Discbound Frenzy

I am in love. How have I lived my life unaware of the existence of this miraculous binding system?

It started with a trip to Staples. I had in mind a binder to use as a writing journal/planner to help me generate and organize my writerly thoughts. Nothing extravagant, mind you. A generic three ring, some paper, maybe a pocket or two. Big and bulky but reliable. A classic.

Then I saw it. The ARC display. A system for creating notebooks of any size, geared to my needs, expandable, and endlessly customizable. If you notebook gets to big for your discs, simply swap them out for bigger ones.

A handful of accessories such as pockets, tabs, zippered pouches and paper inserts were available but the best part was the punch. With the punch, I could create my own inserts. All the inserts.

I gotta say, it’s been tough sitting down to write when all I want to do is make notebooks, planners, manuals, etc. I’ve also made a half dozen or so templates that suit my needs and the creative juice generated by workers no out my system has sparked my writing in a big way. I’ll share my templates once I’ve tried them out for a while and worked out the kinks.

The picture above shows my current three book set up. The big blue leather one is my writing planner. I keep track of my writing goals and schedule and track my progress in there. In the middle, my writer’s notebook is my creative space for brainstorming, novel notes, story ideas, etc. the final book is my craft notebook. That’s where I put notes on the craft of writing – lecture notes, workshop assignments, writing tips, etc.

If you’re familiar with the ARC system, you’ll see some additions not offered by the system. The book bands were found on Amazon and work perfectly. The silver discs are from a clearance Happy Planner I got from Michael’s. I also cut down the month tabs from the Happy Planner to use in my writing planner, thanks to the punch.

Oh yeah. I made this cute little notepad that fits in a pocket or purse for those times when I’m traveling light. It holds 3×5 notecards as well as paper.

That’s a bit of the old Happy Planner cover, cut down and punched.

The tabs sticking out of the notebooks are from Levenger, the Cadillac of discbound systems. I drool over their site several times a day. I find that the ARC tab dividers stick on the discs while the Levenger ones provide a smooth turn. Same goes for the clear covers I’m using with my writing journal in the centre. Those are Levenger too. I’m going to pick up another set for the craft notebook.

If you’re like me, constantly changing your notebook needs, if you hate being constrained by fixed bindings, and love to customize, discbound books may be for you too.

My 85k90 Report

Has it really been this long since I’ve posted on my blog? I had no idea. I’m terrible at this.

On the other hand, I’ve been writing in my writer’s journal almost daily although, I must confess, the entries haven’t been exactly post worthy. They’ve been a series of two parters. I start by writing what I want to accomplish during the day and then finish off in the evening by recounting what I actually did. So far, it’s been working to keep me accountable. I’ve fallen off of posting my counts on the 85k90 site. I just didn’t find it helpful to me. I prefer the NaNoWriMo incrementing counting you fill in each day but even that would be too much over the long night haul. Keep it simple. Get it done.

I finished March off 15,000 words short of my 85k goal. I’d started out in front at the gate but then life and laziness overtook me and I started missing days, and then whole weeks, of writing and now here I am and it’s April.

I’m still writing. April is a flex month and I’m writing every day, even on the weekends when I prefer not to. I’m not writing a lot each day. Only 500 to 750 words. Having the goal post so low gets me in the chair because I know it won’t take long. So far it’s working out. I’m almost at 75k and 20 days left in the month to write 10 more.

And, really, the numbers don’t mean as much as the direction I’m headed in as I slowly creep toward the finish line.

85k90 – Day 10 – Cut and Paste

Yesterday’s cut and pasted scenes from the past couple of days really needed to be dealt with today. I had to stop cutting and pasting and start going through the material with fresh eyes, rewriting much of it and fleshing out the scant details from the 50,000 word NaNoWriMo version. I thought it would be a chore – messy, hard to pick up. I’ve had that experience in the past working on another manuscript during an earlier NaNo attempt to write a novel. It was dismal and I soon gave up.

This time, it wasn’t bad at all once I got going. In fact, it came together well, thanks to my ongoing novel journaling and Scrivener‘s ability to cut up blocks of text into individual scenes. If you don’t know how to do that, let me give you a little tutorial.

