Monthly Archives: February 2011

Levenger (and note-taking, in general)

I have experimented with dozens of organizers and note-taking systems over the years, abandoning most before I use up the refills.  I’m fickle when it comes to stationery supplies, I admit.  They’re more than a mechanism to record my thoughts: they’re an antidote for boredom, a shot in the arm when a project needs energy.  When my brain begins to sag, one technique to reverse the process is to go shopping, find exactly the new setup I need–and then spend the next however long whining about how it doesn’t work.  I’m a paper snob, an office supply cry-baby, a notebook wienie.  It’s the truth.  I won’t deny it.

And as if my constant craving for something newer and more efficient isn’t enough, there’s another complication–the way I think.  I’m sure methodical thinkers have their own troubles, but coming up with a way to track thoughts isn’t one of them.  All they have to do is buy a nice, blank, bound book, and start writing.  No messy reordering necessary.  No sorting through piles of books or reams of tablets to find that one critical idea they know they wrote down, but can’t find.  All they have to do is find the proper topic notebook, leaf through a few pages, and voila!  They have what they were looking for.  Jerks.  I hate them.  I envy them.  And this post has nothing to do with them.  They can leave now, take out their calligraphy pens, and start scribing.  There’s nothing here for people like that.

No, I’m not a methodical thinker–I’m a chaotic thinker, from way back.  From the womb.  Thoughts fly in from every direction, and are often lost before I can catch them.  If I want to hold onto something, I must write it down–I’ve always been this way.  But then, even written, what good are they?  How do I find what I need?  How do I create order from the chaos?

As much as I’m drawn to bound books and spiral notebooks, they don’t work for me.  They’re efficient, and compact, and I like the way they feel, but they aren’t useful–I can’t retrieve things from them.  I need a system where the pages can be sorted and moved around, shifted into a meaningful order.  Which generally means three-ring binders.  They’re universally available, cheap, and versatile.  They come in lots of colors, lots of widths, and can be customized.  Perfect.  Well, sort of.

I don’t like writing on 8 1/2 by 11 inch paper.  Personal quirk.  I like smaller pages.  I like a notebook that can fit into a smaller space, that doesn’t require a full-on backpack to carry.  I like it to sit on the small table next to my chair, and on the rim of the bathtub, and the armrest of my car.  Big doesn’t work for me.  Enter half-page binders; right size, still versatile–but too fat.  They’re mostly available in one-inch width or wider, which I don’t like.  I know, whiny, right?  And picky?  But I want what I want…

Enter the Levenger Circa system, junior size.  It’s a little strange, since it uses disks rather than rings to hold the pages in place, and is a little clunky to get used to, but so far it’s doing the trick–and I’ve had to order refills!

In my writing room I keep a wider-sized book (the size of the disks dictates the width of the book), which I use as an archive.  This book is divided by tabs, one for each active story, with a catch-all Miscellaneous tab at the back for itinerant ideas.  I keep smaller books around the house, and one in the car.  In these I record whatever thoughts or plot points my brain comes up with, then transfer the pages into the archive, where they’ll stay until it’s time to transcribe them–generally when I switch full-focus to that story.  The only rule for the small books is that I must record thoughts or ideas for a specific story on a page designated for that story–otherwise, I’d still have a disorganized mishmash.

There’s even a small pocket notebook, 3 x 5, which allows me to jot down quick notes if I don’t have a bigger book with me–and because it has matching perforations, I can transfer those sheets to the bigger book as well.  No more writing on envelopes or receipts; I’m losing very little material these days to poor record-keeping.

If you like bigger pages, you can stick with the standard 8 1/2 by 11, or even make hybrid notebooks–the  junior pages will fit into the bigger book the same way the pocket pages fit into the junior–so you can infinitely combine whatever size you’re working with at the time.  And if you buy a hole punch, necessary to create the proprietary perforations, you can add your own content–maps, photos, receipts.  Anything you feel like including in your system.  I’ve been using it for months now, and haven’t tired of it yet.

