Monday, August 4, 2014

Cheat Sheet or Quick Reference Guide? Part II

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


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Susan .. I really need to develop quick reference guides - it's on the cards and I think will start happening this week ...

As long as we can jot down our thoughts or prompt idea etc .. then we can transfer it quickly to a ready reckoner at home ... there are options I want to try for this ... but I keep going back to pencil and paper!

Cheers and good ideas for us - Hilary

Karen Lange said...

These are great tips, Susan. I need to get more organized with this kind of thing. I have notes all over my desk and I need to consolidate everything into one notebook.