Monday, November 22, 2010

Guest Blogger, Dale Mayer: A Trick I Never Knew

Hi everyone,

Thanks so much for Liz’s invitation to be here today. It’s always a pleasure to visit.

Over the last many years, I’ve done several online writing courses. With time certain aspects have blurred into oblivion (usually the things I should have remembered, but some things have stayed with me – usually the unusual. One of them was a trick that another writer had learned to keep her writing from becoming stale.

The uniqueness of the idea has stayed with me even though I have yet to try it out for myself. Setting up the initial layout could take a bit of work, which is why I haven’t managed it yet. I’d like to share it and find out if other people have done this or if they have a similar system they’d like to share. So much of what we do seems normal to us but can be seen as special by others.

So let me explain. This writer had a series of small (six inch high) cloth bags, although baskets, a jewelry hanging bag, or a shoe bag would also work. You’ll understand when I’m done and will be able to adapt the idea to something you already have at home. She spent days finding, creating, and writing (typing is fine) descriptive phrases on a piece of paper. Then she cut her paper so that there was one phrase per paper. She labeled these cloth bags for different categories such as:

• Physical descriptions like color of hair, eyes, kinds of chins.
• Sexual intimate descriptions of kisses, hugs, etc.
• Descriptions of landscapes, skies, and the general outdoors.
• Descriptions of clothing.
• Anything else you might want!

Then when writing her novel and she came to an impasse or to a point where she found herself writing down the same old phrases, she’d reach into whatever pouch she needed and pull out a description. She didn’t use them exactly as written, because then of course, there would be just more of the same old tired writing very quickly. Instead she used these phrases as inspiration for new unique descriptions that would fit into her current masterpiece. She often wrote the new inspiration down and added it to her cloth bags.

Then as she read other books, more ideas would come to her. She’d jot them down and add to the paper to her bags. In this way, she never lost those wonderful descriptions; neither did her own writing become repetitious and stale. It’s a system she’d used for years.

Like anything, it can take time to get into a routine, but once something works for you, it becomes a gem. This system is very customizable. We all have areas where we see ourselves struggling to say something in a new and unusual way. To this end, you could have as many categories or descriptions as you needed to.

Hence one of those hangers with vinyl pockets to carry or store jewelry in would allow you to have everything self contained. You could use some or all of the pockets and use different colored notepaper for an easy to see sorting system.
You would have to add new ideas to keep it fresh, but over time you’d develop a huge database of inspirational ideas.

So what do you think? A good idea? Or a time waster?

What about you? Do you have a system similar to this? Or something different? Does a system like this appeal to you? Or do you find you don't need a system like this?

Inquiring minds want to know!!


Tonya Kappes said...

GREAT idea!! I use a journal with my favorite descriptions, but I think I might try small boxes. . .

Liz Lipperman said...

AS many of you might remember, the first time Dale guest blogged at M & M, she was trolling for votes as her entry TUESDAY'S CHILD is one of ten finalists in the Kensington Writing with the Starts contest. They are in Round Two of the contest and she needs your vote for best hero and heroine.

Show her some M & M love. We want to see her book in print - the ultimate prize!

Liz Lipperman said...

Okay, back to your blog. I cheat and use The Romance Writer's Phrase Book by Jean Kent and Candace Shelton when I need descriptive tag help.

Granted most of the phrases in the book are too flowery for my taste and my stories, but they jump start my imagination. There is a wealth of info in the book and I keep it by my side when I am in the editing phase.

These hints really do sound doable for me, though, especially the jewelry hanger one.

Come on, folks, tell us how you do it.

Mary Martinez said...

Dale, that is some great ideas for inspiration. Thank you for the wonderful post full of information. I'll go vote now!

Dale Mayer said...

Hi Tonya

I often wondered about trying a binder but I can't seem to stay organized enough with that system for ideas even. I think the small basket/boxes think would work well - can stack too!

Thanks for stopping by!

Sylvia Rochester said...

Great idea. I also think it would be fun to pull from the wrong bag and see what happens. For instance, use the colors and warmth of a sunset to describe a certain person. That would offer a different perspective.

Dale Mayer said...

hi Liz!!!

I should say good morning though, as being on the West Coast I end up coming to the parties late more often then not!

Thanks for plugging the contest for me. I'd so love to win. Not to mention holding my book in my hands!

A phrase book???? I'd never heard of it. I'm going to bounce to Amazon from here and take a look. I think if we look on this type of thing for inspiration almost anything would work in terms or flowery speech or not. A book is a nice self contained unit, but you can't really add new ones to it - without destroying the book that is!


Dale Mayer said...

Hi Mary

Thanks for stopping by today. Isn't it a great idea? I like hearing about what other writers do. I've been meaning to set aside the time and try this out but...

Thanks for going and voting!


Edie Ramer said...

Oooo! You've given me the perfect idea for a Christmas exchange gift for my local chapter. I'll write a note about it and say you gave me the idea. I might get one for myself while I'm at it. Brilliant!

And if the receiver doesn't want to use it for their writing, she (or he) can use it for their jewelry.