One caveat–it isn’t cheap.  But once you buy the disks and covers, and a hole punch, you can forever use whatever paper you want, so you aren’t tethered to the more expensive stuff.  I like it because it’s flexible, and it works, but would of course be interested in hearing about other systems.  Who knows when boredom will strike?







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HEA-us Interruptus

Have you ever gotten to that stage in a romance novel where you know–because you can literally feel–that there are too few pages left to finish things off satisfactorily?  Where you know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the writer is going to leave you hanging–and you’re going to be pissed?  Well, it happened again last night, and I wanted to throw the book across the room, I was that tired of it.  HEA-us Interruptus.  Much a-damn-do about nothing.

Can you imagine a mystery where a writer asks a reader to invest hours and hours in the suspense, then tosses the solution in at the end as an afterthought, as a summary?  Of course not–the ending of a mystery must satisfy.  It must make the journey worthwhile.  It must resonate.  I believe a romance should do the same, but I must be in the minority–because lately, all I’m reading are books with plenty of setup, but no payoff.  Is that bad writing, or is it me?

And before you lop my head off, I am NOT talking about sex–just the opposite, in fact.  It seems to me too many writers have convinced themselves that romance is sex–that if they throw their hero/heroines in bed, they’ve resolved the story arc.  Maybe that’s true for some people, but not for me.  I expect authors to do the work.  All the way to the end.

Just to be clear, here’s what I expect–in a romance.

I want interesting characters who, for whatever reason, are lacking in love.  I want them to find each other, and awaken to the possibility that love might be lurking after all–if it weren’t for all those pesky conflicts.  I want them to explore a relationship, at least in the abstract, and then I want them to solve whatever problems are keeping them apart–together!  That’s right, I want them together.  And not just when they hop into bed at the end, headed for the HEA super-highway.  I want the two to become one.  It’s a romance!  Isn’t that what’s supposed to happen?

I’m tired of reading romance novels with a tired mantra thrumming in the back of my head–“Please don’t stop! Please, don’t stop!”  It’s stupid.  I feel like I’m stuck in a bad sex scene.  Enough, already.  I’m going back to mysteries, where I belong.  Some of them might not be great, but at least I know the author will get their ass kicked if they leave their readers hanging–and reviewers won’t equivocate about that.






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eBook Pricing

I see today that two books I’m interested in came out today in ebook format, so I checked them out: $9.99 on Amazon.  Hmmm.  Interesting, but I didn’t buy either one.

Why?  I can’t say for sure, but a good potential reason floats to the top: price.  Right this minute, that seems too high to me.  Certainly not if viewed per book, because  I’ve got the ten bucks to spare, but since I read a lot of books–lots and lots of books–that ten dollars will add up pretty quick at  ten to fifteen books a month.  Is that the only reason?  No.  But for this potential purchase I think it was the determining one.


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Shut up and Write!

“Shut up and write”, the pinned sign says across from my writing chair.  “Every chapter should reveal a clue,” and “What am I trying to show?” and “Good writers don’t equivocate–tell your story!”  Good advice, all, and prominent–but instantly invisible once I sit down to bang out the words.

It’s as if, by sliding my butt onto the cushion, a tunnel forms, leaving me deaf, dumb, and blind to the outside world.  No matter how hard I prep, how determined I might be, I am once again alone in the dark, with no idea of where to go.  I had a map, I had a plan, but must have left them in my other shirt.  Somewhere not here.  And I can feel the panic.  What was I going to say?

So I fiddle and fumble and stumble around until focus drops in, and then I begin.  Again.  And here they come, my long-lost friends.  The words.  The stories.  They didn’t forsake me, or I them.   It’s just the game.  The stupid game.  “Count to ten, then come find me…”  Hide and seek.

Must it always be an ordeal?  For once, can’t you just wait where I asked you to?  Where I left you?  Please?

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