Sunday, March 9, 2008

How I Write - Part II - Logistics


Well, first, a brief digression in re logistics, to answer Midge's question as to how I handle all the bits and pieces. It's pretty simple, really, but it works.

Having started writing far back in the mists of time, when DOS-based programs only allowed one to have an eight-character filename (with a three-character extension), all my filenames are in this basic form: [bookname/number][year symbol].[date], wherein the date is the date upon which I began writing whatever file this is. E.g., were I to begin a new scene for AN ECHO IN THE BONE today, the file would be named JAMIE7&.39. (The abbreviation for each OUTLANDER novel is "JAMIE" [g], and ECHO is the 7th book in that series. "&" is the symbol I've chosen to represent 2008 (2007 was "@"), and today is March 9. Ergo—JAMIE7&.39.) (This, btw, is how I happen to know that I began to write OUTLANDER on March 6 of 1988; the oldest filename I've had is JAMIE!.36. And no, I don't have this file available anymore; it's undoubtedly backed up somewhere, but it's on a 5.25" floppy disk, which is for all intents and purposes unreadable. It wasn't a scene that made it into the finished book; just a half-page or so of a young man arguing with his sister while she chopped vegetables—just a place to start, in other words. So I've been at this for twenty years—my, time flies when you're having fun! [g])

OK, so we've got filenames. Now, I never leave the computer without backing up what I'm doing to an external medium—these days, that's usually a USB jump-drive. NEVER. (And I keep whatever word processor I'm using set to do automatic backups every 90 seconds; I hate losing work). But once a week, I set aside an hour or so to do formal housekeeping. This involves:

1. Making a P-file. This is a "printfile"—just a dump of whatever new work I've done during the week. No formatting, no nothing—I just pull all new files (or old files that I've worked on during the week) into a single file and print it off (with the date at the top) and put this in my hard-copy dump. I've luckily needed a hardcopy backup only once or twice in the last twenty years—but nice to know it's there. Any electronic medium can be corrupted in the blink of an eye and without warning.

2. Updating the MFILE. This is the Master File; I have one for each book (or novella) I'm working on. All this is, is a listing of filenames, with a few keywords following it, which will let me locate a specific file. Here's a brief sample:

JAMIE#.42 - Death of Simon Fraser (Wheatfield)

JAMIE#A.42 - same as #.42 (compare)

JAMIE7#.413 - Clouds in the water - follows "Laoghaire"

JAMIE7#.414 - fragment at Saratoga - wolves devouring the dead

JAMIE#X.D8 - beer for breakfast

JAMIE7@.410 - Son of a Witch/Sanctuary

JAMIE7@.54 - Simon Fraser's death - Claire/Dr. Rawlings - Willie's hat

JAMIE7@.511 - fragment/image - rhythms of sex

JAMIE7A.511 - peelie-wallie, fragment - acupuncture

JAMIE7@.512 - fragment/image - Jem and gem, means of navigation

JAMIE7@.514 - Roger and the chapel (goes w/ @.410)

JAMIE7@.517 - Roger's faith (goes w/ @.410/@.514)

JAMIE7@.519 - Claire and Dr. Rawlings, injury to hand (Saratoga)

JAMIE7@.524 - fragment - Roger's faith/father decision (goes w/ @.410)

JAMIE7@.527 - "I'll just mind it more" fragment

JAMIE7@.528 - numbness - "Bruise me"

JAMIE7@.64 - Lizzie's Love-Knot (chapter title only)

["fragment" means it's not a whole scene, but is a partial scene, or perhaps just a kernel or an image that I wanted to catch, but either didn't have time to develop, or it just didn't expand at the time. Additonal letters like "A" or "B" mean it's the second or third scene that I began on a given day (When I'm really rolling, I often have simultaneous things pop up), whereas an "X" means the scene exists under the original name, but something happened with the computer and it wouldn't let me save a later version under the same name (Word occasionally corrupts its filenames, or takes exception to the original file having been written in Word Perfect, and won't let me save unless I rename the file—so I use the original name with the addition of an "X".).]

