Writing on Post Its

So I came home on Thursday, a week ago, from sending my daughter back to London (one kid back from a battlefield, the other out, oh dear) and spent the next three days either sleeping or pushing back the tide of what Lao Tse called the Ten Thousand Things: accumulated mail (one lost check didn’e2’80’99t surface until mid-week), laundry, stocking the pantry with something resembling foodstuffs, that sort of thing. The main offender is the pool table that sits at my elbow as I type on this computer, which when the kids are not home turns into a worktable, i.e., a flat spot for junk: cartons of LOCKED ROOMS headed for contest winners and the good people on the acknowledgments page, leftover fortune cookies from the launch waiting to be sent off to my publicist, all the empty boxes, padded envelopes, wide tape, felt pens, and scissors necessary to pack and ship away those books and cookies, flyers destined for the recycling bin’e2’80’94you get the picture. The pool table is not exactly clear now (a stack of Recorded Books tapes and CDs for the upcoming giveaway–the newsletter about this goes out soon–currently bears pride of place) but the green cover is slowly coming back into view.

By Monday, having managed, through full nights and naps, an average of nine and a half hours of sleep in three consecutive 24 hour periods, I could feel my brain beginning to twitch back into life. Just as the sure sign of exhaustion for me is losing words, now my vocabulary was beginning to unfurl again, and I could sense that, sometime in the near future, I might be able to formulate a series of complete and intelligible sentences.

I picked up the manuscript and began to read through it, passively at first, but by Tuesday my pencil was making its scratches on the pages, and on Wednesday I could see its problems.

Finally, yesterday was Post It day. I go through inches of Post Its, mostly those four-inch square models that resemble lined yellow pads. As I write, and especially as I go through with an eye to the rewrite, I make notes:
Dog? [meaning, is Mutton, Roz and Maj’e2’80’99s dog from NIGHT WORK, too old to still be around?]
Leder too like Ledbetter’e2’80’94change [meaning I’e2’80’99ve given two characters names that are too similar on the page, so Lt. Leder will become something else. I do this a lot with names, a real bugbear for me]
Note PG’e2’80’99s cell phone missing [a plot device]

As these thoughts have occurred to me and I’e2’80’99ve written them down, I post them first on the window next to me, and then when I can no longer see the UPS man coming up the drive, I take them down and stick them in two overlapping rows on appropriate sheets of paper, each concentrating on some aspect of the book. By the time Thursday arrived, I had half a dozen sheets, each of which held twenty or so notes, and I began moving the notes to their place in the story–“Dog?” ended up on a page with a barbecue at Kate’s house. Of course, some of the Post Its had three or four notes on them, or else the notation applied to several places in the text, which means that by the time I finished transferring those little yellow sheets onto the manuscript (What am I talking about? I never finish transferring them, I always have a handful that I just abandon to their fate, churlishly reminding me of unmade corrections years later.) most every page of the 300+ page document had its yellow square. Some now have a thick accumulation, indicating a chapter that will need a thorough reworking, an din two places I have added a piece of paper with its flurry of Post Its, where a new chapter will grow.

Of course, today I have friends from Indiana coming for the day, and tomorrow I’e2’80’99m on a panel at Books by the Bay. But Sunday, I’e2’80’99m set for actually writing. Now that my Post Its have told me where.

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  1. Becca on July 22, 2005 at 7:18 pm

    I LOVE Post-its! I cover the walls of any room I’m in with them! Post-its of all sizes and shapes galore. And since I’m addicted to hi-lighters too, the new ones with the little post-its inside the barrel are a particular delight. I’d never get through school without them.

  2. B A COOK on July 22, 2005 at 9:44 pm

    I trust your daughter is ok in London. Is the London School of Economics near Russell Square?

    You might want to pass along the remark my husband heard back last night from our 21, almost 22, year old Yale graduate who was going to an off, off, off Broadway play (Mom, trust me, you would not enjoy it) from 10 to midnight with his 15-16 year old brother and some of the younger one’e2’80’99s school friends (including a girl who lives in a different direction in Manhattan). My husband tried to persuade them to re-schedule, expressing concern, in light of the new London bombings and the heightened security alert in NYC, about them walking lower East Side streets and taking public transportation after midnight. The recent graduate responded that bombers strike at rush hour when working (middle age) people are traveling, the adolescent preference for sleeping late and staying out late at night is safer!

  3. Sweden on July 23, 2005 at 7:44 pm

    A question which is just NOT related to anything in today’s entry, yet how much I try…
    Have anybody noticed in Dorothy Sayer’s nice novel The Nine Tailors (written 1939 i think) a gal named Mary Russel? A daughter or something to somebody, I can’t really recall who at the moment… Has Laurie R. King something to say about that? 🙂

  4. caren on July 24, 2005 at 1:44 pm

    Though I’m a pretty committed lurker, I am compelled to decloak long enough say a HUGE ‘Thanks’ for returning to Kate Martinelli -I could only be happier if she and Lee managed a lunch with Rae Newborn… or perhaps Rae could come to the picnic…
    Or something.
    Thanks for so many great books!


  5. Erin on July 24, 2005 at 5:25 pm

    *grins* Your manuscript sounds like my school books when I have to write an essay. I’ve taken to using different colored post-its to make it easier to remember what the notes are about.

    I remember you saying some time ago…or perhaps it was at a book event…that you didn’t outline your books before writing. It sounds like you are outlining, just in a different style. But then you have a large chunk done, I guess, so it is more outlining the editing rather than the story itself.

  6. LRG on July 24, 2005 at 11:03 pm


    I may be blind, or just tired today, but I can’t seem to find a direct email address for you. Therefore, I hope you read this. Please do me the favour of answering the following question:

    How come you never (as far as I’ve known) have events, booksignings, etc. on the East coast? I long to shake your hand, but you’re never around my side of the country.

    Thank you,

    Lisa Gratz

  7. WDI on July 25, 2005 at 1:42 pm

    So now enquiring minds (or at least this weird one!) want to know — what happens to the Post-Its when the rewrite is done? Hmmmm . . . stuck to those adhesive-backed flat magnets you can buy at office supply stores (you know, the ones that are the right size and shape to affix to a business card), they could make cool refrigerator magnets . . . Or could they be turned into one-of-a-kind bookplates?

    OK, I’ve clearly gone over the edge 🙂

    Sounds like the creative juices are flowing; I can’t wait to read the result!

  8. Curtis on July 26, 2005 at 2:31 am

    I want to know how you answer that question–what’s for dinner? What is in that pantry? Are the meals in your books reflective of your personal taste or do you try to create meals in character?

    I love the food passages of all your books. Not that I am obsessed with food, but often I wonder in books–when does this character eat, sleep, use the facilities? It is nice to have human characters.

    *Locked Rooms* was like water to a drooping plant. I know you hear a lot of it, but keep writing.

  9. alex on September 4, 2005 at 12:33 am

    Excellent discussion on email marketing. I bookmarked your blog. I have my own email marketing blog if you want to take a look.

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