The Method, So Far

The biography reading is so extensive, it would be easy to digest entire volumes and have no clue where anything is. That’s what an index is for, of course, and they are blessedly helpful. When I researched the Darwin book, I used yellow sticky tabs (made by cutting up Post-its) throughout the reading, marking everything interesting, every bit of essential information, description, or anecdote that suggested a scene. At the end, the books had a rumpled yellow fringe but no way to distinguish anything from anything else.

This time I have different colored tabs.  Orange is for an incident in what I perceive so far to be the present story. Green is for a flashback possibility. Blue is something I deem blogworthy, either for its general interest or because it makes me think and I want it on the record. Pink is for a character generalization that I need to keep in mind–such as a statement of internal conflict. That leaves yellow, which I eschew. Perhaps I associate it with Darwin. The full-size yellow Post-its I am using for possible ending materials, as endings are so important and therefore proportionately scary to write.

I’ll see if this works better. There is much information that is contained in every biography of course, that is becoming part of my Einstein vocabulary. There is the usual problem, then, that once I am very familiar with the material, I forget what others don’t know. I assume. Thank goodness for my faithful reader who raises the red flag to say, “Wait. I don’t know what this is about!”

About Nancy Pinard

Professionally-speaking, Nancy Pinard is an author-educator who spends her days writing, teaching, reading, and researching for her writing and teaching. She is the author of two published novels, Shadow Dancing and Butterfly Soup, and numerous short stories. She has taught the craft of fiction writing in many venues including Sinclair Community College, University of Dayton Life-Long Learning Institute, Antioch Writers' Workshop, Mad Anthony Writers' Workshop, and Molasses Pond Writers' Workshop. Personally, her faith is what sustains, inspires, and motivates her to continue to explore meaning through literature. "You are right in demanding that an artist approach his work consciously, but you are confusing two concepts: the solution of a problem and the correct formulation of a problem. Only the second is required of the artist." — Anton Chekov to Alexei Suvorin, October 27, 1888
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4 Responses to The Method, So Far

  1. Louise says:

    Coloring coding idea. I like it. It is simple, straightforward and adaptable. I plan to try it. Like you did, I leave stickies in my research books, and then spend a lot of time trying to discern how to organize them efficiently.
    Thanks for the idea.

  2. Yes, thank goodness for book flags! I use them extensively—the colored ones. So much so, that people who borrow my books are always aware of which books to return, since they’re so fringed with flags. My color system is different from yours, but it’s still a system that helps me find the correct notations. I also cant the book flags on a diagonal, when there’s a longer passage involved.

  3. Diane B. says:

    The colored stickies sound like an excellent marking system. Please keep us updated on this as you begin to write. I’m curious if what seems important now, in your reading phase, is still important once you begin to write the book.

  4. ERG-y says:

    I think I’ve told you how I used to work across the hall from a happy novelist. She covered an entire wall with yellow stickies. One of my favorite memories of that job are peeking across at her staring at the wall and moving her plot around.

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