5 Apps that Keep My Life Organized

Well, it’s about time I come clean to the readers of this blog about one of my quirks. Well, let’s not call it a quirk, more like a trait. See, I love to organize (which is odd because I sometimes have a messy room). I like having spots for everything, labels, folders, and places for things to go. I recently reorganized my closet and had fun doing so. A shrink would probably tell me that this is one of the ways my anxiety manifests itself in my daily life. Well, too bad. I figure there are much worse manifestations and I’m not so OCD that I’m unbearable. I promise.

Anyways, since I am busy doing four things at once most of the time, I need some organizational apps to help me. Otherwise, there would be a multitude of paper everywhere and it wouldn’t be nearly as much fun as this:

Also, these are not the typical organizational apps like Calendar (a personal favorite) and Reminders (a personal crutch). These are the fun ones. That’s right, I said fun.

Here are my five favorite apps. There are links in the descriptions if any of you fellow organizational lovers want to add this greatness to your life.

Wunderlist

source: smokingapples.com

My friend Kelley showed me this great app which is all about making lists! I am a total list girl, and here I keep all my lists in one spot. It’s everything from grocery list to Christmas list to a list of movies I should watch or things I should look up. It’s getting to that point in my life (at the tender age of 26) that if I don’t write things down, I will forget them, so needless to say I use this app on almost a daily basis. Also, once you accomplish an item and check it off the list, it crosses it off for you and puts it down in the completed items section, so it’s like getting that digital satisfaction of crossing something off the to-do list.

Feedly

source: mashable.com

I heard about this Feedly app from my friend Pat back when Google Reader retired. I love it. I keep all of the blogs I want to read on there and I keep them in categories, such as blogs for reading and books and blogs for fun (BuzzFeed….no shame). I like the way it is formatted as well. I just click on the article and it opens up, hit the check mark and it disappears. Plus, it smartly syncs up with my tablet and phone, so I can check it whenever I get the downtime to read.

Pocket

Source: oneclickroot.com

Have you ever seen a link on Twitter and you think to yourself ‘Oh, I want to read this, but I don’t have time now. How can I save it so I’ll go back to it later?’ Well, even if you haven’t, I certainly have. It used to plague me. I tried favoriting them, but then I still would forget to go back through and read them. Then I discovered Pocket. This is probably my favorite app on the list. Simply download the app and then sync it to your Twitter (and add the button to your browser, too). If I see a long form story or an article I don’t have time to read on the go, I just save it to my pocket. It keeps all the articles and my mind is at ease knowing that I’ve put the article in a safe place I can easily access. No more open browser pages for me! Like Feedly, it syncs with all your devices. If you get any app on the list, I recommend this one.

Evernote

source: crunchbase.com

The easiest way to describe this app is it’s like a permanent portfolio. Once you download it to your devices, you sync it up with your browser and other apps and then if you read something and you want to keep it forever, simply send it to Evernote. I wisely synced mine with the Pocket app so I can send stuff directly from there. I keep articles that give me writing ideas, or tips and advice I want to go back to, and recipes. I have them all organized in folders as well. I haven’t played around with this app too much, but I have every intention of seeing what else I can use it for.

Goodreads

source: howstuffworks.com

For me, reading is a huge part of my life. My list of to-read books is so, so long and I originally kept a list format, but then it got overwhelming. Along came Goodreads and here is where I organize my book life. For those unfamiliar, the site and it’s apps are like the Facebook of books. You have friends or writers that you follow, there’s an update feed where you can see what people want to read or finished reading, and they host some pretty cool author chats and hangouts. I’m a fan. They also let you divide books into other lists, so if I feel like reading about India, I just go to my India list and look at the books there. Goodreads is famous for it’s rating and reviews that people can leave and authors can easily access if they chose to. Somewhat controversial, but right now, as a reader, this is the best app ever.

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Phase 1.5 of revisions (in other words, getting ready for Revisions Phase 2)

When I used to stalk writers before I myself became one, I rolled my eyes when they would complain about revisions. They’d talk about the painstaking, sometimes boring, but ultimately useful and necessary work of revising a novel, lamenting on how long it takes. I scoffed at this. “Psh!” I thought, “I can definitely revise in no time. ”

Well, boy was I wrong.