That's about it. You notice that a couple of files in this listing note that they "go with" one or more other files. When stuff starts sticking together—or when I'm on a roll and writing sequentially—I get files that I know are part of the same bigger chunk. Eventually, all the smaller files get attached to one of the filenames, and that grows into a large piece of 10,000 words or more. At that point, it becomes a "chunk" [g], and I'll likely save it as "CHUNK 2 (rev) – GREAT DISMAL" (for instance). When I have five or six chunks, I can usually arrange them in rough chronological order, and at that point, will probably have a decent idea of the timeline underlying the book. Often—though not always, I'll also see the "shape" of the book at this point.

I have to go and buy bagels for lunch, so will post this for now. With luck, I'll be back later tonight to resume—if not, see you tomorrow!


  1. Hi Diana,

    I'll be interested to see if/how things change for you when you take on Scrivener. I'm still looking at it -- it scares me a little, and yet I am SO tempted to give it a try...

    ~kc (on her BRAND new MacBookPro!)

  2. Diana:

    I am humbled.

    Your mind functions so differently from mine; it is a blessing that you've a background in research and science because, IMHO, it would take a scientist to figure out your method. Or, are your methods of organization a result of your academic/research roots?

    It is embarrassing for me to admit that all the fragments I've written are saved in individual, labeled files, all backed-up onto my secondary hard drive (built into my Intel iMac) and labeled flash drives. Real clean and simple. But then, I'm not writing great hunks of Literature, either!


    PS: Like kc dyer, I'm interested in knowing whether you're going to go with the Scrivener software. In your previous post, a person wanted to know how you organized yourself and I couldn't recall the name, then, of Scrivener (thank you, kc dyer).

  3. Diana:

    PPS: How are you doing with your new MacBook Pro? Do you like it?


  4. Hi again!

    This answered my questions (Thanks to Midge and kc as well!) about organization. I've been wondering this for, oh, 4 years now, and I finally got the answers I wanted! Hooray! I'm actually looking into a MacBookPro and was wondering about word processors for a Mac (since I heard that was the only area in which they were lacking).

    Gee. Two problems solved in less than 10 minutes. This is a good day. [g]

    I've been organizing my own files similarly, but it never occurred to me to abbreviate so... simply. And then I have fragments that are from various versions of stories that I've scrapped and started over... it's terrible! Spring cleaning is in order... but it's rather daunting.

    Thanks so much Diana! I have renewed hope now! Haha. Master File... you're so smart [g].

  5. kc--

    I'm using it--though cautiously, and exporting everything I write on it (Scrivener, I mean) to a jump-drive in .rtf format, so I can get it back on the PC, if necessary. [g]

    I haven't yet had time to mess around with it in any of the truly interesting ways--joining up, splitting, shuffling files, etc.--but I _love_ the whole-screen view, with its adjustable type and paper-size.

    Next thing is to make a new folder/directory into which I can convert all the JAMIE7 files (done with WP51) into .rtf equivalents, so that Scrivener can import these. _Then_ I can really start messing around. [g] (And Patrick from Books and Writers gave me a link to an excellent product that will do this sort of conversion on a whole directory full of files at once, rather than one at a time. I've bought and downloaded this, but haven't yet had time to use it.)

  6. Midge--

    But there's nothing at all complex about the organization! I'm doing just what you do [g]--tucking zillions of individual files away in a directory (or folder, if one thinks in Windows).

    I just use the Master File as a tool to find which scene I want, when I need to glue them together. It's nothing but a straightfoward listing of filenames and keywords, though. Couldn't be cruder. [g]

  7. Midge--

    So far, I'm enjoying the MacBook, though I've been in and out so much the last two weeks, I've had limited time to mess with it.

    I _hate_ Safari, but was able to download and install Firefox, which works much better.

    And as I was telling kc, I've just begun to play seriously with Scivener, though I need to convert the two or three hundred WP51 files I have for JAMIE7, before I can try out some of its more intriguing capabilities.

