Last week, we talked about Cheat Sheets and how they keep
you from putting forth your best writing efforts.
When I read a craft book, blog post, or take an online course,
I often think, "how am I ever going to remember all this material?"
Well, the plain fact is I won't recall everything. Unlike a Cheat Sheet, a
Quick Reference Guide is designed to summarize the important stuff without
explaining every nuance related to the topic. It's a memory jogger, not a way to cut corners.
How do I construct
a Quick Reference Guide?
1. If a nugget jumps out while I'm reading
a craft book or other educational tool, I jot it down. It's helpful to
have more than one document or file with each focusing on a specific topic.
For example: I have a mental block with techy stuff. "Now, how do I do an em dash?" I
have the simple instructions printed out for quick reference. This way, I'm not
searching the Internet every time I need an em dash.
2. A short statement that gives me a fast
definition of a term.
Jill Elizabeth Nelson's book, Rivet Your Reader With Deep
Point of View,* drove a particular point home: Don't name your character's
emotion. That simple statement keeps me on track when writing my novels.
I read this book while writing my second book, The Scent of
Fear. One reader commented: "I don't know what you did in this book, but
it's even better than the last one." I employed the principles in Jill's
book to my writing.
3. Writers Conferences
If you want to talk about cramming tons of information into
your head, this is the place it happens. Many workshop presenters hand out
notes to help you retain the material, but I rarely have time to go over them
more than once.
I try to isolate the principles they're teaching and write
them down. This helps me remember the highlights and apply them to my writing.
For example: Tim Shoemaker taught a workshop on Show, Don't
Tell. He gave out a small tube and a lightweight ball. The lesson is embedded
in my brain forever. I look through the tube at the ball. This represents what
the Point of View Character sees, hears, and knows. This character cannot refer
to what another character is thinking. He's not a mind reader.
These are the types of items that go on my Quick Reference
Guides. Most of the time, they're not formal lists. They can be notes in a file
that I can grab when I need them.
*I was unable to get the Amazon link to work in this post.
This book is available on Kindle.
Writers: What Quick Reference Tips do you have for me?
Readers: Do you ever save household/DIY/craft or other tips
to jog your memory about a subject? Please share.
Photo Credit: xaila