April 15, 2012

Skhye Moncrief The Lazy Writer's Database

Looking for something to make world building easier? I say more efficient! There are many books and online sites that can tell you all the basics of world building. Add I'm extremely focused on getting a story finished and submitted at the moment... My goal, last year, revolved around productivity. I vowed to write one book each month in 2010. Almost all were novel-length. Big goal? Yes. But doable. I call this building my backlist. And this endurance stems from my being efficient.
How do we as writers avoid self-defeating behavior like honing our procrastination skills and work towards efficiency in their writing efforts? Well, I find just staying focused is the trick for me. Not getting sidetracked. Even when I need to make Romance Trading Cards. I did! There flew two weeks out the window! So, excited about them anyway! But what is the cause of self-defeating behavior in general? Each of us has our own personality-type hang ups. That said, personality affects how I waste my time. How do I change this?
Me, I'm into Myers-Briggs personality typing (take the test at http://www.myersbriggs.org/my-mbti-personality-type/mbti-basics/ ). Bob Mayer gave an amazing presentation at the RWA National conference in 2007 on how to get published (Who Dares Win at http://www.bobmayer.org/ ) based on the issues each of the Myers-Briggs personality types has. I'm a Field Marshal, for the most part except when I score The Writer, with all my hang ups. You'll have to look that up for details. But I had to just face the music like everyone else according to Mayer's suggestion. I'll just move on to being productive, allowing the curious to investigate Mayer's Green-Beret attitude about achieving a writer's goal of becoming published on her own though. But I'm going to focus on my problem of my laziness with my tips today to help interested writers boost their productivity.

These are tips I, the Lazy Writer, use that can help everyone. I'm posting three that I rely heavily upon now in my writing. Now is key. Because we all evolve in our approach to writing. I most definitely have. Since productivity was never my problem. Laziness was. *wink* I'll share three tips that work toward...
  • Increasing my productivity
  • Keeping me from jumping around to various documents on my computer while writing
  • Save me from hunting down that one little annoying distracting squeak within the turning gears of my story's framework
Heck, I'm so lazy I make myself sick. But there's something to be said for being a lazy writer--efficiency! However, some of the time lazy people refuse to waste works in their favor. Let's see. Where shall I begin?

#1. What color was that?

Keep a running record of your main characters' morphological attributes. What does this mean?
  • Color of hair, eye, skin.
  • Types of clothing.
  • Body decoration.
  • Hairstyle, including length.
  • Facial hair.
  • Favorite object (weapon, photo, crystal).
  • Weight.
  • Build.
Why is this information so darn important? There is absolutely nothing worse than receiving an artwork questionnaire for a recently contracted manuscript and realizing there are 5 heroes you suddenly need to describe--all with different physical features like eye color, hair color, hairstyle, etc. That's what happened to me with FERAL FEVER. Can we so oh-no? Picture Mr. Bill from Saturday Night Live here saying "Oh no!" for the expression that certainly was on my face during that moment of negative epiphany.

Why that expression? I had to read through the manuscript for all the pertinent information to describe these 5 males. Waste of time...Never again...Ever since, I keep a running list. Yep, I changed, acclimated, or call it an adaptation to an approach to writing. I'm lazy. I had to survive. We're talking survival here! This is significant since I'm extremely stubborn. Mom declared this when I was three, saying I was a forty-year-old woman trapped inside a three-year-old's body. So true. So true. Especially since I'm older now and can see I grow even more stubborn with each passing year. *snort* Remember, the Field Marshal runs the war! Field Marshals don't care what anybody thinks. The war must be won! Productivity seems to be my goal in battle. LOL So, how do I help this old inner dog accept new tricks and deal with story-detail chaos? This leads into my second tip...

#2. The Lazy Writer's Story-World Database

I don't believe in wasting my writing time creating story databases. All that writing spent recording details in a database can be used to increase my wip's word count. But my critique partners groan for databases because my story worlds can become rather large and complex in a very short time. So, I manage my story-world details in my head. Yes, right where I can dig through the files without getting up from the chair. This is the extremist form of lazy and disturbs many of my writing friends. But it works for me. However, when I created two cyborg cultures for my 5th Feral book, FERAL FALLOUT, I realized I needed a little more information on hand to segregate the cultural details before I lost my mind. [Yes, my mind is still here even though some people doubt it.]

What did I do? Think two different planets with different scientific causes for human augmentation (cultural evolution) and then throw in some other stuff. Lots of details! So, I started what I call the Lazy Writer's Database to manage character details for each heroine and all the heroes in FERAL FEVER and FERAL FALLOUT where both heroines wind up with multiple mates. Now, since I'm lazy, I'll just get to the point and stop wasting your time.

How to create a Lazy Writer's Database:

Run a list of story-world information at the end of your wip document. I create a line with dashes to separate the manuscript and the short "Lazy Writer's" section of story-world details. {I say short because I want to scroll to the elusive term or character detail and then get back to writing. Remember, lazy is the key word here. I'm lazy and don't want to waste a second I can spend writing.} Type this at the end of your wip:

Lazy Writer's Database

Next, I note character names with their descriptive information, including things such as education and occupation because 5 cyborg experts and all their specialties can become pretty confusing when trying to recall how that redhead perceived reality and styled his hair, right below that hatched line. That's it. That's all you do.
Remember, this Lazy Writer's Database is also the perfect place to record the new words with their definitions you create for your cultures. The dictionary-type list isn't an enormous list of information, just the things I find I'm scrambling to find repeatedly. How many times did I look for that character's eye color when it was stored in another document? Heck, I'd have to go open a folder to find said document...No! Waste of time! Forget wasting my time stupid-extra-documents-my-critique-partners-kept-reminding-me-they-had. Geesh, they'd have each bloody chapter of a story in a different document. Pshhht! I have no time for all that chicken-without-its-head-running-around-everywhere-in-its-death-throes to find a chapter. My lazy little handy way to keep tabs on details doesn't require a bunch of bloodletting. Although, it's magic in itself. I prefer painless writing techniques. And let's face it. Lazy people don't like moving at all aside from the involuntary act of breathing and blinking.

