Thursday, June 16, 2011

Finding the Horcrux

Remember DEATHLY HALLOWS? When Harry and the others find the Lestrange vault in Gringotts and have to find the real Horcrux amid the ever increasing horde of golden goblets? Don't you ever feel that way as a writer? Like there's so much information out there you don't know what to focus on? It's tough. There's so much to learn, and so many choices.

In my last post I spoke about taking all the information and molding it together to create what is uniquely yours. What I want to talk about now is how to know what information to take and what to let go of. Here are a few tips that I've used to sort through the vast amounts of info available - especially on the Internet.

  • Skim - remember when you were in school (some of you still are) and you were able to skim the material to pick out the important points? Useful life skill, I'm telling you. If an article is long, or looks like it may have value but I'm not certain, I start skimming to find out. It saves time.
  • Search for info relevant to your current situation - In other words, if you are just starting a rough draft of something, revision is important, but not as vital to you at this point as say a post about brainstorming, plotting, or outlining. Likewise, if you've already finished a draft, you may want to focus on revision techniques. If you see something that looks useful, but it isn't time yet, bookmark it for later. You can always come back.
  • Stay organized - that brings me to the next step. If you keep organized files (I should take my own advice here, but I'm getting better) you will know right where to go for the info when you are ready for it.
  • Assess if it applies to you - More than once I've run across a post where I think OMG! I never considered that. I better start researching this! Only to realize that perhaps it isn't actually a problem. Then I have to decide if the info adds something to my writing. If it does, then wonderful! Full steam ahead. If it isn't relevant to my personal situation? Let it go. Don't force it to fit. 
  • Ask for other opinions - Not sure where to go or what to to take from it? Look to others that inspire you for help. Agents, editors, authors, critique partners, Blogging friends, Twitter, etc. Don't be afraid to ask because if there's one thing I've learned, it's that others in this industry are ready and willing to help. 
What other tips do you have for finding the right info at the right time?

Oh and I was tagged by Leslie Rose on her blog so here goes:
1.Do you think you're hot? Umm... since I live in So Cal and it's summer - sure! :D
2. Upload a picture or wallpaper you're using at the moment. Here's my bird, Mango. She regularly stands on my keyboard preventing me from typing.

3. When was the last time I ate chicken meat? I honestly have no clue. I had a veggie(fake) chicken sandwich the other night for dinner, does that count?

4.The songs I listened to recently. For my manuscript: WHAT THE HELL and E.T.

5. What were you thinking as you were doing this? I could tell you but I'd have to kill you, and that would just be messy. Sorry.

Tag you're it! 
Heather McCorkle
Margo Berendsen
Susan Sipal
Ebony McKenna 


  1. This is great advice about sorting through a mountain of potentially useful information. I have found it to be somewhat overwhelming, but I'm not very externally organized. I remember stuff and can usually find it quickly, but that's the extent of it!

  2. I know some people complain about how there is too much information out there but like you said we just have to learn to focus on what we need to know. I think as writers we've never been so lucky to have so much knowledge to help us on our journey right at our fingertips. Now applying that information to our writing it whole nother can of worms. (cliche)

  3. I love the way you tied this to Harry Potter ;-) Can't wait for the final movie... but back to your point, it is hard to stay focused when there's so much info. Thanks for the tips - all things that are mostly common sense, but somehow it's good to see them written out like this.

  4. But in response to your Tag answer #5 -- if you told me and killed me, then you could make a Horcrux!! :-)

    The amount of info available IS overwhelming. I messed up once for taking some well intentioned but wrong for me advice. That's when I learned your "assess if it applies to you" point. All great advice!

    Thanks for the tag! :-)

  5. What other tips do you have for finding the right info at the right time?
    Looking for it instead of hiding and hoping it will go away? Not, of course, that I'm guilty of such behavior! 0:)

    Your first "tagged!" answer made me giggle. Also . . . it reminds me that though I shared some awards with you Tuesday evening, I failed in the "notify the recipient" department. *cough* So, um, how about that?