  8. I will never be without my FireFox! LOVE it!

    As for your system....must be the scientist in you. You lost me after the third sentence! :lol: The biggest reason though is, I write in a linear fashion so all of my things with the very rare exception of a tiny scene here or there that didn't work one place in a chapter because of POV or the flow, gets saved as book title.chapter number and that's it.

    Then I back up everything on a flash drive every night. But, there are programs out there also that can recover documents that you think are lost forever. Thank God!

    Thank you though, for a great lesson in how very unorganized my life is as a whole! :lol: I could never be that precise...but then again, I wouldn't remember what it was I'd saved anyway.

  9. Dear Nightmusic--

    I must be doing a bad job of explaining, because there really is _nothing_ complex about the organization.

    Really. I do two things (well, three, if you include printing off stuff, but I imagine everybody does that):

    1. Each file has a unique name that tells me which book it belongs to and when I began it.

    2. There's a Master File that lists all the files, and gives several keywords for each one. So if I want, for instance, the file about a conversation that takes place in a graveyard, I can open the Master File, type "graveyard" into the Search function of my word processor, and it pops up (say) JAMIE7#.222.

    See? There's _nothing_ complicated about this. Not a thing. Just a list of files and keywords so I can find the one I want.

    It's nothing to do with being scientific--it's just...simple.

  10. LOL, must just be that I understand explanations like your second one better than the first LOL

    NOW I get it!! ;-)

    And really, you could stuff the toe of your sock full of post it notes with all your little bits and pieces on them and file them in your sock drawer as long as you keep writing the way you do. You're just such a wonderful read!

  11. Diana,

    It _is_ simple, which is why I wouldn't have thought of it! I think I was trying to make something more complicated than it was. Long file names containing some sort of summary instead of simple file names and a master file that contains the summaries. I always have to open the file to remember what in the world it is.

    So does everyone recommend a MacBook Pro (or general MacBook)? I was waiting because I wasn't sure about word processors, since that's mostly what I use day to day. Everyone I know has a PC laptop; I have no references! Sounds like everyone in here has one though... so I figure that's a good sign. [g]


  12. Okay, okay! I understood your second attempt more clearly than your first, so maybe nightsmusic and I have the same brain functions. And yes, I do think in Windows because I've never cared for Apple's word program. Having an Intel iMac, I've downloaded Windows for Mac and also use Powerpoint and Excel. That's why I was so curious about Scrivener.

    Also, I use both Safari and Firefox -- Safari is my default browser. I have to use Firefox to participate at CompuServe -- I can read the discussions using Safari but CS doesn't support it (I believe) for participation..... weird, I know.


    PS: It's so good to *hear* your voice again, Diana. We all missed you.

  13. Well, thank God it wasn't just me! LOLOL!!!!


  14. I have a couple of questions about the multiple POV's used in your books. It sounds like ECHO will have six major POV's: the same ones you had in ABOSAA (Jamie, Claire, Bree, Roger, Ian) plus William's. Juggling all six of them must get *very* complicated at times [g]. Do you make any particular effort to ensure that each one of these characters' POV gets "equal time", so to speak? I imagine that most of the time, you don't consciously control that; the scene develops from a particular character's POV, like Willie in the swamp, and you just follow wherever it leads. But I'm wondering if there are situations where several of the main characters are present in a given scene, and the scene could be written from multiple POV's. How do you choose which character's POV to tell it from?

    I'm not a writer myself (nor even an aspiring one [g]), but I've been an avid reader all my life, and I think it's fascinating to see how the process works.


  15. Hi Diana,

    One of the best decisions I made when I bought this MacBook was to also buy a peripheral hard drive. As soon as I plugged it in, Time Machine started backing up my MacBook hard drive, and does so again roughly every hour ever since -- or whenever I plug the laptop back into it when I've been away. This means I don't need the jump drive to save everything -- a huge bonus for my memory-challenged state these days. I must troll back through your conversations with Patrick on B&W to find the name of the software that will convert en masse. I have a lot of Windows files that I would like to move to RTF.