Revising is exactly how they described it. You have to be meticulous, it’s sometimes boring, and it’s totally necessary. In fact, just getting ready to revise is quite the process. I mean, that’s somewhat my fault because I tried to plan out my novel and then I got so friggin’ frustrated that I ended up just “pants”-ing it. (For those who are new around here, pantsing means to not plan the plot of your story and just wing it and write through to the end.)

I figured if I did all the little planning, meticulous stuff now I could get to the fun part of the revision process (they promise me there’s a fun part coming, but we’ll see). Before I continue, I’ll put in my usual disclaimer: this is a process that works for me. No two writers or two novels are exactly alike. Also, this could totally backfire or not work at all. It’s the risk I take blogging this whole experimentation process. We won’t know if these plans worked until I finish revising the novel for the second time and for some reason that seems like a long ways away.

To create this plan, I used a combination of internet sources, instinct, and help from Larry Brooks’ fun instructional story manual Story Engineering. 

Ok, enough blabbing. Here’s what I did to prep for revisions:

Made a “cheat-sheet” for my novel 

In High School we sometimes got to make “cheat-sheets,” which were essentially one page study guides we could use on the big test. They had the basic things we needed to reference—formulas, definitions, etc. I made one of these for my novel. On it I put the concept, the major themes in the story, the main characters, and a summary of the basic plot. I’m not going to post a picture because that would give everything away, and I don’t want that! Plus, my handwriting is terrible.

Purchased a huge pack of index cards and used almost all of them 

My story has three narrators, so in a sense it’s like three stories in one. I pulled out some handy dandy index cards, divided them into stacks of three, and labeled them. Each scene got one card. I would put a letter in one corner indicating the narrator, a number in the right-hand corner indicating the order the scene came in, and then filled in information in one color and added editorial comments in the other. I did it for every scene in the book. The result was three thick piles of cards with the plot and characters fresh in my head.

The index cards! You can see how they're divided up and how they are labeled and formatted.

The index cards! You can see how they’re divided up and how they are labeled and formatted.

Was it a pain to do? Yes. Did it seem tedious? Sometimes. Was it helpful? Oh God, absolutely.

Examined the characters 

Because I did this little index card thing I had a lot of fresh information ripe for picking; a perfect time to analyze the characters. Each narrator needs to go on the character journey (more about that here) and I need to know important things about them, appearance, backstory, and what Brooks calls “their inner demon.” This is important in their journey, even if they’re not Frodo Baggins embarking on some epic quest or something. They need to have an internal conflict and an external obstacle.

I made a worksheet (can you tell that my day job is being a teacher?) and I filled it in for each character. I’ll use this one, which is incomplete, to show you the template. I used this template for all six of the major characters. When there were blanks, I knew it was something I was going to have to think about and fill in. One character was mostly all blanks so I knew I needed to spend some time figuring her out (more on this in a forthcoming post).

When I had blanks, I used a sticky note to write my new idea. That way, if I analyzed the plot and decided there needed to be some changes, I could toss out this idea and write in a new one. Nothing was set in stone. Character arcs and plot are incredibly interwoven so I can’t commit to anything without figuring out the last step, which is the plot.

The character sheet with a few blanks. A good start, but more to add! (Ignore the messy bed…and yes, I'm working in bed because I'm cold!)

The character sheet with a few blanks. A good start, but more to add! (Ignore the messy bed…and yes, I’m working in bed because I’m cold!)

Conquered the plot 

This one I had help on. I relied almost entirely on Larry Brooks’ Story Engineering. I used some of the handy worksheets (you can find one online here) for the plot I had so far. Again, I filled in blanks (or in this case, answered the questions), and when I didn’t I just left it blank to patiently wait for it’s sticky note addition. 

This is where the left brain creativity part comes in. I had to start thinking of how I wanted my story to be so that it could encompass all these structure elements. Figuring out what I wanted the characters to do before tackling the plot helped immensely.

The next part is hard to describe to non-writers. It’s like I put on my writer’s hat and wove everything together. This resulted in some serious shifting and changing in the story, but it had to be done. I guess this is the ‘creative process’ and the part I have a hard time describing. Basically, I make things up and write them down. That’s all you need to know.

So there. Done.

nick miller freeze fram with arm in the air

Well, sort of.

Now I have the progress report in my hands and I’m ready for the big revision. I’ll keep you updated on how it goes. Wish me luck. Until next week, I’m out!

Read it or Skip it: October books!

