Michaeline: Organize your Notes with Artificial Intelligence

Modern computers can help you unravel the enigma that is going to be your novel. Use it to store -- and find -- your notes. (A Bombe computing device, via Wikimedia Commons)

Modern computers can help you unravel the enigma that is going to be your novel. Use it to store — and find — your notes. (A Bombe computing device, via Wikimedia Commons)

Almost every writer does research. Some are lucky enough to be able to keep it all in their heads, but most of us need to take notes. It doesn’t matter if your notes are about Regency era dresses, or aesthetically pleasing scale patterns for dragons. Our notes are important ways to help expand our memory capacity. And our computer age allows us to take a phenomenal number of notes! Letter-perfect copies, pasted into documents; PDFs downloaded and saved for leisurely perusal; and one of my currently favorite tools, PRTSC (aka the “print screen” button).

Sometimes a website will have a striking image or a pleasing pattern of text. Or maybe you’re just in a hurry, and don’t want to take the time to transcribe a passage of text on an image or PDF. Or maybe, you can’t copy and paste. This is when that button comes in handy.

By the way, I’m talking about using PRTSC for taking notes for personal use, which I think falls under fair use. As soon as you make those notes public in a blog or printed publication, you have to worry about copyright issues. More on that in a couple of paragraphs. Continue reading

Michaeline: Research vs. Writing, a NaNo Battle Royale

A man trying to escape a circle of files

I don’t feel like this, yet . . . . The hard part is figuring out when I’ve got enough research, and when I’ve boxed myself in with research. (Thanks to Wikimedia Commons)

I’m feeling a little like a NaNo failure this week. Last week, I didn’t make my word count, but at least I wrote every single day. This week, I didn’t make my word count, and only wrote three days. The plot for the next several scenes is in my head, but not on the page, and that feels like a failure to me.

I did research, though. I don’t think NaNo is really set up for historical novels, unless the writer already has a firm “historical world” built up in her or his head already. I’m finding it so difficult to write without a firm patch under my feet. The research really is necessary.

On the other hand, I spent all of October “researching” – rather directionless with only a vague idea as to location (New York, which is a very big city), and time (1880 to 1914 – which is a time of huge change). It’s only when I started writing that my research started forming that firm patch beneath my feet.

All I can say is thank goodness I’m writing in a time with lots of newspapers, pictures, photographs and people recording what went on – the exciting thing is that Edison’s wax records were available in 1899, Continue reading

Justine: Map Freak

Oatland Park (#61) from Patterson's 24 Miles Around London (1791).

Oatland Park (#61) from Patterson’s 24 Miles Around London (1791).

I’m not sure whether it comes from my dad or my love of history (probably both), but I love looking at maps…especially old maps. Before I started writing, I never really had a reason to purchase old maps, but now that I’m knee-deep in the Regency, my map passion has taken on a life of its own.

In London this past fall, I purchased (and Jilly bought for me — thank you!) a couple of interesting things from Stanfords. One was Patterson’s 24-miles Around London (1791). Want to know where the Rt. Hon. Wm. Pitt lived? Near Holwood Hill in Kent. Where was HRH the Duke of York’s estate? In Surrey, south of Houndslow Heath, along the Thames (it was called Oatland Park). I’m finding it incredibly invaluable for naming estates, neighbors, towns, etc.; finding out what local landmarks are nearby (Woolwich Marsh); and other things that I hope will add to the realism of my story. Continue reading