I'm going to see if I can vote for Dale again. lol

Dale Mayer said...

Hi Sylvia!

Thanks so much for stopping by today. And that is a terrific idea! See, that's the thing, the system offers huge potential.

Now I want to try your idea today! I was thinking one of these plastic organizers would work too.


Dale Mayer said...

Hi Edie,
Ever since I heard about it, it's sat in the back of my mind and wouldn't let go. That's so cool an idea for X-mas gifts for writers!

Definitely get one for yourself. I'm thinking that would be a great project to work on over the holidays - I AM planning on taking a holiday in here somewhere. Lol

Thanks for voting!!!


Donnell said...

Good morning, Liz and Dale. Very interesting. I keep a journal, too. I am so inside my head that a box or a basket might be useful for a while, but it would end up being one more thing to dust. But, I say, whatever works!

Lindsay said...

I think the idea sound interesting and might have to give it a try.
I like the ease and simplicity. And I like things simple.
To jump start my mind when I need a specific phrasing I lean toward 'The Millennium Phrase Book for Romance Writers' by Rebecca Andrews.
I've found most of hers aren't the flowery.
And Liz and Dale, I've already voted for this round

Dale Mayer said...

Hi Donnell!

A journal is a good idea, but I found I kept writing new things in the margins and sideways in a stupid move to keep concepts together. Then gave up. Lol. I see your point about the boxes or whatever collecting dust from lack of use, I guess it's a matter of trying it out and seeing if it works. We use what works and toss the rest!

Thanks for stopping by and good luck with all your revisions!


Dale Mayer said...

Hi Lindsay,

Thanks for stopping by today. Another phrase book huh? I'm going to check that out. Odd how after all these years I never considered a book like that. Just goes to show you what one person takes for granted...

Thanks for going and voting. All eight contestants worked hard to get here!


Lindsay said...

My pleasure and good luck. Let us know when to vote again.

Cassy Pickard said...

Dale: What fun to have you here with us on M&M. I have spent more time than I should looking, playing, figuring out- all that stuff- exactly what you are describing. I am using something a little different than your "basket" approach, but there is something to be said for finding whatever works to spark one's creative side.

Thanks again. This is a fun conversation.

Dale Mayer said...

Hi Cassie, I'd say sorry for keeping your from your other work, but it's fun to discuss methods that work from one person to another!

Thanks for taking time to stop by!


Mary Marvella said...

Some folks are so very organized! Remember the Romance Writer's Phrase book?
Interesting ideas, Dale! I hope you win the brass ring this time!

Cassy Pickard said...

No, are you kidding! I love conversations like this. I think I've posted before on my 3x5 card approach I picked up from Alexandra Sokoloff. That's a whole 'nuther discussion.

Thanks again, Dale. There is never a lost of time when it comes to making our work better.

Dale Mayer said...

Hi Mary,

Thanks for stopping by! Don't you just love (or should I say hate!) organized people?

And thanks, I'd love to have that brass ring too!


Dale Mayer said...

Good to know Cassie - some ideas are just so intriguing you have to share and there's nothing like getting feedback from others!

Dale (who'd rather play here than work - lol)

Barbie Jo Mahoney said...

Hey Dale! Interesting idea. As I read, I thought it would be more useful (for me anyway) in kind of plotting/character development. To have different whatevers (I like the jewelry hanger thingie, because I could stick it in my closet when not in use so it wouldn't collect dust on my desk! LOL) to pull from would ensure my characters, and gee maybe even motivations wouldn't be the same! You could put a bit of thought into it to make it work for you. Hmm...I'm into anything that's helps the process.

I too, have fallen in love with the whole 3 act structure, and like Cassy I use index cards and have created a display board that I move scenes around on, and I love it. What I'm finding here is, when I'm stuck (like the other night), I jsut keep looking at the board and reading the scenes I've written and before I know it, I've realized it's time to "move" something to where I'm stuck, which leaves room in a more appropriate area for something else! crazy, I know, but it works.

I'm going to give some serious thought to your new trick, though, especially when I get my series in place and I need to create a new idea.

Dale Mayer said...

Hi Barbie Jo,

Now see that's the thing about customizing. I'd never have considered plotting/character/GMC points before - now that make the muse sit up and take notice.

Love that point about hanging the jewelry hanger away in the closet so it doesn't collect dust.

I've tried the scene card thing - a friend calls it her plotting board too. I might need to do that with my NaNo book.

Thanks for stopping by and bringing up these points!


Amy Atwell said...

Fascinating idea, Dale. One of the things I like is that setting up of the baskets/boxes/envelopes taps into the other side of the brain. And then, when you're stuck, you get out of the chair and switch your brain mode. This makes sense on a lot of different levels.

Dale Mayer said...

Hi Amy, glad you found time to visit. I hadn't considered how that type of organization taps into the other side of the brain.

Another reason to get off my duff and find time to try this out. I keep looking at my calendar thinking between Christmas and New Year's might be a good time!

Might even get Santa to buy the baskets!