The Lazy Writer’s Database by Skhye Moncrief

I’m thrilled to have multi-pubbed Paranormal Romance author Skhye Moncrief here for a guest post! She and I have become online buds, with similar health issues and a love of documentaries in common. Trust me when I say this lady is SMART! World building is her specialty, and she’s taught me a great deal, and I hope to learn much more from her. Today, she’s passing on an amazing technique to save time while allowing authors to keep all their info at hand so that verifying details is unbelievably simple. Okay, I’ll shut up and let Skhye tell you about the Lazy Writer’s Database.

 

World Building – 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 here. Bob Mayer gave an amazing presentation at the RWA National conference in 2007–a presentation on how to get published (Who Dares Win) 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?

  1. Color of hair, eye, skin.
  2. Types of clothing.
  3. Body decoration.
  4. Hairstyle, including length.
  5. Facial hair.
  6. Favorite object (weapon, photo, crystal).
  7. Weight.
  8. 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 & 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

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You can find Skhye at skhyemoncrief.com. The cover images of her books above are Amazon buy links. You really wanna click and buy! You won’t be disappointed!

 

 

 

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About Kenra Daniels

I write steamy Paranormal Romance and Erotic Romance. I live in a very small town in rural northeastern Kentucky, right at the edge of the Appalachian Mountains, with my very own Romance Novel Hero (aka Hubby) of 26 yrs. We're raising our 3 little grandsons - 5y, 3y, and 2y old.
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8 Responses to The Lazy Writer’s Database by Skhye Moncrief

  1. Skhye says:

    Oh, thank you, Kenra. You are too kind to say such nice things about my laziness! :) I hope my, um, bad habits help everyone write more faster. You know, I have this critique partner who saves EVERY chapter in her stories as a separate file. HUH? And then she has a spreadsheet for each story…OMG, how does she get anything written with all of that hopping around? (She’s probably here reading this article thinking “How does Skhye fuction as such a lazy writer?”) Everyone, GET LAZY! ~Skhye

    • LOL, Skhye. I save every chapter as a separate file in the first draft. Makes it easier for me to shuffle them around, and each is tied to the corresponding section of my outline so I can quickly navigate from one to the other. Then as I edit, I pull it all into one doc.

      No spreadsheets for me, though! My OneNote outline is far more useful to me. I tried the spreadsheet (my fingers kept wanting to type spreadshit here O.O LOL) when I was finding my way with my first weredragon story. Ended up confusing the hell out of myself, LOL.

      These days, since I first read your Lazy Writer’s Database, I use a modified version of it along with my OneNote outline. Makes things much simpler!

  2. Fae Rowen says:

    Love your site. The Lazy Writer had great tips! Thanks.
    And thank-you for the pingback on my blog on
    Myers-Briggs: A Tool for Authors and Other Humans.
    Fae Rowen

    • Thanks for stopping by, Fae! The header on your blog is gorgeous.

      Your Myers-Briggs post is incredibly useful, and others on your blog that I had a moment to skim also look useful. I’ve added WITS to the Writing Resources section of my LINKS page here.

  3. Skhye says:

    Definitely spreadshit!!! ;P I tried creating one for the first series I wrote. It consumes too much time and energy. With your chronic health problems, you must know how horrible brain fog is. When it rolls in, nothing else can be done but facing the fog! So, I focus my energy on stories. I write one a month. It takes me about two weeks to write a novel. But I have insomnia. So, I focus my extra waking hours and work double time! If I stopped to save things like chapters in separate files, I’d be wasting time. And the story is so cohesive that it doesn’t make sense to chop it up then paste it back together. I’ve never written chapters out of order either. I knew a writer who’d bounce around writing scenes from the beginning to the end and back to the middle…I have no idea how the story can be character-driven written that way. But some people make that writing process work!

    I’m with Fae. The Myer-Briggs’ test is awesome! ~Skhye

    • I *HATE* brain fog!!! So incredibly frustrating to know what you want to think, but be unable to complete the damn thought! I’ve spent countless hours crying about it. These days, I’m really lucky not to have it very often. With more effective treatment, it has subsided, but there are still days…

      I know a couple of writers who bounce around and write whatever part of the story they feel like writing at the moment – I have no idea how, but they make it work.

      I write in order, too, and my stories are cohesive. I save in separate chapters because I sometimes like to compare passages side by side to make sure I’m getting across the info I want to in each. Not to mention, a chapter sized file is far less intimidating that a book sized one, LOL.

  4. Skhye says:

    Whew! I was worried you wrote scenes out of sequence. I just can’t wrap my brain around that exercise. ;) Thanks for having me blab at your blog!

    • I can’t these days either, though my first two novels, pre-sick, were written that way. They were both written long-hand too. Looking back at them, they’re cohesive and decently written, there’s just not enough story there for a novel in either of them. Eventually, I might rewrite them as shorts, or incorporate them as subplots in something else.

      Funny, I’d thought they were both lost in a file box that went missing during our last trans Atlantic move. A few months ago, a draft of the first turned up in a box of papers that had been stored at my mom’s house for 25 years, LOL. And a few weeks ago, the final draft of the second magically appeared in a box of Dan’s old orders and awards that hadn’t been opened in 15 years.

      And I’m thrilled you could take some time from everything else you have going on to “blab” here, LOL! Thanks bunches, I really appreciate it <3

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  • Just Sayin’

    I'm a Romance Author - mainly Paranormal, but nearly all with fairly graphic intimate scenes. Those scenes serve to further the development of my plots and characters and are not included haphazardly to sell books or arouse readers.

    I probably COULD tell the stories without the graphic parts, but I CHOOSE not to. I want to show the full scope of the developing relationship, and leaving out some of the most powerful and meaningful moments will deprive the reader of a measure of understanding and emotional reaction to the characters and their stories.

    Since I write books intended for adult readers, I often have material on my website that is entirely unsuitable for younger readers. If you're under 18, or if you're easily offended by open discussion of sexual situations with frank language, you might want to look the other direction.