Summer Productivity by Mae Clair

I just came off a long weekend (happy belated Fourth of July to my U.S. readers) that wasn’t extremely productive. I spent a good portion of it goofing off, swimming, hanging with family and doing things around the house. Summer in general tends to be less productive for me when it comes to writing, though I do a lot spend a good portion of it reading, plotting and writing notes for my WIPS.

Case in point: I have notebooks I devote to each of my WIPS. They’ve been through the “war zone” of exposure to the sun and pool, constant handling and travel. The notebooks below are for A THOUSAND YESTERYEARS (pink, black and gold notebook) and A COLD TOMORROW (dark blue).

Two closed spiral notebooks, covers a bit battered

I have a weird system when I make notes that involves alternating pages of research (mostly right hand pages) and plot (left hand pages). I use different color ink and highlights to draw attention to various points I want to remember.

Two spiral notebooks open on spine with pages filled with writing and some passages highlighted

I started this system with the blue notebook and plan on maintaining it with the last book in my series, A DESOLATE HOUR. I’ve started making research notes while dreaming up plot points as I float around with foam noodles in the pool.

Open spiral notebook with blank left page and pen on top of page, right page filled with writing

As you can see, the left handed page for plot points is still blank. I know where I want to start but I’m still fleshing out the characters who will factor into the prologue which is set in 1777. Book three ties the curse of Shawnee Indian Chief Cornstalk to the legend of the Mothman and Point Pleasant.

In addition to plotting, I spend a good deal of my summer reading. As a habit, I read every night for an hour or two before I go to bed, but during the summer, I also like to read on my deck in between dips in the pool.

One of my favorite summer reads is THE TERROR by Dan Simmons.

Book cover for THE TERROR by Dan Simmons which shows an old clipper ship without sails surrounded by ice and glaciers

Although a massive book (my paperback copy is 955 pages) this is a story I want to read again, and I can’t imagine reading it during any season other than summer. The book is set in the artic, and fictionalizes the tale of Sir John Franklin’s lost expedition to discover the Northwest Passage in the mid-1800s. Although I originally read it two years ago, it remains one of the best books I’ve ever read, a bizarre and spectacular combination of history, horror, lyrical writing and myth. I’ve never encountered anything to equal it, and each time summer rolls around I think of reading it again.

My current read, however, is a bit different. I’m presently immersed in the WITCH OF LIME STREET, a nonfiction account of Harry Houdini’s battle to unmask medium Margarey Crandon as a fraud. Here’s the cover:Book cover for the Witch of Lime Street by David Jaher is black with lime green border and cameo photos of Harry Houdini and Margery Crandon

Imagine my surprise, when the first night after reading, I switched off the light and realized the cover was glowing. All that lime green you see to the right lights up as neon-glow-in-the-dark with the lights off. I tried to capture a photo of it with my cell phone, but unfortunately it didn’t take.

That aside, I’ve always loved things that glow in the dark—as far back as to when I was a kid and played with a “Dark Shadows” game that had glowing skeletons—so I’m thoroughly besotted with this clever cover. And, in case you doubted, the book is darn good too, especially if you’re a Houdini or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle fan, or are interested in the spiritualist movement of the 1920s.

Next up?

downloadKevin O’Brien has a new release, YOU’LL MISS ME WHEN I’M GONE that releases on July 26th. I’ve already pre-ordered  my copy. Kevin is an am amazing author and on my automatic read list. If you like mystery, crime and suspense, you’re going to love Kevin.

In the meantime, I’ll content myself with this:

Book cover for DEVOUR by Kurt Anderson shows a cruise ship at night with lights and a huge monstrous mouth with teeth looming above it

 

 

 

 

I have a horrible weakness for creature/monster books (and movies) and have been saving this one for a while. DEVOUR is definitely a summer/beach read IMHO. Isn’t the cover grand? I can’t wait to discover what lurks within the pages.

So tell me…how productive are you during the summer? Do you plot, do you read? What’s on your TBR?