First, I cut and pasted in a large section of text into one of my scenes. After reading it in this new context, I saw that the second half of it needed it’s own scene – perhaps even it’s own chapter – and that I needed to add a scene between what I had previously written and the first half of the pasted text. No problem.

First, I placed my cursor where I wanted to split the file in two. Then I went to the menu at the top under Documents -> Split -> at selection for a simple splitting into two documents in the binder.

If I’d wanted to, I could select some text and split with the selected text as the title of the new file but it’s not necessary here. I had a new scene to work with and it was already started!

I also needed another scene before the new one so I created a new scene file and tucked it in between. I added synopses to these three scenes to remind myself what I wanted from each of them and I was ready to go.

Right now, I’m still working on the first of the three new scenes in which one of my characters, Steph, arrives at work and chats up her friend Wanda. Because I’ve organized the cut and paste into three distinct scenes, I have my writing sorted until the weekend.

Hot damn, it feels good.

85k90 – Day 9 and Novel Journals

Today was an average writing day. I ended up with about 1000 words although a lot of that involved copy pasting from my NaNoWriMo draft. Mostly, I wrote in my Novel Journal which, as it turns out, is what the writing I’ve been doing in my Planner Pro notes is called.

According to James Scott Bell on the Writers Helping Writers blog in his article called Using the Novel Journal for Writing Breakthroughs, keeping a journal specific to the writing of a novel or lengthy work gives the writer a place to explore possibilities, dive into backstory or character/setting sketches, ask questions and express frustrations.

If I wanted to, I could do this work within my Scrivener project which I have done in the past, creating a Notes folder outside of the Manuscript folder for this purpose. For some reason, however, I’m finding it easier to focus my thoughts when I’m away from the project space. I feel free to write whatever comes into my head without trying to fit into the current logic of the piece.

I have tried something similar to this in the past, free writing by hand before each writing session as an brain exercise but, while fun, didn’t seem to help me, when it came time to working on a specific project.

Bell quotes Sue Grafton explaining her process in using novel journals which is where he first learned of the idea:

The day’s date and a bit of diary stuff, how she’s feeling and so on. This is to track outside influences on her writing.

Next is notes about any ideas that emerged overnight. I especially like this part, because the writer’s mind has been working while I sleep and I want to pour out everything I can. The trick here is not to think too much about what you write. Just let it flow.

Third, Sue writes about where she is in the book. She “talks” to herself about the scene she’s working on, or problems that have arisen.

This is exactly what I’ve been doing and it’s making a big difference both in the amount of work I’m able to accomplish and my ability to focus on where I’m heading in the story.

Choose a format that works for you and give novel journaling a try.

85k90 – Days 7 and 8

Yesterday was a wash. Dealing with continuing condo issues left little energy for writing. That’s ok because today, I more than made up for it with two good writing sessions and a copy and paste of some writing I’d done for NaNoWriMo that folded into the scenes I’m currently writing ending the day with a gain of 2,437. All is well with the world again.

I’m finding that reading for an hour before writing and mapping out my writing day (whether or not I follow my map) is helping a great deal, both in preparing the writing part of my brain and in avoiding the blanking out I get when I sit down to write without first choosing a direction for my thoughts.

Also, my daily checklist. Why haven’t I done this before?

85k90 – Day Six – The Day of Water and Ice

Today hasn’t been much of a writing day. It’s been more of a candle lighting, hot water boiling kind of day.

This weekend is the coldest on record for this area at this time of year. During the night last night, the power blew in our high rise and we switched over to emergency power. Emergency power doesn’t include heat. We spent the day trying to keep the apartment at a reasonable temperature which, it turns out, is pretty time consuming and stressful living with the knowledge that the remaining electricity could go at any moment. I stayed away from my iMac just in case.

Around dinner, the heat came back on. Hurray! Heat! Hot water! But not for long. Within about an hour, there were reports of water filling the lobby. Water rained down from the pot lights in the ceiling. The heat and hot water vanished again..

And that’s where we’re at right now. I’m using my iPad to write this post. I hope I’ll have power to upload once I’m finished. I will do a bit more writing throughout the evening. So far I’ve written 400 words which is all right considering the circumstances.

I hear it’s going to heat up this coming week. I can hardly wait.

85k90 – Day 5 with Planner Pro

It’s still early and I haven’t started on my draft for the day so this isn’t going to be an accounting of today’s writing. Instead, I thought I’d tell you a bit about my process for getting ready to write and staying on track.

