Thanks for inviting me to guest, Patricia!
It is a rare book event where some version of the question, “What is your process?” doesn’t come up. Heck, I want to know how other writers create stories out of nothing, too. Alas, I still haven’t discovered the magic formula. So instead I thought I’d share a bit of my own process (which is so NOT magic) via the tools I use. Despite a tendency to overcomplicate things, after thirteen (and a half) books, I’ve settled into using a few simple aids.
Notebook and black flair pen. In fact, a thick, college-ruled notebook with a hard cover. This is for freewriting and journaling about characters, plot ideas, and descriptions. I tend to think on paper, so this notebook is where I get started before I actually create a document on my computer, and it’s where I work out problems I run into after I’ve started writing.
The biggest sketch pad I can find. My current one is almost as big as a desk blotter, but I have my eye on a ginormous newsprint pad at the office supply store. This is where I do right-brain problem solving by “clustering” or mind-mapping. I also use this method to sketch out scenes prior to writing them.
8-foot long swath of brown kraft paper. This covers one wall in my office. I’m not much of an outliner, but my novels often have very similar “shapes” in terms of pacing. I start with a rough synopsis (about 6-10 pages, which my publisher wants early in order to get started on cover art and copy), break that up onto index cards, and tape them on the kraft paper in a linear timeline. The vertical positioning of these story elements/scenes indicates tension. I use post-it tape in order to be able to move things around, and as the book progresses I fill in details and can easily see where to balance subplots and weave in more (or less) magic, baking, gardening, aromatherapy, etc.
iPad with blue-tooth keyboard, the latest copy of Microsoft Word, and cloud storage. I do almost all of my first draft on my iPad because I like the keyboard, it works for me ergonomically, and it’s super-portable. I back up by storing each day’s work in the cloud and emailing the most current version of my draft to myself. Whenever I open my laptop, it picks up the newest version in the cloud and then Carbonite backs it up automatically. I’ve never lost work except for the one time I used the OmWriter app and it ate everything I’d written that day.Ugh. Lesson learned.
Windows laptop. This is where I revise and rewrite. I’ve also used the iPad for this step when I’m traveling, but prefer the larger screen. Plus, when I revise, I tend to read things out loud, pace, and talk to myself — so it’s usually best to stick to working in my office at that juncture.
Index Card app but no Scrivener. I actually own a copy of Scrivener, but discovered I’m too much of a geek to actually use it well. I found myself spending way too much time organizing and re-organizing information and research instead of writing the dang book. Sometimes I do, however, use the Index Card app, which is just a tiny part of Scrivener, to mirror the big picture of the book on my office wall. Again, this is usually when I’m traveling. It’s a pain to transcribe the index cards, though, and I’ve been known to just take a panoramic picture of the office wall outline to refer to instead.
Focus@Will. This is a program/app that I have on my iPad, phone, and laptop. The website describes it as a “new unique neuroscience based audio service that helps increase your focus by ‘zoning out’ distractions.” I used to listen to baroque music for the same effect, but I like the variety Focus@Will provides and think it’s worth the $40 a year.
Noisli and Coffitivity are two other background noise apps I sometimes use.
Freedom. I launch this app to eliminate online distractions when I find myself wandering off to check my email and Facebook too often, or if I want to keep myself from doing any research until I hit my word count for the day. Unfortunately, that means I can’t use Focus@Will on the same device, because it streams via the Internet. However, if I really want to use both, I can use the Focus@Will app on my phone.
And that’s pretty much it!
Bailey Cates is the NYT bestselling author of the Magical Bakery Mystery series. The most recent is Magic and Macaroons, released in July, 2015. As Bailey Cattrell, she writes the upcoming Enchanted Garden Mysteries. The first, Daisies For Innocence, will release in January, 2016. And as Cricket McRae, she writes the Home Crafting Mystery series. For more information about all her books and personas, please visit her website.