  6. "assess if it applies to you" is so crucial in this information age. i used to read all the info about submissions and agents and query letters until i was like dude, i'm still just beginning to plot my novel, maybe i don't need to overwhelm myself with all this right now, and just FOCUS ON THE STORY. :)

    all that advice - which is great - isn't going anywhere. i just don't need to read ALL of it right now.

  7. It can definitely be overwhelming trying to sift through all the info available. Thanks for the tips to help the process run more smoothly!

  8. I totally get overwhelmed by the vast amount of information out there. Especially when it's conflicting advice. So yes, skimming and sorting definitely helps. And then using our gut. I've created different bookmark folders for writing related posts that I'll refer to later, which helps. And Elizabeth Craig's WRITERS KNOWLEDGE BASE is an excellent resource for all things writing.

    And Mango is a cutie pie!

  9. Sarah - I would have thought you'd be a very organized person. That's what I get for stereotyping! Sorry. But I'm not either, and I still manage to figure it out, so there's hope. He he. Plus, I tend to retain the majority of what strikes me as important.

    Laura - doesn't it drive you crazy? LOL I find myself editing comments and emails as I go sometimes! I'm making an effort to cut that out because it feels silly.

    Katie - Sometimes hearing it a different way can trigger something, so I'm glad it was helpful to you! I love HP too!

    Susan - YW. And ha ha! Yes. I could make you a horcrux - oh wait - I said too much!

    Deb - Sorry!! I'm so bad at keeping up because sometimes it's overwhelming. I hope you forgive me, it's nothing personal. I will go check it out. I normally don't "do" the awards because I feel funny taking blogging time away to talk about personal stuff. I'm weird that way.

    Baking - Exactly! Bookmarking it in a folder is a great way to go, so you know you have it as a resource when it is time. But focus on what's important to where you are in the journey now.

    Jess - :D Glad it was helpful

  10. I've been tagged again! I have got to start running faster. ;) I'm curious who the artists on those songs were!

    I especially need to work on the 'stay organized' point. My favorite though is 'ask for other opinions'. That is so important!

  11. Julie - why thank you! :D

    Heather - Avril Lavigne and Katy Perry. And that's an EXCELLENT addition!

  12. I know I've been overwhelmed by all the information I've been finding on the internet. I have bookmark folders for "writing stuff" and subfolders "writing blogs" and "query stuff", but that's about as organized as I get.
    - David

  13. A very relevant post! It's a very wide and deep world of info out there. Someone mentioned once (I have it saved somewhere in my ever so organized world, I'm sure, ha ha!) that there is a search engine specifically for writing related articles. Ever since I heard that, (though I've not yet used it, another ha ha) I've relaxed a little about trying to stay on top of the info flood. I just fish at the edges.

    Thanks for tagging me. What is WITH that chicken meat question? Who in the WORLD cares except vegans and chicken loving extremists? Am I missing something? Other than that question though I love those questions. I got to find out you have a pretty bird that fights your for the keyboard - love it!

  14. Great advice - it can be super difficult to get the exact info we need without a lot of info we don't. Fantastic tips! :)

  15. David - good plan. Try to keep track, because I've been frustrated before because I didn't do that.

    Margo - It might be Elizabeth Craig's link that Julie pointed out above. Martina ( also has posts categorized on the side bar. I have no clue what's up with the chicken. WEIRD. Mango says thank you.

    Bethany - :D Glad to help

  16. These are great tips. With all the blogs/books/articles I read, it's important to know how to determine what you need to absorb and what you don't.

  17. I am a big fan of skimming. If I didn' I would never get anything done, I swear.

    Aside: I love your posts, seriously I do. :) >>>hugs<<<

    Me, I have to say I really find the weekly mash-up/linkage type posts like Stina @ Seeing Creative does, or Adventures in Children's Publishing Blog. Finding a few good sources of info that sifts through information streams saves me a ton of time!

