When I was a freshman in high school, I had English class with Mrs. White. Strict (but fair) and highly demanding of her students, Mrs. White remains to this day one of my favorite teachers. That being said, we didn't exactly get off on the right foot. I was, more or less, a disaster when it came to being organized. I always had math tests jammed in next to English reports, scribbled notes tucked in beside vocabulary lists, and an innate need to draw little creatures and animals on everything, whether it was a scrap piece of paper or a homework assignment. Suffice it to say, Mrs. White was not impressed. In fact, I think her exact words were something along the lines of, "Ms. Eaton, you need to work on your organizational skills."
So I did.
It took a while, but by the time I had her again for American Literature in eleventh grade I had a neat, tidy binder specifically designated for each class, no loose papers in sight, and I'd stopped drawing soon after I realized I wasn't exactly the next Picasso. Mrs. White was very happy and, I like to think, a little bit shocked.
About halfway through the first rough draft of The Duke of St. Giles I had a similar wake up call. As I was furtively searching for the piece of notebook paper that I'd scribbled down the first name of Emily's father on, I came to the conclusion that if I wanted to be a writer - an organized one, at least - I needed to get my shit together. So the next day I went to Staples and after wandering around for an hour or so (that place is dangerously distracting) I stumbled upon a little green binder/notebook thing that was absolutely perfect. It has little dividers I can pop in and take out, paragraph tabs, and (most importantly) STICKERS!
Since I got The Notebook (and yes, I fully intend on putting a picture of Ryan Gosling on the front -- don't judge me) it's saved me so much time. I can keep plots in my head, but it's the little details (a character's eye color, length of hair, correct form of address) that really get me. Now, courtesy of The Notebook, I don't have to remember that Emily's father's name is Edgar and Petunia has blonde hair, not brown. I only wish I'd gotten my butt in gear sooner.
So for all you aspiring writers out there, don't do what I did. The minute you start that first book, go out and get yourself a notebook and write down everything you don't feel like having to remember. For me that includes character descriptions, titles, names of estates, chapter headings, ages -- the list goes on (and on and on).
I'll leave you with a sneak peek at The Notebook along with a hint (if you look very, very carefully) at what my next writing project is going to be!