Hello everyone! It’s been a while since I’ve update this little blog so let’s do something fun! Read It or Skip It is my little feature on the books I read for the month and whether I think you should pick it up at your local store or library or just ignore it’s existence entirely. So let’s go!

‘The Chosen One’ by Carol Lynch Williams

Read it if you like books about cults and those crazy polygamists
Skip it if you can’t stand to read about children suffering

‘Mythology’ by Edith Hamilton

Read it if you’ve ever wanted a comprehensive place to read about the myths
Skip it if you think that stuff is boring

‘Outlander’ by Diana Gabaldon

Read it if you like time travel novels or sexytimes with hot tribal Scotsmen
Skip it if you are sensitive to violence

‘Jane Eyre’ by Charlotte Bronte

Read it if you love feisty, independent heroines, an underdog story, and period pieces
Skip it if you think it’s weird when someone locks his wife in the attic

‘Wide Sargasso Sea’ by Jean Rhys

Read it if you always wondered how Bertha became the “mad woman in the attic”, or you are interested in post-colonial literature
Skip it if you don’t like exotic locations or Mr. Rochester portrayed in a different, slightly negative light

‘Sharp Objects’ by Gillian Flynn

Read it if you like her other books and a good mystery or like stories of twisted mother-daughter relationships
Skip it if you don’t like anything remotely disturbing, including self-harm

‘The Bone Season’ by Samantha Shannon

Read it if you love fantasy, science fiction, and alternate universe stories
Skip it if you like your books grounded in reality
(I wrote a little more about this novel on my Tumblr. Warning: Light Spoilers)

‘Allegiant’ by Veronica Roth

Read it if you need to finish the series and you like science fiction
Skip it if you are over invested in the romantic relationships in the book
(The ending was controversial, but I loved it. Warning: SPOILERS ALL OVER THIS POST)

‘Leftovers’ by Laura Weiss

Read it if you like Young Adult literature, revenge literature, or stories of morally ambiguous choices
Skip it if you hate books about teenage trouble and are sensitive to sexual assault

‘Miss Peregrine’s Home for Pecuilar Children’ by Ransom Riggs

Read it if you love books mixed with art, like ‘orphanage’ stories, and time travel
Skip it if you hate fantasy or characters with unusual traits

‘Behind the Beautiful Forevers’ by Katherine Boo

Read it if you love books about India and want to participate in conversations about social justice and poverty
Don’t skip it!

Phew! I’m exhausted. Thanks for scrolling all the way to the end. Feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts on these books or any others I should read. And again, if you click on the Tumblr links the books I wrote about will be spoiled. Don’t say I didn’t warn you (but big spoilers are always under the ‘Read More’).

You can check out some other goodies on my Tumblr or follow me on Twitter and Goodreads. Also, I’m taking guests posts! Obviously Matt had a great one about NaNo, but if you’re a writer or just want to write a blog post, give me a shout here at the contact page or email me at emilyhofererbooks[at]gmail[dot]com. Until later this week, I’m out!

Revisions are like building a house

So remember how I was all jazzed to get my novel back so I could start revising it and making it pretty? I know I related my excitement about it on here.

Well, I got my novel back, I read over the comments…and then I did nothing.

johnny depp slinky

Seriously, I avoided my novel like it had the swine flu. I let it sit on my computer, unchanged, after my cohorts worked so hard to edit it and I worked so hard to write it.

I know, I know. I suck, right?

I knew I should create a plan, some kind of map to follow, because I didn’t know where to begin, and a map would tell me where to start…unless I was unsure of how to make the map. I was falling down a dark rabbit hole and I hadn’t even started revising! I was just thinking about revising! So, so pathetic.

I figured I had to face my writing demons or I was never going to get anywhere. So after much complaining and wallowing (writers are very good at doing that, I’ve discovered), I came up with the house metaphor.

My parents are currently building their own home in Erie, Colorado and my dad likes to keep the family updated with pictures and amusing narration of the house’s progress. In the beginning, there was a lot of cement, then, a lot of frames. Now they’re getting into the fun stuff, picking out the paint color, the shingles, the doors, the accents, the landscaping, etc.

This is my dream home.

Writing the first draft of my novel was laying the foundation. Now, it’s time to build upon the foundation with things that make the house purposeful, stable, and comfortable. Then I can add all the little unique accents.

So that’s what the next writing posts will be about: the structure and then the style. Stay tuned, everyone.