One Writer’s Journey

April 14, 2017

Research: Organizing What You Find

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:13 am
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I have to admit it.  When I numbered the items on my Dakota Access Pipeline bibliography, I expected it to top 200 by a comfortable margin.  But I only had 156 items.  It probably seemed like more than it was because I was a bit organizationally challenged on this book.  Yes, there were things I did right (yay, me!).  But there were also things that I did wrong and with so many PDFs, mistakes add up fast.  Here are three tips to help you organize your research.

Whenever I save a downloaded PDF, my computer wants to save it in a “Downloads” file folder.  Unfortunately, this  file folder is under my user name which is under my drive name.  I override this and save everything in my documents library under the name of the manuscript.  No, I can’t open these PDFs with Word but I can find things a lot faster when it is all in the same folder.

Many of the PDFs that I used are online as PDFs.  That means that I did a Google search, found this awesome article or publication, clicked and opened a PDF.  I can include these in my bibliography as “online” and provide the URL.  Or I can include them as “PDF of print publication,” which is what I tend to do.  When you do this, save the PDF in your documents folder.  It’s easier when you need to go back and verify specific phrasing on something.  Believe me.

When you save a PDF, save it under the author’s last name and first three words of the title. Yes, wherever you are downloading this will likely have given the file a different name.  Override it and save it as something that will be easy to locate when you look on your bibliography and see that you cited John Doe’s “Big Stinking Article.”

Not only will these steps make it easier for you to relocate things, when your editor asks for copies of all your PDFs they will be easy to find and to identify by name.  I’m just saying.


July 5, 2016

Chapters: How Many Is Just Right?

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:28 am
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A few days ago, I pulled out my outline for What’s Up, Chuck?  If I’m going to have it ready to submit by the end of August, I had better get to work.

I hadn’t worked on a new chapter for a while so I didn’t actually remember what chapter I was writing.  It turned out to be chapter 4.  Cool. That puts me at just under half way since I told the editor there were 10 chapters.  Actually, she asked if there were ten and I said, “Yes!”

Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t remember numbers.  Phone numbers, house numbers, room numbers, number of chapters.  Pbbt.

According to the outline, there will be 7.  That’s great in terms of the fact that I am over half way.  That’s not so great if the editor really and truly wants 10.

Just how important is it that there be 10 chapters?  It depends.

If I was working on a book for an ABDO series, the number of chapters would be important.  After all, these are books published in series which means that each book needs to cover similar things.  The format needs to be the same.  This means that the number of chapters need to be close if not the same.

But this isn’t for a series.  Does that mean I can completely ignore “10 chapters”?

Unfortunately, maybe not.  There is always the chance that the editor knows how many chapters work well in this kind of format (a picture story book).  She is, after all, the one with the experience in taking a piece from manuscript to finished book.

I should probably attempt 10 if I can divide things up in such a way that it feels natural.  If it doesn’t feel natural, then I’ll have to go with a different number of chapters.  Fortunately, I’ve already spotted a few changes that I can make to expand the number of chapters.  It’s all in how I group the information.

For now, I’m going to focus on drafting the whole.  Once I have a complete draft, I can play around with how I group the information.  I’ll try for 10 chapters if it works.  If not, we shall see what we shall see.



April 29, 2010

What I Learned on Retreat with Randi Rivers

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 3:32 am
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First of all — if you ever have the opportunity to attend a retreat led by Randi Rivers of Charlesbridge, do it!   It will be time and money well spent.

This was actually my second retreat with Randi.  The first time, she discussed characterization in the picture book and how to write narrative nonfiction.  This time, she discussed the all important revision letter and how to revise.

When she asks for revision, one of the things that she most often asks writers to alter is their organization, especially in nonfiction.  So it is probably no great surprise that when I met with her, she asked me to reconsider the organization and format of my manuscript.  I had never tried to write anything like this before and I prepared this piece for the retreat just so that I could see what I would need to change to sell this kind of manuscript.  The answer?  Quite a bit.  I need to re-research the piece and pretty well start from scratch.

Randi also suggested that we not take her comments and just run with them.  She wanted us to look behind them and see what larger issues she was trying to address.  Don’t use her fix, but come up with our own fix that would work within the manuscript we wanted to create.

In addition to organizational issues, I didn’t have quite enough material.   Randi suggested two different ways to reorganize and I played around with the one that felt most natural given what had inspired me to write the manuscript.  Then I dummied it and realized there still wasn’t enough material.  What if I added another section?  I went back to Randi with my new plan.  We noodled and chatted and realized that with my addition, a different section now felt out of place.  If I removed that section, things would again be too short but I’d have room to expand other areas into a more high concept approach.


What initially inspired me may not even make it into the final manuscript but I can’t say that I mind.  I love the new idea and can keep the other material for another project.  After all, how can you complain about a new organization that is much stronger?

–SueBE (who is off to work on the research)

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