67 thoughts on “Summer Productivity by Mae Clair

  1. Interesting method to your madness, Mae. I confess I have an electronic system: a OneNote notebook for each book. Each notebook includes tabs for characters, research, setting, plot, summary, timeline, etc. I set them up based on Karen Wiesner’s “First Draft in 30 Days” worksheets. Still, there are definitely advantages to the pen and paper version. My problem is, I’d have too many places to look for all my notes. I jot things down in a notebook as I come up with them. And, as you can imagine, I have a million partially-filled notebooks lying around everywhere!

    Ah, time to read. That’s what I’ve been neglecting this summer while trying like mad to get my WIP revised to send out. J.D. Robb’s In Death series is on my automatic read list, and whenever Jim Butcher or Patricia Briggs manages to release a new book, I try to catch them. And, thanks to you 😉 my TBR list is becoming quite long. Right now, am reading a draft from one of my writing sisters, and A Thousand Yesteryears.

    BTW, where’d you get those personalized notebooks? Way cool!

    • I have to learn to use OneNote. That sounds like a great system. I have electronic notes I make too, but when by the pool or traveling (which seems to be when I do most of my plotting and research) I love to have a notebook handy. I also keep binders with character sheets, especially with my Point Pleasant series. I have so many characters (even minor ones) to keep track off, it’s the only way I can round them up in one place, LOL.

      I introduced my sister to Jim Butcher last year and she’s completely hooked on Harry Dresden. She’s waiting for the next one to come out. Oh–and delighted to hear you’re reading A THOUSAND YESTERYEARS. I’ll be eager to hear what you think!

      And the notebooks are from Vista Print. They’ve got multiple design you can choose from and personalize them any way you like. I like them because they’re the perfect size….and give me some advertising in the process, LOL!

  2. First…I love your system.
    Second…When I am on the road (vacation), my little black book or my smartphone are all I am allowed to use. For my flash fiction series, this works fine. I would love to be more (writing) productive in summer – this doesn’t seem to happen, though.
    Third…My TBR list (next reads, only) shows some awesome mysteries, thrillers, urban fantasy, etc.:
    The Brotherhood, Off-Worlders, Oak and Mist, Blinded, Heroes and Villains, Five Days in January, The Reflections of Queen Snow White, The Beast that Never Was, Death Unscripted, The Blue Ridge Project, Dead Lawyer’s Don’t Lie, Haven, Former.ly, Fire Blessed, Wings of Mayhem, The Gift Legacy: Redemption, Eyes Like Lighthouses, No Rest for the Wicked

    • Hi, Karen! I love the sound of your TBR….mysteries and thrillers, especially, are two of my favorite types of reads.

      I’ve got to use my iPhone for notes more often. I tend to use it mostly for story reminders and character name lists, but I want to get in the habit of jotting notes too. I used to use an iPad Mini for that, but then the notebooks took over because if they ended up soaked with pool water they were cheaper to replace, LOL!

      Thanks for visiting and commenting!

  3. I haven’t been able to decide if I’m productive, or not. I manage new words, but much of it centers around my next release. I’m getting cover art, trying to plan promotional efforts, that kind of thing. I do everything electronically these days, but I occasionally resort to a notebook. I have sheets of story ideas, some storyboards in various stages. Then when I’m writing I add other documents, like a cast of characters for my reference purposes.

    • Isn’t it ironic that (as writers) we don’t always consider promotional efforts as productive as writing–and yet they are every bit as time consuming and demand equal creativity. I think you’ve been highly productive.
      And casts of characters are a great idea. That’s one thing I depend on in every novel, and now with a series, I’d be lost without it!

      • I even have a kit list for the Yak Guy. He gains stuff, but when I get breaks it’s easy to forget what he has. Then it all has to get used, and hopefully in an important way.

      • If I ever get around to finishing him. I probably owe you an email too. I’ve done a minuscule amount of promotional research for this fall.