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

  18. Ghenet - It's tough to sort through. Glad my tips help.

    Angela - LOL stop skimming me!!! I feel so cheap. He he he. Kidding! I LOVE Stina's links and Martina and Marissa's. Awesome stuff.

  19. You tagged me!?
    You realise of course, this means WAAAAAARRHHHHHHH!


  20. My latest bit of advice, by the way, is to ask for help.
    Because you can't do it all by yourself.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. *mwah!*

  21. Ebony - Oh no - what have I done??? :D Good advice btw

  22. No wonder my ears were burning earlier today. My friends were talking about me here. :D

    Awesome advice Lisa. I'm the queen of skimming when it comes to research. I started doing Cool Links so I could organize (he he) all the great info I found for when I needed it.

    Now if only I could keep my house that organized. Other than getting rid of my kids and husband, any advice, Lisa? :D

  23. Stina - have you heard me talk about my laundry room?? LOL, if there's advice on organizing homes, it won't be found around here! Sorry. But if you do find out, please point me the right way.

  24. One thing I think is important: When you find something that doesn't help you, that is just another clue to finding the thing that will help. Knowing what doesn't work guides you in the direction of what will work.

    Even bad info is still useful info, if you know how to decipher it.

  25. I had never heard the term "chicken meat" before I was tagged. I guess that means as opposed to eating chicken bones or feathers. Love the Harry Potter analogy because it does feel like that as you try and absorb all the info. you feel you should be absorbing as a writer. I keep adding and adding to my bookmarks, so now I must organize. *groan* You hit the nail on the head with your post. You are wise.

  26. Excellent advice Lisa. I'm not very good on the bookmark organization either. Oh sure, I started categories and now they have 200-300 items in them which is not helpful.

    The one tool I've found that helps is, this saves all the links you tweet or facebooks, etc and puts them into a fully searchable super bookmark list. It also allows users to follow each other so you can gain access to their lists. Highly recommend it to all the bookmarking addicts (like me) out there.

  27. This is a great post, Lisa! The vast amount of information out there can become very overwhelming for writer.

    Points 2 & 3, espeically, are something that I have been having to do here lately since I come across great tips that are not relevant to me *just yet*, but will be down the road. I either bookmark the site/post, or I print out the article and place in a binder (which I started out with one, and now I have two).

    Needless to say, I will be on information overload when it comes time to revisit those articles, and that can be both a good and a bad thing. :)

  28. Dean - great point! Knowing what doesn't work and why is a big deal.

    Leslie - Mmmmm CHICKEN MEAT

    Gene - OMG!! You get virtual stars and hugs for passing that on!!! I didn't know about that. Wow - I wish that was retroactive. How cool!

    Melinda - Wow I am not organized with hard copies. I give you kudos for that one.

    And OH BTW my bird is now on my arm while I type telling me how pretty Mango is. In case you were interested... See what I put up with? LOL

  29. Great advice - there's so much information on everything and it seems to be everywhere!! Picking and choosing is a must!

    And my timing kind of stinks - I tagged you for this very same tag today! You're ahead of the game!! :P Love your answers!

  30. You have a bird?? Sorry, I've been AWOL, but I'm trying to catch up - I feel like I have a mountain of information and I keep adding little bits to the pile. They're somewhat organized in my brain, but not so much in reality. Must get better at that.

    Happy Weekend!

  31. Great advice!

    Does that mean I have permission to skim your blog posts?

    Just kidding.

  32. Jemi - Wish I'd seen the full thing before I did it, it would have been fun to do that last part too! Thanks for thinking of me.

    Susan - No worries! We all get busy. I'm glad you came by though!

    October - NO. My posts are the obvious exception. LOL! Of course you can. I try to discourage by making them short and hopefully entertaining though.

  33. Aww... I love Mango!! SO cute. I'm a huge skimmer too. I read so much writing advice, I have to. And the beauty is that we can pick and choose what's right and/or relevant to us at the time. Next month it may be different, but a person can only hold so much info before we spontaneously combust. :)

  34. PK - KABOOM! Uh oh. He he he. And Mango says thank you. She's on my shoulder right now.