    I must say I am having a lot of fun with this new machine, though. I hope you get a bit more of a chance to play with yours in the next little while!


  16. Diana-
    How often do you go back to a piece that you've written, only to discover that the imagery or dialogue is not up to par? Sometimes when I write something, the blood is flowing properly to the grey matter, and the vocab and sentence structure is great. Then other times...well, it's like English is a foreign tongue. Or does this problem fade over time, as you spend more time writing?

  17. Dear Diana,
    I do apologise for hijacking this thread, as it were, but being from Montreal (aka Only Place for Bagels) I must inquire where you get your bagels from and what they're like :-) If only I'd known! I could have shipped you some Montreal bagels for Christmas/your birthday!

  18. Deniz--

    There's a local chain of bagel/deli shops called Chompie's that have terrific bagels--fresh and tasty.

  19. Dear Melanie--

    Well, see, I don't do drafts, as such. I write reeeeeaallly slowly, fiddling as I go; taking words out, putting them back in, messing around with the structure of phrases, clauses, and sentences, etc.

    So by the time I'm finished with a scene, it's pretty much as good as I can make it. So no--if there were anything lacking in the English of a piece (so to speak [g]), I just couldn't leave it.

    This is not to say that I never change anything; when the pieces begin to stick together, there are always small tweaks--changes of season, timing, tiny physical things--necessary to make the larger piece internally coherent. And now and then I discover other things in the research that I think would improve a piece by being added, or changing something for the sake of increased accuracy. But no, I don't usually look back and see anything horrible. [g]

  20. Dear Karen--

    Seven, actually [g]--Lord John, too.

    Yes, occasionally I do need to consider who "owns" a scene. Generally, it comes clear fairly quickly; I just think about it from one person's point of view or another--one of them "clicks," and I can go from there.

    There's a sort of balance among the viewpoints, though it doesn't amount to giving them all completely equal time. [g] Some storylines have more prominence than others, though, and usually one viewpoint character is much more vocal about a particular storyline than the other(s) involved in it. But the storylines in turn need to be balanced against each other--which is more prominent at a given time, and how often you switch from one to another depends on the underlying structure--the "shape"--of the book. And as I say, I won't know what that looks like for a little while yet.

  21. I'm glad to hear that there will be some scenes in ECHO from Lord John's POV [g]. Especially if William is finally going to learn the truth about who his father is; Lord John's reaction to that will be priceless, I'm sure.


  22. Diana, it makes perfect sense. I don't know why, perhaps b/c I'm an artist. I don't presume to know what goes on in that brain of yours, highly intelligent as it is. However, for some reason it makes sense that you would see a scene as a photograph, a glimpse. Is this what you mean by Kernel?(am I understanding correctly?) Then, you begin to ask yourself questions about that scene. I am not a writer, really. It makes sense to me that things would pop up and be filed, to later come together as you mull over the story. It seems much less like an overwhelming task, as though the story just comes to you in bits and pieces until the last piece comes and then its done. I am *not* a writer. I do write a journal and somethings on a blog. Descriptions come to me like glimpses and I just write them down. It is as if a great weight is lifted when I do. The same feeling happens when I make something as an artist. (I am a functional artist so, knitting, embroidery, metal smithing, construction but occasionally the mood to paint or photograph strikes me.) Would you consider yourself an artist? I most certainly would. But I mean for more that what you are doing in a certain art form... I mean as a person. If you couldn't write, (God forbid) would you feel stifled and unproductive only to seek something else out to produce? I can see this written out in Brianna's character. She is always producing something even if she isn't painting or drawing. She is making something always, or having an idea of something to create or build.
    I am wondering when you research these personalities, have you talked specifically to doctors to find out what or how Claire would feel or react to certain situations? What about Brianna? how do you how a doctor would respond, an artist, a pastor's son, a Scottish laird from the 18th century? There isn't the slightest notion of invention in your characters as if they were real people. ??? Am I making any sense? I know that they just come to you in a way but where do you get the part that isn't a part of you? sorry for rambling. sorry for sentence fragments. -charlotte