      • Then you’re ahead of me, although I did find another touring company to check out. Hopefully, between us we’ll come up with something worthwhile!

  4. My writing system is electronic as well. I use Onenote with tabs for characters, research, settings, story summaries (I’m a pantser), etc. I use Evernote to capture entire articles and pictures from the web. I’m trying to teach myself to be productive in a notebook (sigh). I have a local friend that does this. I love the way she has her notebooks set up. As for reading, I have a few books lined up. Great post, Mae. Lots of ideas.

    • Another OneNote user! I really do need to learn that program…along with Scrivner. They seem to have a lot of perks for writers and I like the idea of the tabs.

      I’ve downloaded Evernote to my phone, iPad and computer but haven’t mastered that one either. I like the idea for using it to capture entire articles and photos from the web.

      It’s very weird that I write notes longhand, because when it comes to actually story writing, I freeze up unless I can write in front of a computer.

      I think what ever system works for you as a writer, must be the right one! 🙂
      Thanks for sharing yours, Alicia!

  5. Your system sounds fantastic, especially the part about floating in the pool while you work. What a great way to empty the mind and concentrate solely on your projects.

    As for me, normally summer has no bearing on the hours I work. It’s been 7 days a week with hardly any time off for years. However, this year I promised my husband I’d take time to have fun with him. He’s been my loudest cheerleader while I honed my craft and released my first four books (counting my non-fic). On our first excursion we found paradise…waterfalls 10 minutes from our home that empty into a lagoon, with another pool of water at the top of the falls. I don’t remember having so much fun. As the water beat down from the falls, I was laughing and screaming with delight, like I was ten years old ago. What a wonderful day! Bob and I then stocked up on the essentials…two rafts, a portable compressor to blow them up, new bathing suits, towels — all the goodies we might need to make this a weekly thing. Playing catch-up sucks, but it’s so worth it.

    • That lagoon and waterfall sounds divine! I definitely think you need to take breaks now and then or burnout beckons. I’ve been close to that several times, but it’s hard to walk away from what we do.

      You’ve accomplished a tremendous amount, Sue, and deserve those wonderful breaks. Enjoy the waterfalls, lagoon and time with hubby during the blissful summer months. Before you know it, we’ll be battling snow. Ugh!….Although that is always a great time to retreat into the writing cave 😀

  6. Thanks for the Dan Simmons recommendation. I read one of his books years ago and was struck by how he pulled me in with that interesting blend, as you put it, of horror, history, and lyrical prose! Happy writing and reading to you!

    • Hi, Erin! *waves* The Terror has to be one of the best books I’ve ever read. I’ve also read a few other of his books–Drood, Summer of Night and A Winter Haunting. Summer of Night in particular is a book I have read at least three times, but there’s something extraordinary about The Terror. I also think reading during the heat of summer when the book is set in a bitterly cold environment made it unique. If you give it a try, I hope you enjoy it. The blend of elements he employs as an author, and his style is awe-inspiring!

  7. Fascinating, Mae. I do envy you the pool to float about in while you work. I am sure your missing plot points will soon swarm onto the page.
    Sue, what a wonderful place you have discovered.
    Summer is so ephemeral in the UK I think the best thing I can do is enjoy the warmth while we have it.

    • Oh, but what beautiful gardens, countryside and scenery you have! I imagine they do wonders to inspire creativity as well.

      And thanks for the encouragement on book 3 plotting. I came up with some ideas over this past weekend, and will soon be filling those blank pages!

  8. I think summer tends to warrant less productivity. It’s just nice to be outside. I love to read outside, but haven’t tried working outside. Since I do all of my writing on the the computer, it is hard to see the screen out in the sunshine. Kudos to you for continuing to find ways to be productive while enjoying the outdoors!

    • Hi, Jan! I know what you mean about the computer screen outside. Sometimes I will take my laptop or Surface Pro 3 outdoors with me to write blog posts or notes (or even work on a WIP) and I have restrict myself to a covered patio in order to see the screen. It is nice to be outdoors as you said, though, and reading poolside is a pleasure.

