Thursday, August 4, 2011


My office is a cluttered mess.  The rest of my house is just fine; it's just my office. I'm basically a neat, orderly person, but somehow my office gets out of hand at times.  It's the catch-all for things I mean to look at later or my husband doesn't know where else to put.  On my walls are a poster of one of my early books, an award with a framed copy of The Bracelet, a painting of one of my book covers, four framed certificates, a picture of the Oquirrh Mountain Temple, drawings by four of my grandchildren, a small framed picture with the names of a previous Primary class surrounding the Savior, a painting of a horse by one of my daughters, and half a dozen family photographs.  Oh, and a calendar with big squares to write in and kittens to make a grandson, who is crazy about kittens, happy when he visits me.
My desk is worse.  Along with a stack of envelopes that need to be filed, a box of tissue, and the DSL modem, there's an accumulation of mementos from friends and readers such as a decorated rock, a sugar Easter egg, a purple stemmed goblet from a Mystery Dinner, a handmade ceramic pitcher, a plush goose, a paperweight style award, and a heart-shaped box.  That's just the top.  The so-called writing surface holds my monitor, keyboard, telephone, rolodex, pens, pencils, piles of paper, a couple of small files, notebooks, a bottle of lotion, and one of my sets of scriptures. That's also where the bare bones of my work in progress resides. 
I'll spare you the details of three floor to ceiling bookcases, a printer, a paper cutter, four file cabinets, two plastic bins and all the accumulated boxes, office equipment, and sundry items that adorn or occupy space under an eight feet long table.  On one shelf of the bookcase is my stack of "to read" books.  At least I try to keep the piles neat.
I already said I'm basically a neat, orderly person so every once in awhile, but not often enough, I tear the whole room apart, go through every paper, clean every file, shred, discard, clean, and reorganize.  No matter how much I itch to do a thorough cleaning while writing, I don't.  Most of the time I vacuum, dust what I can, and keep the piles neat.  A thorough cleaning only happens between books.
My writing style is a lot like my office or my office is the way it is because of my writing style.  I research before and during without throwing anything out.  I never know what I might need.  Sometimes I outline; sometimes I don't. I write notes to myself.  I create lists of names and characteristics.  I utilize two notebooks, a file folder, post-its, and several notepads. I jot down ideas. I make quick scene outlines.  Sometimes I print out a few pages for fast reference when I'm writing a follow up scene.  Add to that my notes for reviews in progress.
Once I think the story is in pretty good shape, I send it off to my beta readers.  I don't throw anything away.  When I get the readers' feedback, I plunge back into the story, fixing this, fixing that, and discover ideas have been circulating in my head while waiting that need to be incorporated into the story or used to strengthen a point.  When I'm satisfied I've done the best I can do, I send it to my editor.  I still don't clean up or discard anything. 
After varying lengths of time, if and when I get an acceptance, the rewrites begin and I refer to my notes and scribbles.  I'm glad I didn't throw anything away. I add exchanges with my editor, print outs of various stages , etc. to my files and clutter.
At last the book is off to the printer and out of my hands.  Do I clean up all the clutter at last?  Not really.  I scoop it all into a file to sort through later.  You see, I started another book while waiting for word from my beta readers; added to it while waiting for a yes or no from my editor, and I have a whole new pile of clutter.

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