System Preferences

Now that the festive season is quite over it’s time to get back into the routine of writing. I spent most of last week making preparations to improve my routine by creating files for new work, research folders, and tags etc so everything’s easy to find. I have to force myself to be organised otherwise I end up with notebooks all over the place filled with goodness knows what. If I remember something I’ve written that I want to go back to and work-up I often have to spend hours searching for it. Hopefully I’ve now got a system that will stop me wasting so much time, even if it doesn’t help me make better work.

Journals and Scrapbooks photography

A friend told me about Scrivener some years ago, and he was so enthusiastic I tried it out (you get a free 30 day trial that I managed to make last for a year as it’s based on days of usage), liked it enough to buy it, and have been using it on and off ever since, but only when I thought, or hoped, I was writing a book. That is, not for individual poems or short stories. But switching from a desktop to a laptop last summer made me revisit and fully investigate its potential. I began to use it for my daily journal: the laptop being so fast, portable, and beautiful (I am that shallow) suddenly made typing much more desirable than handwriting in the expensive leather bound journals I’d been so hefted to. As that worked so well I decided to try it for short creative pieces too. Now I have fully searchable Scrivener project files for both; and each piece  – diary entry, poem, story, idea – gets its own sub-file within its project, complete with as many research files as I need.

One of the things I particularly like about Scrivener is the research function: you can put anything into a research file: images, videos, web-links, audio files, maps, and, of course, ordinary text. Which means all my notes, inspiration, ideas and wild notions can be stored within each individual project, and found at the click of a mouse.

I now have two Scrivener projects – Notes 2018 and Poems 2017/18 – each of which will be gradually populated with multiple subfiles. By the end of the year I’ll have at least two book length documents which, with some judicious editing and rewriting could, in theory, actually constitute a book.

So I’m now ready to get on with it, and I will do that in a minute, but I just want to tell you something else that seems to fit this organisation theme, if loosely.

As you know in order to be able to write one needs to read, widely, which I’ve always thought I do, but it’s come to my attention that although I read a lot of books they are mostly written by men. Why that is will need to be examined elsewhere, either in a separate post, or in my diary, or both, or, even, in creative pieces. When searching through my books of poetry a week or so ago I found I have more than double the number of male to female poets on my shelves, for example; I haven’t even counted the fiction, but the ratio is probably worse still, so this year I plan to redress that: for each book by a male writer I will read at least one by a female. At first I thought I’d read only women this year, but as I’m currently reading Proust – albeit translated by Lydia Davis – Ruskin, and Berger (as well as Varieties of Disturbance, by Lydia Davis – I am faintly obsessed by her at the moment) that proved impossible.

If any of you have any favourite books – novels, short stories, poetry, non-fiction – by women, please tell me about them, and if I haven’t read them I’ll add them to my list. I suspect one of the reasons I read more men is because men are still more reviewed and recommended, it’s certainly not because women write fewer books, or books of lesser quality: time to rectify that for which your help will be greatly appreciated.

12 thoughts on “System Preferences

  1. Happy New Year!
    I read more women authors than men. Male authors have to really catch my imagination before I’ll bother with them 🙂 Though I like David Lodge and Jonathan Coe.
    A Casual Vacancy by J K Rowling is a book that stuck in my mind. Worth a read. Oh… Harriet Lane – Her. This is a fabulous book, I think the writing would appeal to you. I also read a lot of junk, but if I remember any more gems I’ll come back.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. If it helps – read A Casual Vacancy on-line. It was a couple of years ago, but might still be available.Cast Harry Potter far, far from your mind before you read it though!
        If more ladies come to mind (other than Attwood, whom I don’t much care for!) I’ll pop back.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Cool, I’ll see if I can find it. I’ve never read Harry Potter, I tried when my son and mother-in-law were raving about it but couldn’t stand the lack of skill at the level of the sentence. I’ve heard she’s improved with practice so am more than happy to try a more recent book.

        I love Atwood!


  2. I am starting in a book group soon and was told the next book for discussion was “The Good People” by Hannah Kent. I got it from the library fairly quickly and before I knew it, was completely absorbed! Not a book I would have chosen, and has made me aware of this wonderful young female author. She wrote “Burial Rites” which won many awards, but which I haven’t read yet. I’ve become aware in recent times, now that I am writing more, how many male writers win Top 10 lists and I’ve never read them, because when I look at the covers, I can’t relate. I love women’s stories, and perhaps now the time has come for them to be told! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, she’s on my list!
      I know I read more women when I was young – I loved Virago Press – but this seems to have changed recently, or, rather, I still really enjoy women’s stories they just don’t seem to come my way so frequently.

      Enjoy the book group!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Me, popping back.Because 5 minutes after I commented, Penguin popped up in my email with this All I have is their blurb, but C.J.Tudor is a woman.
    And it may be a hesitancy or plain cowardice, but I notice quite a few women use only initials (or, like George Elliot, choose a masculine sobriquet!) and I suspect it’s because masculine readers tend, often, to avoid female authors. I sign my work with forename initials! 🙂


  4. Having relied on a computer to get everything wrritten down for several years, I’ve thought that it’d be good to experiment with reverting to actual writing. Much of the basis for my writing comes from scraps of paper and notebooks that I carry round with me, because at my age, a thought or line has a life of about five seconds in my head when it can be captured in ink; otherwise, it’s gone.

    Women authors? Too many to mention, but I’ll never forget A L Kennedy’s ‘Paradise’.


  5. I know exactly what you mean, if I go out without a notebook I invariably find myself scrabbling about for something to write on before a precious thought is lost forever.

    I’ve not read Paradise, so on the list it goes, thanks Looby,


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