  23. Diana,

    I have just recently started reading your blogs. I am finding that they are very interesting! I have recently started writing myself. Well, other than the scientific stuff I have to do for work! ; ) One of my writing "projects" here at work this week is writing the answer key for a lab report. I work with the Fudamentals of Horticulture class/lab here at Purdue University. I am in charge of the lab portion of the course.. about 110 students each semester in 6 lab sections. So... some of my activities involve writing answer keys for labs. I also did research before I got involved in the class and did some writing for that.

    But now the writing I am doing, outside of work is for me... fun stuff! I LOVE to read and have ever since I learned how to. Of course, I have read all of your books... and am a member of the Ladies of Lallybroch (Piper Mom)! I am writing historical fiction. It is a story that takes place in the 1770s in Virginia... at least it does for now! : )

    As you can guess from my nickname, and in case you didn't recall from LOL.... my son is a bagpiper (he started with lessons when he was 7 and is 15 now). We are part of the 42nd Royal Highlanders of Lafayette, Indiana. I have been interested in 18th C stuff since 1981. And have been involved with the 42nd since 2000. So... for me, that seemed like a natural time period and life to focus on. Like you were with Outlander, I don't know if it will ever get published, but I am having fun anyway!

    I find that some of my writing is also in chunks and some of it is linear. The first stuff I have written, is not the beginning of the story; I haven't gotten that figured out yet. ; ) I just kind of jumped in there, where a "scene" came into my mind and wrote that first. Then it started to go linear, now another chunk came to mind and I wrote that. It will get attached to the story sometime. I am thinking about swiping my son's digital voice recorder and using it to get thoughts recorded. I have about a 30 min drive each way to work and things tend to pop into my head while I drive. I then formulate things, work out the details and then try to not forget it before I get to a computer! I am currently saving my writing on my home computer, work computer and a flash drive.

    Thanks for letting me ramble! It took me a bit of nerve to write this, as you are such a great writer! I am off to grab some lunch... then it is time to work on that answer key.... and try to concentrate thru construction going on 2 floors below me... drilling/cutting into cement.


  24. Charlotte--

    Yes, I read a lot of doctors' memoirs/stories, as well as memoirs from WWII nurses (and soldiers, while mentally "equipping" Claire. Beyond that, a lot of her cultural attitudes and references came from Dorothy L. Sayers' Harriet Vane--they aren't the same sort of people at all, but Sayers' mysteries are all set in England of the mid/late 1930's, and Harriet Vane is a middle-class but very educated woman (as Sayers was herself). Vera Brittain's TESTAMENT OF YOUTH (which was about her experiences as a nurse in WWI) was useful, too.

    Whenever you do historical fiction, one of the most important kinds of research material is what's called "primary sources"--letters and diaries of people living during the time of interest. These give you both an authentic "voice" (in terms of idiom, expression, etc.), and a sense of personality, as well as an idea of the things that were important to a person living in whatever place and situation.

    That's one great advantage to the 18th century (and one reason why I chose it, aside from the original "Dr. Who" inspiration [g])--it was a very literate time (in terms of western culture), and while it's certainly far enough back to be truly "historical" to modern people, 1) the language hasn't really changed greatly in its essentials--slang terms change, of course, but it's possible for a modern person to read and easily comprehend almost anything written in the 18th century, and 2) there's a great deal of material _left_. Newspapers, magazines, diaries, journals, advertising posters--you can find books printed in the 18th century, still in a very good state of preservation (I have a few; I like to fondle them, and imagine Lord John taking this volume of Burke from the shelf in his father's library, or Jamie trading a bottle of whisky for this worn copy of Homer's _Iliad_, to add to his small but precious collection of books).