      Thanks for commenting and happy reading and writing!

  9. It’s great to take a break, Mae, and well deserved for this busy girl! 😉 That’s quite a system you have there… very impressive. ☺

    • It seems to work well when I’m traveling or at the pool (or beach) in bright sunlight and can’t hop on something electronic. It might be too that Point Pleasant is the first series I’ve ever done, so I’ve had to keep a lot of notes…between my own characters and historical fact.

      And breaks are fun 🙂
      Thanks for reading!

      • I enjoy reading your posts. I don’t always find time to comment, especially when I’m trying to catch up… That’s when I tweet a lot instead. It’s my way of quickly saying that I really enjoyed my visit, and the post I just read. 😉 😀

      • I can completely relate to that, Kev! No worries, and as always, thanks so much for your tweets. You’re awesome! 🙂

  10. Like you, I write long hand only that I use sheets of paper instead of notebooks. On one side my notes, on the other the story proper. Colored pencils and markers. Then comes transferring the story in Word on PC.
    As I rarely leave the house no worries about stains of any kind. Only that I have to be careful in case Emma, our dog, grabs a sheet of my notes. She will thread it to pieces.

    • So you flip-flop pages too, with notes on one side and your story on the other? The only difference is that I’m using plot points on the opposite side instead of actual story. Very cool, Carmen! And, yes, that would be disastrous if Emma decided to make mince-meat of your work (although she’s probably a fun writer’s companion to have around) 🙂

  11. Really enjoyed your notebook method of plotting and research. Love even more “working” while you float on noodles in your pool. Awesome! I still write in the summer, but it’s broken up a lot more. Friends and family can bump work time:)

    • Friends and family certain do that, Judi (I’ve got a reunion coming up this weekend). I might write as much but I think I plot more…those noodles beckon, LOL. Glad you enjoyed my post and my scrambled notebook method!

  12. I’ve been reading—many of the books I’ve read are ones you’ve told me about, go figure—and writing book three of my mainstream series. I’ve been marketing two spring releases of mine (not a huge fan of marketing, but I know it needs to be done). But I, too, am just coming off a vacation, and I’m finding it hard to get back into the groove. Summers make it hard to be productive. And right now, it’s so stinking hot and muggy, our pool is just beckoning me. Sigh. Plus, I’ve been neglecting housework, because, well, it’s hot and muggy!

    • A pool and hot and muggy is a good reason to neglect housework! It’s mid 90s here right now and sweltering July, so the pool is definitely beckoning.

      I’m not a fan of promo either. It seems to sap so much energy and time, but like you said it’s got to be done—and with two releases to market I can bet you’re keeping very busy! 🙂

      Glad to hear you’re getting some reading time in too, and that some of them are authors and books you’ve discovered from my blog. I’m presently reading about a colossal sea monster in DEVOUR by Kurt Anderson and loving every moment of it. Right now the creature is getting reading to snack on a floating casino cruise boat ;D

  13. Wow, I love your notebook system. I’m a lot more primitive with mine, basically just writing stream-of-consciousness things while I work out what isn’t working in the WIP. LOL I might actually number some lists of things I want to do or remember. I’m trying to increase the productivity overall, so lately I’m taking notebooks to scribble in on my lunch breaks. I want to be ready when Endora bursts forth with something (semi) brilliant. 🙂

    • We all know that anything Endora comes up with is brilliant eve if her writer rejects it, LOL.

      I did some scribbling last night before jumping into my current read….and that after a round of foam noodle floating in the pool while I worked out plot points for the opening scene. I guess I’m a scribbler too, so maybe I should try your steam of consciousness approach and see where that leads me. I’ve always heard it said as long as you keep the pen (or keyboard moving) you’re going to reach a good spot eventually 🙂

      Great to see you here! Hope you’re enjoying the flip-flop weather!

  14. 955 pages would have to be excellent to hold me. My brain likes to move along quickly.

