare bedroom upstairs, I finally got my own office. There’s an L-shaped desk where I can look out a six over six window to the woods in my backyard. I still have piles and piles of stuff in here, but now they’re all books and magazines. However, it’s much darker than in the breakfast room. The one window is my only natural light. So I go to my local Barnes & Noble (where it’s bright and the cafe area is huge) to write on my laptop. It’s funny that I can work with lots of noise there but at home I prefer to have no music, TV or any other noise.

  13. Pari Noskin Taichert

    I think we’re going to have a theme week — for two weeks — so that all the ‘Rati can write about this.

    BUT . . . I’ve always had a space that’s specifically designated for writing. Last month, I did something even more intense about it and it’s working brilliantly.

    I’ve got a dedicated "CREATIVE" space and a dedicated "BUSINESS space" both in the same office. I think I’ll take a picture soon so people can see the enormous different between the two. It’s scary.

  14. Tom

    My productivity dropped off to nil the last two years, for many reasons. I’m now trying a small rolling computer stand with an older aluminum PowerBook I saved from the trashpile at work. The main need is to be able to sit with ML in the living room at night after day-job work. There’s a little more space available in the living room, and if I roll things back to the library room each night afterwards, this should work.
    Hell, it can’t get worse.
    Allison B., I think you may need to ‘mind map’ along with your use of Scrivener. Mind mapping is a flexible way to arrange – and re-arrange! – your major story points and elements, and then they can be poured into Scrivener where you can take advantage of all its structural features. Catherine from Oz can tell you more about mind mapping. She’s had longer experience with it than have I. NovaMind and MindManager are good mind mapping apps, available on Mac or pc. For a notecards app, I use SuperNoteCard, also a crossplatform app.
    Toni, great topic. I guess we’ll get see Stephen’s cafe table and Brent’s passport as you work through the groglist.

  15. toni mcgee causey

    billie, I have done that same thing–spread it out on the floor, flagging certain things with a specific highlighter just to see how it was flowing. (This is before computer programs which allows for that ability.)

    I love that the animals even know where to look for you, and it cracks me up that they’ll gather there when one of the others has gotten into trouble. So very much like offspring, huh? ["We didn’t do it. Wasn’t us. Nuh uh."]

  16. toni mcgee causey

    Karen, we’ve been debating adding on a room onto the back of the house when we (finally, crossing fingers) get the back yard landscaped. I’d actually have a nice view (well, assuming we get it landscaped)(we’ve been meaning to do that for about 12 years now)(argh).

    The problem is, I will stare out the window instead of writing. I have the attention span of a ferret.

  17. toni mcgee causey

    PK, ooooohhh, the two flat screens sounds cool. I have a friend who has that for film editing purposes, and of course, uses it for everything else, and it’s so convenient. (Well, except for the space they take up.)

    I like my desk to be mostly clean. Like billie said above, it gets cluttered–there’s just no helping that–but there’s always a certain point each week when I just can’t focus, and I’ll finally realize it’s because I feel guilty about the stuff that needs to be done on the desk. I try to plow through that, and get it filed.

    (I am about to over-haul my filing system. I have a new credenza, which is really all of the space I need. I have two filing cabinets in my closet which are cluttered and unruly and I get annoyed digging for something. So that’s coming up, probably the week after I finish this book.

    I never start major office overhauls in the middle of writing, though. It would completely derail me.

  18. toni mcgee causey

    Dusty, I’ve been where you are, and really, I’m gonna say something that sounds bossy (um, well, because it is bossy), but you have the right to have your space and it be your own dedicated space. You don’t have to explain to anyone or have an excuse, other than this is your thing and that is your spot. Everyone deserves that. Carve out the spot you want. Live it. Breathe it. Believe it.

    Quit waiting for the to realize you need it. 😉

  19. toni mcgee causey

    Cornelia – I am the same way about email / internet in the morning. (Well, "morning" is defined by "when I wake up" because I write into the wee hours of the night, so I wake up late.) But yeah, if I sit down and do everything internet/email first, I end up hours later before starting, and then my creative energy is gone. What I am trying to do is parcel it out–quick web responses in the morning–fast email responses to anything quick/urgent/necessary. Then writing. Then later, when I’m burned out on writing, I’ll do the longer stuff and the maintenance type of stuff.

    Well, that’s usually my plan, but I still get sucked in easily.

  20. toni mcgee causey

    Alafair — that’s actually how I worked for a long while. Then I was in the middle of a book and had surgery and the anesthesia sort of wrecked my short-term memory and even going back and reading my notes didn’t help. It almost felt like someone else had written those notes, and I had to completely re-group on that book so I could reconnect with it. Which is (partially) where this process was born–dramatic necessity.

    The Duffer, though, could not possibly be a waste of time. That is one damned cute dog.

  21. toni mcgee causey

    JT, I agree with you about your office–I thought it was a cool office, but the back-to-the-door thing would be a problem for me, too. (Which, come to think of it, was part of my problem in my other, bigger office.) I even had to switch where my desk was in this one to make it flow for me. I originally had it facing those white boards, but that still felt cluttered for my mind. When I’m in that chair above, I can decide to look over them… or I can ignore them.