    Beyond research, of course, a lot of the essence of the characters is simply common sense and acknowledgement of our common humanity. What would Claire feel, presented with a woman dying of something she _knows_ can be treated in the 20th century--but can't deal with at all with what she has in the 18th? What anyone would feel in the same situation--anger, pity, sadness--

    And there are the modern equivalents of older professions; I don't know any Scottish lairds [g], but my late father-in-law was a small-time cattle baron. I _know_ what men who deal with horses and livestock are like; I've seen dozens of them, going to rodeos and cattle sales with Max. I know what young men who like to race and do stunts are like--I've seen them, over and over, bull-riding, calf-roping, etc.

    I have a garden, myself; I know what it smells like in the rain, and what it feels like to pull up stubborn weeds in a shower of dirt. [g] And all the interesting bugs you see, and how annoying it is to find a rabbit has got in and eaten the tops off all your lettuces.

    The art of creating a character comes as much from the writer as it does from anything external; we extrapolate our own physical and emotional experiences, and blend them with our knowledge and expectation of the other character's situation and personality.

  25. Vicki--

    Hey, go for it! [g] You don't know what you can do until you start doing it, and it sounds like you have a good start!

  26. Good heavens! Now I know why Claire seemed 'familiar' somehow. I LOVE Harriet Vane, Dorothy Sayers was an awesome author and The Nine Tailors is still one of my favorite mysteries. I rarely *don't* get the villain until the end but in this was a wonderful read.

    And yes, I can see a lot of Vane's attitudes in Claire. Not the same personality of course, but Vane was Wimsey's match in every way and now I understand much more.

    Thanx!! :D

  27. Diana,
    Thanks!!! Your words of encouragement are nice! In 3 weeks I have written 35 pages, with some gaps in the time snippets here and there, whenever I get a chance to write. For me, some things come so quickly I feel that I just have to get them written. I will go back later on and fill them in with more detail.

    Ugh... now I have to convince myself to work on that answer key again. Got a bit of it done. I am going thru pics I took of the experiment to write down my visual observations. I did some of the graphs already.

    Thanks again!

  28. Diana,
    Oh, I almost forgot... I find what you say about primary sources interesting too. I am also a member of the Yahoo group: 18cWoman. I have been on if for a few years now too. I have learned so much from that. Sometimes people post some interesting snippets from 18C documents. It has also been helpful for me in making my 18C clothes better for our events... which is why I joined in the first place.

  29. Diana:

    Re your statement that "a lot of the essence of the characters is simply common sense and acknowledgement of our common humanity." I think you do a great job in showing the ways in which 18th century people *are* just like us. Two quick examples from your recent books:

    1) The scene in "Haunted Soldier", at the hearing, where Marchmont sits through a tedious part of the proceedings, picking barbs off his quill, showering tiny feathers everywhere. It's a very small thing, maybe, but it helps to anchor the reader very specifically to that time period. In a modern courtroom setting, he might be playing with the cap of a ballpoint pen, or checking e-mail on a Blackberry [g]. The technology may have changed in 200 years, but we can all relate to the sense of impatient boredom that Marchmont shows here.

    2) The opening of BOTB, with the allusions to famous stepmothers of literature. When I read BOTB the first time, I was frankly a little apprehensive. I didn't know if I was going to be able to relate to the characters or not; I'd had a very hard time getting into PRIVATE MATTER, and I wasn't sure if this book would be any different. As soon as I read that line about stepmothers, I had an involuntary little start of recognition; not quite a laugh, but it made me smile, and I remember feeling myself relax. Almost as if to say, it's OK, if he's making allusions to Cinderella, then these characters must have enough of a common cultural frame of reference with 21st-century people that someone like me will be able to understand and relate to them. (And in fact I did end up really enjoying BOTB.)


  30. Hi, Diana,

    Today, as usual, I answered a user's question on a newsgroup. The poster responded that she'd recognized my name from a software training video I did recently and went on to tell me I'd done a great job. It was a great feeling! I get the same warm fuzzies when I hear from people who've found my (software) books useful. It doesn't happen all that often, but when it does, well....

