Sunday, September 6, 2015

Shadow Side of the Spreadsheet Queen

This week's topic in ye olde Bordello is Keeping Track of all the details: spreadsheets, databases and coffee-stained notes.

Maybe it's autumn, with the whole back-to-school vibe going, but I did a post on my personal blog just last week for a friend's Get It Together blog hop. I revealed a whole bunch of my Secret Spreadsheet Superpowers in "Lessons from the Spreadsheet Queen." 

Guess I should have checked the Word Whores calendar, huh?

So, recapping my progress count spreadsheets and so forth this soon would be a little much. As for story notes... that's where I go all about-face, much as I do with my actual writing. As detailed, precise and relentlessly linear as much spreadsheets are, my writing and note-keeping is equally extreme - in the opposite direction. I satisfy my left-brain self with the numbers, which seems to free my right-brain self to create. I am NOT the keeper of the detailed series bible. It's a bit embarrassing, actually, when people at panels and such ask about my process. Not only do I not have an outline, I pretty much keep a single Word document that I dump all notes and ideas into. When out and about, I put notes in my phone or tablet, then type them into the Word doc later. I use a system of highlighting to note which I've addressed or how I feel about them later. Sometimes, particularly late at night, I leave myself sticky notes, that mostly conspire to make me wonder what my bedtime brain was thinking. Once I found one in the morning that said:


Yeah - no idea on that one.

Mostly my notes are pretty cryptic. Here's some from the doc I kept for THE TALON OF THE HAWK. I don't think they're too spoilery if you haven't read it yet. If you have read it, the sharp-eyed reader might note what I did and didn't use.

Uorsin needs to pet her too – abuser who both rewards and punishes
Bring in opposing armies to encircle Ordnung, taking advantage of internal weakness – Ursula uses them to liberate.
Which way Danu’s breath blew
Danu stacked the challenge deep
Go back – Ash has worked with Rayfe, they know each other well.
Add in sorcerer to cover their approach.
Andi has letter from Uorsin? In collusion with Terin?
She presses lips together

 I would explain how the highlighting/font color works on this, but I don't recall. I use a different system with each book, just to keep up that delightful non-linear randomness! (And because I can't help myself.)

I also want to talk a bit about this very fun anthology I'm in with these amazing other authors. I've said before, but I don't feel like I can say it enough times - one of the very best perks of becoming an author is getting to hand with other authors. Being in an anthology with some of my writing heroes? TOTAL THRILL!

I put the cover above so you can see. The collection is DARK SECRETS: A PARANORMAL NOIR ANTHOLOGY. My contribution is a retelling of The Goose Girl. The others are an amazing range of cross-genre takes on the gritty and grotesque side of the paranormal, from the inimitable Megan Hart's deal with the devil story to Rachel Caine's crafty ways with ghost stories.

It comes out September 29, but it's available for preorder now! At 99 cents, it's quite the deal. I'm reading it all again this holiday weekend. :-)


  1. I have no idea what most of those notes mean - cryptic indeed ;)

    1. Hee! That's interesting to know. I suspected they might have meaning only to me. :-)

  2. I'm surprised you don't keep a series bible! I totally expected a spreadsheet from you for that.

    Congrats on the Antho release! Love the cover.

    1. High praise from you on the cover! :D Thanks!!

      And yeah - the stuff just doesn't fit into the little boxes, little boxes, little boxes... I know - I'm insane!

  3. I like your notes, written in code, they remind me of the stickies I post with pages to remind myself what to add in/change. Oh, and I love the last line, she presses lips together. That is so Ursula.

    1. lol - yes! I noticed the mannerism in one of the earlier books and had to remind myself to use it. :-)

    2. It made her consistent and when reading you could really 'see' her.