    What I have to guard against is letting one whole board become reminders of things to do, paperwork I don’t want to lose, etc. That tends to sidetrack my thought processes in the moment.

  22. toni mcgee causey

    Alex, I’d love to see what your story grid looked like. And *love* read, so already know I would want those sofas.

    I can’t write lying down for long, though. I’m much more comfortable, and I’ve done it when my back was hurt, but I get too sleepy too fast and will nap. Long long lazy naps. Nothing written.

  23. toni mcgee causey

    Eika, I love talking story out, too. I have several good friends who’ve gotten those, "I know you don’t know the story, yet, but I need to talk this out" phone calls, because I process story better that way. If I know I’m telling it for an audience, the *way* it needs to unfold coalesces for me–and it’s just a much different process than if I just sit and brainstorm or write things down.

    I’ve always felt I was a much better story-teller than a writer, and translating that ability onto the page is a challenge. I love the tradition of oral stories.

  24. toni mcgee causey

    Becky — that’s funny about the light, because if I have too much, I am distracted and useless. I can write in busy places (like airports) when I have to, but I really just cannot write in a cafe. I slouch a lot, and I love my bid padded chair. I have yet to find a cafe booth or chair that works for me. Within 30 minutes, I’m fidgeting, thinking about my officer chair back home.

  25. toni mcgee causey

    Pari — I really look forward to seeing how you divided those tasks up!

    Tom — here’s hoping and fingers crossed that the rolling desk works for you. I think it’s a brilliant solution.

    And I now want to hear what Catherine says about mind-mapping–from what you’ve described and the cursory glance I’ve given it, it sounds like something I’m sort of doing without knowing what I’m doing. (sadly, the story of my life) 😉

  26. Dudley Forster

    I had a room all to myself there for awhile. Then one of my daughters, her husband,, and three grand kids moved in. It’s not as bad as it sounds, since they have the upstairs and we put in a second kitchen and have the downstairs. Before they moved in I had the entire den for my business (computer consulting). I moved all the computer mess into the bonus room and now the den is my writing area shared with a living room of sorts. I have desks on three sides with my PC and dual display monitors. The only drawback is the 38” TV begging me to watch the Discovery and History channels.

    I also have a whiteboard. But I am still trying to find out what really works for my fiction writing. Whiteboards are great for non-fiction, but my stories appear in my head in jumbled scenes and the board ends up looking like a flow chart by Escher. I am working on Alex’s method of breaking it all down. I also use Page Four as a filing cabinet for ideas and research. It is not as good as Scrivener, but I don’t have a Mac (Can you be a real writer if you don’t use a Mac?). If I leave the computer consulting business all nine of my PCs will just disappear. I’ll go Mac in a minute.

    I have been somewhat successful at carving out my writing space from all the chaos, except my 25lb cat, Macduff, believes that he must sit on whatever I am doing and being an on-site grandfather can be trying.

    “Dad, do you have any a meetings in the next couple of hours?”
    “Ah no, why?”
    “I have to take Jane to the doctor and Bobby to his play date. Can you watch JJ for an hour or so?”
    “Well, it is my writing time.”
    “Perfect, you can watch JJ and write.”

  27. toni mcgee causey

    Oh, Dudley. I so empathize with you over the on-site grandparenting thing. My younger son and his daughter were here as they transitioned to a new place (which has worked out great)… but it is really really difficult to explain that half of my writing = staring into space. When I’m actually at the point of typing, I’ve probably already figured out the scene–or close enough to be able to push through or stop and note what comes next. It’s that ephemeral brainstorming part that is the most magical and treasured and least respected.

    As for "do you have to have a Mac…" LOL. Well, let’s hope not. I only got one last year. I was a PC girl for… er… lots of years. I never wanted to switch, because I didn’t want to have to learn a new operating system. And also, we had a bunch of PCs here for the business. (Construction.) But when mine finally bit the dust, I priced out the minis and compared to the small HP towers, the pricing wasn’t all that different. I made the switch and haven’t looked back, since.

    Well, I take that back. I have looked back.I just installed a new PC for my parents, and I had forgotten how much easier Mac was for the initial set up and installation of programs. argh.

    Fingers crossed that you get the time you deserve to write!

  28. billie

    such a great day of comments!

    toni, the black mare is not coming to let me know she didn’t do anything – she’s there to tell me who is and that I need to get out there and help her regain decorum! 🙂 she literally wakes me up in the night if there is anything amiss out there. she’s my partner in keeping the geldings in line.