    So I'm just posting to say thank you for being so accessible to your readers. I know I'm enjoying reading your various posts, articles, and excerpts. It surprises me, but, having spent the past 6-8 weeks in Jamie and Claire's world for the first time, I find myself going through a bit of a withdrawal now -- kind of like the withdrawal I experienced between Harry Potter books [g] -- but your availability and willingness to discuss the books (past and future) helps somehow.

    Someone mentioned names in a comment on another post. I have to say I find it amusing that book 7 is "Echo." Since that's my name, I always do a double-take when I see it capitalized. I've been doing lots of double-takes on your various sites lately!

    And FWIW, I found your explanation of the master file quite clear. But how do you tell, say, January 26 from December 6 (*.126)?


  31. Ah, but do software training videos (brava by the way!) and so I can only assume you have an analytical mind which would explain why you understood the first and I the second. My mind is just full of fluff....

    lol :)

  32. heh, my software specialty is PowerPoint, so there's a *lot* of fluff here, too, believe me!

    Seriously, though, explaining computer stuff is often a challenge, and it's not unusual to have to use two or three different explanations before it makes sense to everyone.

    (and thanks, by the way!)


  33. You're welcomed :D

    The only thing I've ever taught is music...AKA...Fluff! ;-)

    I think perhaps I got lost in the details with Diana's first explanation. I have a master folder for each story and then chapters with maybe a small snippet or two here or there. I do rely on OneNote a lot to store stuff.

    But I write in a very linear fashion. In fact, I never know what's going to happen until the characters tell me. I know, that's terrible for a writer. One is supposed to have at least a semblance of an outline. I just can't do it.

    So, her second explanation was easier for me to understand since I don't write 'scenes or bits and pieces' way in advance.

  34. Nightsmusic:

    "Ah, but do software training videos (brava by the way!) and so I can only assume you have an analytical mind which would explain why you understood the first and I the second. My mind is just full of fluff....

    lol :)"


    "The only thing I've ever taught is music...AKA...Fluff! ;-)"

    My dear, music is NOT fluff! As a music
    major-cum-frustrated performer, I know that those of us in music are rather bright, self actualized, and typically wonderful. While my math skills never benefitted from my training, and Diana's 1st explanation made my eyes cross, I must say that I am otherwise intelligent and can bullshit like a pro. (Must be all the years of vocal pedagogy!)

    Midge ; D

  35. Midge,

    I suppose I would have to agree with your assessment of us musicians...whether we're any good at it or not ;-)

    And no, it never helped my math skills either, which is why I always write my checks to the next highest dollar amount. Less numbers for me to subtract!

    I'm just a right brain kind of gal which is why Diana's second explanation made perfect sense and the first was beyond me, even though they're saying the same thing.

    I only wrote music/lyrics for years. It's just been recently that I branched out into 'noveling' so maybe that's why I write in a more linear fashion. I look at the whole rather than the parts. I don't know.

    I do know there's no right/wrong way to write as far as getting the story on paper and Diana's method may differ from mine (and let's face it, she's awesome!) but the joy for me is in the writing itself and watching it all come together, be it linear or bits-and-pieces. And since no one is going to see mine anyway....


  36. Echo--

    Oh--once past September, I use letters for the month, rather than numbers: O = October, N = November, D = December. So a file begun on December 26 (of last year) would have been JAMIE7@.D26, while one begun on January 26 would have been JAMIE7@.126.

  37. Diana,
    Having done computer work "pre-windows", I understand your file naming system. Some days, I think working pre windows was easier!

    Hope you day is going well!

    NM and Echo,
    I am musical, artistic and scientific. Maybe that explains why some if my writing is linear and some is in chunks! Just can't seem to stick to one style! ; ) Hey, whatever works and you get from your mind into writing!


  38. Err... that last part should say... "whatever works; just as long as you get your thoughts from your mind out into writing."

  39. Diana,

    Ah, yeah, makes sense. Thanks.

    To all the musical people in the thread,

    I'm so jealous! [g] And I think teaching music sounds hard -- especially if your students are as musically challenged as I (pun kinda-sorta intended, but not really, lol).


