Posted by: jeannineatkins | November 17, 2009

Notes or Gifts

I keep a folder un-creatively labeled Notes for my work in progress. In here I tuck away descriptions of places, animals, people that don’t fit where I am at the moment. I also put scraps of dialog that don’t belong, some plot ideas, moments that come to me when trying to sleep, character descriptions, edges of scenes, bent-out-of-shape metaphors: like an attic filled with boxes, there are some things in excellent repair, others that could be fiddled with and saved, and some things that will get tossed when I’m in the deleting mood.

The folder doesn’t seem appealing on a glance, but while there is junk to be waded through, I know it holds something that might feel like a gift to myself. When I’m stuck with my writing, sometimes starting out on a writing day, or feeling discouraged or bogged down, I may begin looking through here then finding a place to insert the sentence, phrase, of paragraph. I get to think: it fits! It looks good! And I’m no longer in a mire, sometimes working out from the place where I put this gift or ready to go back to the boggy place I left.

I’m at a point where this folder is down to a scant nine pages, while I’m working on the final chapters. Will someone ever get to eat that noted feast of roast lamb with thyme, fragrant grains, olives, figs, pears, and fresh hot bread? Hear round pigeons croon? I don’t yet know. But I’m glad to have that thin folder of notes that might prod or lift me through the end.



  1. I like the sound of your Notes. And I hope someone gets to eat those figs and olives!
    I was looking at a very early draft of my WIP yesterday and came across a scene that got deleted very soon after it was written. It took the book in the wrong direction, and introduced some characters who stole the show — but my, I had a good time reading it! And now that I’ve got some distance on it, I think it may contain the seeds of another book.

  2. Aha! I am trying to find a recipe for cooking figs since I bought some that are pretty dry and inedible as raw fruit. Do you have one?
    I have piles of notes and try to herd them into a folder every once in a while. They slither out.
    Now I am working with Scrivener, a program for Macs which organizes notes and research. I am putting snippets into that now. They really help me too.

  3. You MUST find a way to include the crooning pigeons, Jeannine. Do it for the birders!

  4. Ooh, that feast sounds scrumptious! And I’d love to take a peek into your note file. Might it have something for my still empty chapter 16? 😉

  5. That is the best kind of gift: what doesn’t fit, but points you in the next direction. Seeds. All we need is that tiny tiny bit.
    See you soon!

  6. Sorry, I don’t have a great fig recipe; how sad the figs are disappointing. I would google around recipe sites and see what you find.
    Fantastic re working with Scrivener: I know that’s worked wonderfully for some other authors I know. I might have to try it on my next novel.

  7. Okay, I’ll try with the pigeons. I do have ittudo birds: love the name. And pelicans along the Euphrates.

  8. Wish I had a little bit for your chapter 16, but, um, might skew your plot.
    I was quite delighted to find a book on food in ancient Mesopotamia. Yes!

  9. Ah, pelicans…
    Never heard of the ittudo birds but that is an awesome word!

  10. I like this idea, as I am always (especially in this mess of a WIP!) worried about losing something. Is this a real folder, or a computer folder? 🙂

  11. Yeah, once there were actual files you could hold, right?
    But this file is on my computer. There’s no reason it couldn’t be tangible, but my handwriting is so horrible to combine that with random notes would not be enticing at all. I usually need to see something on the computer before I can even tell if it’s a keeper. And if it doesn’t fit, just cut and paste (with memories of scissors and tape from the old days.)

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