  29. becky hutchison

    Toni, I’m so glad you mentioned not having your backyard landscaped for 12 years. We haven’t had ours done for the 20 years we’ve been in this house. In fact, I think we’re the only house in our 360-house neighborhood without a patio or deck in back. And right now the little bit of grass we have is scattered in dusty soil (no significant rain here in about three weeks). I want a slate patio as part of the landscaping, but we’ve always put it at the bottom of our priority list. Since our backyard is so barren, we allow the kids (and parents) in our cul-de-sac to use it as a short-cut. I would really like to see lots of flowers and planters, but it may not happen until we ultimately have to prepare the property to sell it sometime in the next 5 to 10 years.

    But hey, at least I have the woods. if I don’t look down, the view is luscious and shady (thus my despair of little light) from late Spring through late Fall.

  30. Yasmine

    Hi. I write pretty much anywhere in the house or outside I can find. But what I find out is if I set aside time to write, I write best in open spaces in the house, like the family room where I can either sit on the floor or on the couch with a cup of coffee or what ever it is that I am drinking and a snack and write. Also I have the television on in the background but its muted. So I dont hear anything. Also I have the phone ringer turned off near me but still on elsewhere in the house so I can hear it ring.

    I tend to use tape recorders, napkins, pads what ever it is I can find to write notes on and then I put them on the laptop under a section for story ideas. So it grows like you wouldn’t believe.

    That is my workspace.

  31. toni mcgee causey

    billie, that’s so cool about the black mare! I love horses. (I have one in the current story.)

    becky, I know the feeling. I keep looking at this very very sad back yard and I keep buying all of these gardening books. What I need is a miracle. Or a genie. We are determined, though, to get to big things in this year during October. (It’s too hot right now–the shock of transplanting here in the summer isn’t worth the aggravation.) I have a hankering for a big live oak in the back yard, but once it matured, nothing else would get sun.

    Yasmine, I do the phone thing, too–keep it nearby, but turn the ringer off. I am notoriously bad about forgetting that I have the ringer off, so friends and family have learned to email me to let me know to pick up the stupid phone.

  32. KDJames / BCB

    Great post, Toni. Makes me wants to re-invent my writing space. Maybe once this book is done. We’ll see. Wanted to tell anyone considering a whiteboard that if you’re not sure you’ll make use of it and don’t want to incur the expense, there is another option. They make white plastic sheets that stick to the wall and function just like a whiteboard. You can peel them off and roll them up, and then stick them back on the wall again (If, for instance, you’re having company and you don’t want them reading all about that murder you’re planning. In your book.). Can’t remember what they’re called, but I bought a box of them at Office Max (in the same section as real whiteboard and dry erase markers) and they’re really cool — except I can’t for the life of me write legibly on a vertical surface and so don’t ever use them.

    Also, wanted to tell you all that I’m shutting down the internet for the rest of the month. Or until life calms down (wrote about it on my blog, if anyone really wants to know). So I won’t be around. Just wanted to let you know, in case any of you are the type to notice missing commenters and imagine the worst. Not that any of you have vivid imaginations, or anything. 😉 I’ll be back eventually. Will miss all of you!!


  33. toni mcgee causey

    KD, you are going to be MISSED. A whole month? Yowza. (Although I am sorely tempted to do the same. Except I have no willpower.)

    Come back when you can. Meanwhile, enjoy your break and quiet. Also, you’ve got my email for when your daughter moves to New Orleans–if she needs anything, let me know.

  34. KDJames / BCB

    Thanks, Toni, you’re so sweet (ahem. in a totally tough kick-ass take no prisoners kind of way, of course). Good to know there’s a friend nearby. My daughter’s boyfriend is from New Orleans and his entire very large extended family thinks she’s the best thing to hit town since the beignet, so I doubt she’ll be wanting for much of anything. She has visited NO several times already and absolutely loves it.

    Yeah, not sure I’ll last an entire month. Hell, can’t even stay away for an hour. I’m telling myself the official embargo starts tomorrow morning…


  35. Barbara_NY

    Thanks for including the references to Scrivener in your post. I’m a computer geek and didn’t realize how much I needed an e-tool to better organize my writing process until yesterday.

    Your post sparked a cascade of activity, starting with a swim across the Schrivener channel. Looked into its MAC competition, too, and sure enough, came right back to the welcoming waters of Scrivener.

    Did add a timeline program to the mix, though, having been know to tape 8 1/2 x 11 sheets into endless streams of space/time consciousness. There are a lot of ’em out there. Many way too pricey for my needs, or too linear for my way of processing information. So I settled on a demo of "Timeline 3D," for now.

    The day’s exercise continued as I poured my scattered notes, research, and ideas for a story I’d been brainstorming into these two programs. WOW! What a way to kick a project into action. Being e-organized makes all the difference. Thanks again, Toni!

  36. Katharine Eliska Kimbriel

    Toni — Did you know that there are several Post-it computer programs? I use one of the free ones, since I could find it when I needed it. Scrivener's so tempts me — I've been on PC ever since my Ex insisted we should be PC since he wrote software for a PC company. If I could afford a Mac change right now, I'd get it.

    When I first started writing, I created flow charts of information, with different shapes for emotional climaxes, action climaxes, special plot points, clues etc. Glad to know I am not the only visual outline-r!


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