    Love, love, love, the idea of writing notes in the pool. I use the pool to escape from writing duties though. Lately, I’ve been stuck on marketing duties. Trying to figure out mailchimp getting ready for the release. I have my outline for book two on scrivener index cards and reems of papers on my desk filled with mind maps and notes. I’m totally disorganized, but it all comes together in the end.

    • I still have to set aside some time and learn Scrivener (along with One Note). I’ve got MailChimp down but those two are still in my learning curve, LOL.

      And I think marketing takes as much time and effort (and doesn’t return the same satisfaction type reward) as writing, but it’s something we have to do. It sounds like you’re on the right track with preparing everything ahead of time for the release. Yay, you! 🙂

      And I do think those 955 pages would be plodding to some, but I love dense books and epic tales…although the one I’m reading now (DEVOUR) is “chomping” along at light-speed 😀

  15. I’m kind of embarrassed to admit when I was on summer vacation at the beach, I went back and read two of my own books. *grins sheepishly* They were Vampires’ Curse and Hearts of Evil. I actually read the paperback versions because I don’t like getting sand and water in my Kindle, iPad, or phone. Then I read a paperback of Rose Gordon’s book To Win His Wayward Wife. Yes, sometimes I read historical romance. All through the summer, I always read quite a bit. But as far as writing? Zero. I’ve done no writing this summer. Part of it is because I’ve done a lot of line editing for clients, and that has to come first.

    I didn’t mean to write my life story. I get a little wordy sometimes. LOL

    Btw, I looked on eBay, and you can still buy the Dark Shadows game. I’m so tempted….

    • Really? The Dark Shadows game on eBay? So cool! I remember it had glow-in-the-dark bones that went into a coffin and you had to build a complete skeleton to win. I don’t remember much more than that…just that we used to play it in the dark and I loved it!

      Oh, and I think there’s nothing wrong with rereading your own work. I normally reread my current release a week or so after it comes out and a few reviews are up. I try to see it through the eyes of the reviewers, good and bad,,,,plus it always puts me in the mood to start a new project.

      I know you’ve been doing a lot of editing work, and I can’t imagine working that in PLUS a full-time job PLUS writing. Something is going to get neglected, at least for a while until the dust settles. And the summer is still young, so you’ve got plenty of time for writing when you’re ready!

  16. Thanks for sharing your notebook system, Mae. I also think it’s important to do some manual writing with regard to books we’re working on. Something about the physical act draws the characters and their stories closer to us so that we can better transcribe their lives. Reading is important too. Oh, and I have been in such a wonderful vacation mode for the last three weeks, so I know what you mean about that. I’m having a hard time coming down from vacation euphoria.

    • I can just imagine how hard that must be after 3 weeks! I’m on vacay next week and it’s going to be hard enough coming back from five days with double weekends, LOL.

      I like your thought about physical writing drawing the characters and stories closer to us. I tend to remember best when I write things down (also the way I learn). Although I am a visual person, when it comes to something I really want to remember, I still like to rely on pen and ink 🙂

  17. So hard to work in summer. There are too many distractions, too many demands – in my case, a room to re-carcass and a dog with inexhaustible energy. I love your system! I have absolutely none, I confess. I just write stuff and research as I go. I’m very, very untidy, as my spouse keeps reminding me. Soon be Christmas!

  18. Fantastic summer reading list! I was really happy to come across this site. I have added “You’ll Miss me When I’m Gone” to my summer TBR list. I was recently recommended a thriller that I cannot stop talking about called “Naked Ambition” by Rick Pullen (http://rickpullen.com/). The book follows investigative reporter Beck and his findings about a presidential candidate’s unsavory past. The book has it all: twists and turns, corrupt politicians and dirty money, sex, violence and some great characters. It really left me with so many thoughts and questions about how things really are in politics and journalism! A really fun and thoughtful summer read! I hope your readers will check it out!

  19. Pingback: Summer 2017 Must Have!!!! – Heaven Blessed

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