Emacs Writing Tips: What to do When You’ve Finished a Novel

Just because the novel is finished, it doesn’t mean the file it was written on is done with. Experience suggests the file is something that I will return to over the coming months. Here are a few reasons:

  • Blurbs, summaries and press releases will need to be written
  • This being the age of Social Media,  Blog and Guest Blog entries will need to be written
  • I may wish to refer to events when writing a sequel
  • There may be another novel or short story to be written in the same setting
  • There will be unused ideas that can be used elsewhere.

The following process is intended to tidy up the file, removing the chaff and sorting the useful stuff into some sort of order. It’s well worth the time.
First, use org-sparse-tree to check for unfinished TODOs.  In my setup, this brings up TODOs and IDEAs

C-c / t

Here’s a short example from Dream Paris, my latest novel

** TODO P.232 More explanation of (2)You and You(2)?
** TODO Get Mr Monagan mentioned earlier
** TODO Do something about the Tu Vous numbers
** TODO Why is Anna the Hero of Dream Paris?
** TODO Where did Kaolin's intelligence come from?
** TODO Kaolin speaks a leetle like this.  Good 'ealth!

Go through and mark those TODOs which have been done as DONE
Find the PAUSED ideas in a similar way and change them to TODOs (they might be useful in other stories)


Now begin the process of sorting. Add three headings at the beginning of the file.

* A General Ideas
* B Blog
* C Sequel

Mark up the remaining TODOs using Shift up and down to give them a priority of A (for General Ideas), B (for Blog) and C (for Sequel) (I don’t use org-mode priorities, so this is just a quick way of marking up)

Now that the notes are categorised, copy them to the appropriate heading, ready for refiling. There are a number of ways this can be done. Here are a couple to get you going.

Use org-sparse-tree to identify the individual entries and then org-refile to the appropriate heading:

C-c / / #A     Find all the #A General ideas
C-c C-w            Refile to appropriate heading

Make a copy of the buffer and then use keep-lines to flush all lines that do not contain the regexp #A. Copy the remaining lines to the appropriate heading.

Repeat for #B and #C

At the end of all that, I’m left with a list of notes ready to be transferred to other files. Here’s an edited sample.

 * A General Ideas
 ** TODO [#A] Vive L'indifference!
 ** TODO [#A] Wallace Fountains
 ** IDEA [#A] Diagonal Anneka
 ** IDEA [#A] Geppetto (8 or 35)
 * B Blog
 ** TODO [#B] This is an adult story.  In real life, kids shouldn't be expected to save their parents.
 ** TODO [#B] Anna and Francis Orangina
 ** IDEA [#B] The wine scene
 * C Sequel
 ** TODO [#C] Soldiers with guns saying (12)Mine
 ** TODO [#C] Dream Paris Courtesans
 ** TODO [#C] Walking around Dream Paris
 ** TODO [#C] German Brass Band Instruments

Now it’s time to start the next novel…

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