I've also found this Lazy Writer's info area a nice place to store details on a region in the US Territories that my characters in my WERESCAPE series encounter, like the Black Hills. My characters travel a lot, on the run from extraterrestrials and not-so-good Normals, requiring lots of my valuable time hopping online to research cities, rivers, topography, weather, etc. I love doing research and am known for this blog's slant on reference material. But, I need to be writing. So, I just copy the information I plan to use from sites on the internet and add it to my little info section. I can scroll down to the details about the Black Hills which is half a page away and skim through the information until the characters depart into new terrain. Then I delete the little section about the Black Hills from my info repository and move on with the characters that requires a lot of yawning to explain...So, here's the nutshell version.

The Werescape landscape may be post-apocalyptic, but it wasn't nuked. Many regional details are the same. Just reclaimed by what's at that point indigenous vegetation and minus most of the human population. Unfortunately, 2 hours researching hovercraft and travel via water transport verses horseback can kill every speck of enthusiasm or energy I have for writing in a day. However, the problem could be caused by my Lyme Disease...So, maybe you don't need to use a Lazy Writer's Database! Be lazy if you don't and focus on writing. But don't leave yet. You might find the next tip pretty handy!

#3. Keeping up with Chapter and Page Numbers

I keep a running tab on my manuscript's final chapter number at the end of my wip. So when I need to start a new chapter, I know which chapter is next. I type:
CHAPTER 4 (67, i.e. the page # the last chapter began on)

Lazy Writer's Database

Every time I need to begin a new chapter, I place my cursor between the # and ( and hit enter. The page number information centers itself. I immediately add CHAPTER NUMBER and change the page number to the current page. Done. And it's forward ho. Very simple. Oh, don't forget to insert a page break between the chapter title you're using and the end of the last chapter.

This little trick tells me how long my previous chapter is with a quick glance down. Forget scrolling back to do the calculation. FYI, I heard a long time ago from published authors that a good length for a standard chapter is 20 manuscript pages. So, this gives me a gauge to use when writing. Many chapters are shorter. I try not to go over the 20-page length though. Sometimes, you have to. Pacing is pacing. But who wants to scroll back and forth trying to figure out how long their chapters are? So don't scroll back searching for the chapter number because you keep a tab on the information.

Okay, I Wrote THE END. Now What?

Time is still essential! I don't keep this little Lazy-Writer section of world-building information at the end of my completed manuscript. After I've written THE END, I cut and paste the information in a new blank Word document and save it in my story's main folder (labeled with that story's title World-Building Info) with other relative documents, i.e. the full manuscript, a blurb, and a synopsis.

Yes, I've usually had a moment or two where the blurb hits me. I drop everything, get paper and pen or on the computer and write fast...Before I miss the window of opportunity. Blurbs are such elusive creatures.

So, this document folder labeled with the story title is where I hunt for and find my story-world details later when I'm filling out the artwork questionnaire. I actually took the chunk of information from FERAL FALLOUT and pasted it at the end of FERAL FORETASTE when I created that document, Feral Book 6. Voila! Painless. And I was ready to go. Well, actually using both cyborg cultures' back story. Because there was still a whole different planet(s), culture(s), and a cyborg space station yet to create. I need the same bank of information in the Lazy Writer's little section for my Werescape story world, even though it remains the same from book to book. It merely gets longer with each tale. I don't have to create a new planet or cultures with each story like I do with the Feral series. I just cut and paste and move on. But I did purposefully set the Feral series up to have the flexibility to do whatever I wanted in each book with a new world and culture(s). One must leave herself as many options as possible to create as many worlds as she likes out in space...

~The-lazy-yet-productive-writer, a.k.a. Skhye Moncrief
***Article originally posted at Skhye's Ramblings: Other Worlds & Realities
Skhye's website   http://skhyemoncrief.com


  1. I like your interesting view on world building and document saving.

    Here's a tip on blurb writing, put it into the beginning of your manuscript. So that every time you work on your story you work on your blurb first. That way by the time you've polished your manuscript you've also polished your blurb.


  2. Janice, that's a good suggestion. I write the blurb before I write the book. If I know the story well enough to write the blurb, then I can tell the story. It changes as I write, though, and is never quite the same when I finish the book. I find I mess with it all the way along. ;)

  3. That's a good idea, Janice! I just pull lines and points out of my story and build my blurb as I go at the end with all the database info. ;P If I know a story well enough to play with a blurb before writing line #1, I jump off a cliff and scratch one out, Kayelle. But that might be too much planning for the lazy writer. LOL And I usually edit them into a completely new species after writing the story--since it's fleshed out so much that it's taken on a whole new ambiance.

    Thanks for having me over today, Kayelle. I spent the day throwing my 6-yr old's going away party. OMG, why do I have to have the most social child on the planet? (Authors are recluses...) ;P ~Skhye


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