  40. Well, it was elementary, 5th grade beginning band. Can't get much more rudimentary than that I suppose.

    And you don't have to good at music on the outside, Echo, to have a soul that thrives on it, on the inside :D

    I have a feeling, yours does.

  41. oh diana, what a beautiful description of your finding the characters, the garden in the rain!?, Jamie trading whiskey for Homer?! I love it. I will have you know that your books have made me into a reader. I was never much of one but now, after reading your entire Outlander collection in 6 weeks (while 7 months pregnant, with two toddler's under 3yrs running around, and a husband just out of a shoulder surgery needing to be nursed) I am definitely a reader. Just ordered Fanny Hill and Tom Jones to read while waiting for Echo to come out. :)
    oh. and just read the Lord John series all except last BOTB and the Haunted Soldier. All excellent. Do you have any authentic perspective's from gay men in the 18th century, just curious? and

    Also, wondering if Jack Randall was "in" love with his brother, Alex. Or was it the boy who hung himself, Alex McGregor? Why does he call Jamie, Alex when he asks Jamie to tell him that he loves him?

  42. This comment has been removed by the author.

  43. Dear Charlotte--

    Thanks! Yes, I have some material written by (and about) 18th century gay men. There's a brief bibliography in the Author's Notes for BROTHERHOOD--and I think a couple of references cited in the Author's Notes for PRIVATE MATTER, too.

    My thanks also to the several kind and helpful gay male friends, who are always ready to give me Very Uninhibited advice, as well as frank opinions regarding sex scenes. [cough]

  44. Really, how interesting! That must take a few bottles of wine to not blush while those particular pov are being shared! cough indeed.

    and what about Alex? or did you answer that question in the outlandish companion? If you did, I totally understand your not wanting to repeat yourself. -Charlotte

  45. Diana,

    Your blog is wonderful - going "behind the music" with you is great fun.

    I also wanted to comment on the Claire picture. I think she is perfect - thank you for providing this image. You do such a wonderful job of describing everything and "painting" a picture with your words that it seems to have created quite the conundrum for fans of the books.

    I think one thing that people have overlooked - and if they don't have curly hair they wouldn't understand - is that Claire is always BRUSHING her hair. Brushing curls out would make her hair look exactly like it does in the image that you provided. My hair is very much like this - and even without corkscrews when I pull on it, it is quite longer than when it is "puffed" out and it will "spring" back up.

    I do hope that these books are adapted for the screen, but really wish they would be turned into a long running series perhaps on HBO or Showtime. That way the stories could be fleshed out properly and justice given to the wonderful details and varied plots within.

    Also, I think Henry Cavill from "The Tudors" would make a great Jamie - he has blue eyes, is only 6'1, but seems like a big 6'1 and the build and facial bones look right to me. He quite often makes facial expressions that remind me of those described for Jamie. Dye the man's hair red and I think he would do a fine job. (There was even a nice nude scene with him in the first episode that nicely shows his behind, which using your words I have to say was quite "sublime" - if your still looking for examples of Jamie's buttocks, you should check out Mr. Cavill's.)

    I hope the various opinions of your Claire will not prevent you from sharing other images of the characters as they are ready - I am anxiously awaiting to see them and graciously accept your renditions!

    Thank you for everything - you're the greatest!!

  46. I mostly write in a linear fashion and I get the best ideas when I'm in the bathroom or shortly before I go to bed.

  47. Diana:

    This has nothing to do with anything, but I thought I'd let you know that it's my turn to do Quote of the Day on the Books Board at Ladies of Lallybroch. I decided to illustrate the relationship between Jamie and Roger.... starting with Rog revealing to Claire Jamie's survival of Culloden. This is such great fun! I am, however, having a little difficulty finding a perfect final Quote. I'll come up with something -- there's plenty of wonderful material!


  48. Diana -

    I am just fascinated about learning how you organize and write. I'm not a writer by any means, but seeing your end product and going backwards into the works is incredible. Thank you so much for sharing.


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