Friday, March 15, 2013

In collecting tax information and making notes for your novel - SAVE EVERYTHING!



I have yellow pads all over the house in which I make notes for my next proposal.  There's even one in the basement on the chance inspiration will strike while I'm doing laundry.  My sophisticated process is to rip out all pages that pertain to the book, collect them into a folder, then try to make sense of all of it when it's time.

The day after I finished my revision for the August book, I began collecting our tax documents and other information to deliver to our accountant - my old boss.  I noticed a strange parallel to putting together a proposal.  So I offer this advice.

Make notes on your receipts.  No matter how memorable a split transaction seems at the time, come next April, you'll have forgotten that you banked a $1,000 signing check, took out $200 of it, spent $100 on paper, toner cartridges, and other supplies, and the other $100 on wild  partying because you're solvent again!  Make sure to note all deductible expenses because a good accountant will meticulously record every postage stamp and ream of paper.

Weirdly, this reminded me of following my hero's and heroine's conflict process down to the very last "Why?" I write it all down sitting in a corner of the sofa with a yellow pad. The slow work of cursive letters helps me think it through . . .  The heroine is tough because her father left her and her mother when she was a young teen.  She became tougher because her mother couldn't cope and she had to make decisions.  She grew up assuming all responsibility.  Now she's too tough.  She's sealed off from the world.  Where does she go from here?  How does she connect to the hero?

Your younger brains may prefer to take notes on the computer, or you might not even have to take down every thought, but standing right in the way of my creativity is worry about Ron's health, about my children's and grandchildren's issues, about meeting expenses, about the state of the world, etc.  I'm sure you all have your own distracting concerns.   I have to make notes of every thought relating to my proposal or it'll get lost behind everything else in my head.

Another good argument for my yellow pads is that when I dismiss an idea as no good and scratch it out, I can still read it when I decide the new idea is no better and I want to go back to the old one.  The delete key on the computer doesn't allow that.

Just as good records allow me a complete financial picture of the last year, thorough notes help me build a solid structure under and through my story so that character and plot wind together well.  (I'm imagining Victoria reading this and thinking, "What?!  Does she really think she does that?"  Maybe I don't, but that's always the plan.

Other strange, random thoughts on the yellow pad - I take notes at an angle so that I'm not restricted by the lines.  I often have trouble feeling really artful and creative, so I do everything I can to encourage those things.  I save every scrap I ever made a note on because there might be some nugget there I can use.  I circle and underline and doodle because when I go back to a note, sometimes that odd mark beside it helps me remember what I was thinking when I made the note and that goes more deeply into my brain than the simple words, helping me recapture the feeling. 

The worlds of accounting and writing romance have more in common than you'd think.  They're both about profit and loss.  Make notes so that you don't lose anything, and there's such profit in writing that we're all emotional millionaires.  Right?





13 comments:

  1. Great advice, and I really REALLY need to follow it.

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  2. When Ron used to put our tax stuff together, he ragged on me about that all the time and I thought it was too much trouble and ignored him. Now that I have to do it, it's a different story! And in regards to note-taking for writing, it helps my memory so much.

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  3. Hi Muriel!

    I write on an angle too! Mostly when an idea strikes me while driving (I'm a terrible hazard on the road). Interesting post-I have to start keeping receipts this year:)

    xo
    Jen

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    1. See? Great minds . . . But what state do you live in? We'll keep off the road! Or buy you a tape recorder. (Do they still use those, or is there some way to record on an ipod?)

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    2. I'm in Canada so you're all safe lol. I have a voice recorder on my phone, but I the creative juices don't flow unless I have a pen in my hand lol:)

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  4. Muriel, I have note pads with pens attached all over the house. People who visit almost always comment on it, wondering if I'm pre-Alzheimers. Ha! I could be pre-almost anything. When it comes to keeping tax information, Vicki Lewis Thompson is the one who is most responsible for me "trying" to do a better job. She carries a notebook in which she logs every time we meet for lunch or dinner with other authors, and logs her mileage. I was always hap-hazzard about record keeping. My tax man likes all of those nitty gritty details and he nags, too. I was better this year, because my accountant wants even the names of the people I do brainstorming lunches with, or who is present if we invite out of town authors/agent/or editors and take them out. I'm also better about separating research book from pleasure reading books now as I often buy both in one trip to Barnes and Noble. Good post, Muriel.

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    1. Good point about separating learning books from pleasure books. I often forget to do that. What do you do when you buy, say, Nora Roberts to learn from as well as enjoy?

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  5. I love the term "emotional millionaires" :) I've always loved a yellow pad. It is the best part of every teacher meeting I've ever attended. I take tons of notes on them that I know I'll never read because they are just so much fun (and weirdly satisfying?) to write on... as for plotting- I do use the computer and my hard drive is packed with this version and that version- some synopsis I've submitted have over seven different versions... but I just can't let go of ideas because I always think that I may have use for it some day. Thanks for this terrific post, Muriel :)

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    1. I have that same 'hoarding of ideas' tendency. I'm always afraid if I let anything go, I'll never be able to recapture it. There's nothing like that first blush of thought.

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  6. Wow, this is great and timely advice. I'm thinking I need to do less thinking on my computer and more on paper. Because you're right: once I hit delete, it's gone. Hmmm..... the mind is firing right now LOL.

    Thanks, Muriel!

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    1. Good for you, Syndi! My mind requires an 8-inch gun to get firing! But the yellow pad does help.

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  7. Muriel,
    Good point about what is a research book and what is pleasure reading. I never list for tax info pleasure books, but of course we learn from them. I have only listed books I specifically buy for research on a career, a setting place, or books on writing. Hm...I may be missing out some tax advantages. Roz

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    1. Roz - I'm going to call my old boss and see if he has any thoughts. I'm guessing they might not be deductible, but as romance writers, our situation is a little differents so, - maybe. Will let everyone know.

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