I never used to have a process. I didn’t find it necessary during NaNoWriMo because the time involved was so short. I can do anything for a small about of time. It’s keeping it up over an extended period that I have difficulty with. I figured, if I was going to make this 85k90 thing work, I’d need to develop a system that had as few pain points as possible. Something simple that I didn’t hate and that I actually might like.

I love planners. The weight of them in my hand, the smell of the leather and the paper, finding just the right pen to make up a set. I also find them utterly useless for keeping track of things. I live in a digital world. I need my planner to be digital too and so I started looking for an app that gave me the same sorts of features I’d find in a planner without too much else going on so that it wouldn’t be overwhelming and become a chore.

After a few failed experiments, I landed on Planner Pro and have been very happy with it.

If you love physical planners, you’ll find the layout of Planner Pro familiar. It has both iOS and desktop versions so I bought them both. I like being able to access my planner on any device I happen to be using but, if I had to choose only one, the iPad version seems to be the best fit for the software. It feels like it belongs there. There are daily, weekly, and monthly views plus tabs for your collection of tasks and notes. While the weekly view can be quite useful, spend nearly all of my time on the daily view.

To make this app useful for 85k90, I’ve eliminated all calendars but the one I’ve set up for the project. I’ve created a list of tasks that I’d like to accomplish each day and repeat daily so that each morning I open Planner Pro, I have a fresh checklist to go through.

The first thing I take care of is One Hour of Reading. I do this with my morning coffee/breakfast and try not to rush through. I try to read novels from writers who’s work I admire and books that I see as similar to what I’m currently writing. I set a timer on my device and, when the timer goes off, I put the book away and check that item off of my list.

The next task is journaling – something I’ve found to be invaluable for thinking about what I’ve written the day before and what I’d like to write today. I write my journal entries directly into the Planner as daily notes. Once I’ve used it to figure out what I’ll be doing, I can check journal writing off of the list and and I’m ready to start in on my novel.

I use Scrivener to do my writing, sometimes on my desktop and sometimes on my iPad using the excellent mobile version. I like to change it up so I don’t feel held captive by my desk. When I reach my predetermined goal for the day’s words, I stop and check it off of the list. I might go back later and add more if I come up with an idea that I feel I need to get down right away but, for the most part, I’m trying to keep it slow and steady so that I can really ruminate on what I’ve written and where my characters are heading. This also keeps me eager to start up again the next day because I haven’t burned myself out the day before.

In the evening, (today being an exception) I will do a blog post. I’m trying to use the blog to keep me accountable to others. So far, the blog posts have been the hardest to get through and feel forced. That’s why I’ve changed it up today and decided to blog about something other than my word count which, let’s face it, just gets boring for both you and me.

Planner Pro has a subscription model but it’s not onerous like so many are – something like $5 per year Canadian. That’s peanuts for how valuable it’s been to me so far. I’m not affiliated with the company or the creator in any way and you might find other ways to mark out your days that work for you (I’d be interested to hear about them!).

How to you organize your writing life to keep you going through a long haul?

85k90 – Day 4

A busy day that involved a trek to the grocery store and a dozen broken eggs meant that I didn’t start writing until after 4pm, throwing me completely off schedule. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to get going at all and the whole day would be a write off.

a dozen broken eggs
Don’t carry eggs in a backpack

But it wasn’t! After cleaning up a disastrous egg incident which left my kitchen and myself covered in raw egg, I sat down and got to work and I had such a good time writing I didn’t want to put it away when it was time for dinner.

Oh yeah. I’ve got this.

85k90 – Day 3

I’m starting to get into the swing of the story. It could be because I am entering a new scene that I’m writing to replace a scene from my previous draft. I love the exhilaration of writing something for the first time. Maybe I’ll finally get it right.

I don’t have a fear of blank pages. A blank page holds the universe. I could go in any direction and it would be the right direction. The further I go, the choices narrow until there’s only one way and it leads to nowhere.

I hate that.

I have so many lovely little notebooks that I’ve bought over the years, each with just a page or two filled in, sullied, tossed aside. Every once in a while I find one and read the first page:

December 15, 2015

I wish that I was simple so I would like simple things.