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?