IWSG 39: How Do You Remember It All?

This post was written for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group where we share our encouragement or insecurities on the first Wednesday of the month, to join the group or find out more click here.




| Christine Rains | Dolarah @ Book Lover | Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor |

| Yvonne Ventresca | LG Keltner |


What are your pet peeves when reading/writing/editing?

When I read a book on how to write, I’m re-reading something I’ve already learned. My pet peeve: why can’t I remember all the information all the time?

I’ve read how-to books until my eyes ached. I spent hours seeking new methods, or inspiring myself by reading Top Ten First Lines, or Best First Lines or….

Not immediately recalling what I need to know seems like such a waste of time. But I’ll remind myself as necessary, because under all the non-creative parts of writing are the reasons I began to write in the first place.

Whether I remember all the mechanics of writing or not, it’s something I force myself to do. I want to be the best storyteller possible—for me at least. Doing less would just embarrass me later.

What about you, do you remember everything? How you do you keep all the facets where you need them?


82 responses to “IWSG 39: How Do You Remember It All?

  1. I have the worst memory, which can be frustrating at times. On the other hand, things are always new to me, even if I’ve experienced them before 🙂

  2. I don’t remember everything I read. If I think something is important, then I’ll mark it somehow, either by highlighting the line(s) or writing them down in a file.

  3. I’m in the same boat. If it’s a plot/story line from X amount of years ago, I can remember it, if not all then the bares bones of the story went. But the do’s and don’ts of writing, don’t even bother. Especially when it comes to grammer. It’s like my mind is a sieve. Like Cherie, I’d have to highlight it and sometimes dog ear the page. So I can go back to it later to refresh my memory.

  4. Nope, can’t remember everything I read. I don’t even really read writing how-to books, though. I don’t always find them terribly useful.

  5. LOL, I don’t. I make lists, take notes, but I still go hunting again when I remember but I don’t remember.
    Juneta @ Writer’s Gambit

  6. Yeah, I don’t remember much of what I should either. That’s why I have little files in my special folder, like ‘plot idea’ or ‘reasons for blackmail’ or some such. Just a few words are often enough to trigger important memory.

  7. It’s quite frustrating not to remember everything. That’s why I’ve decided that all my writing craft books will be actual books so I can add post-its in the margins with notes for the really important stuff… well, what’s important at that moment 😉

    • What is important for the moment is important to me too. I hope that posting my discoveries would help me, but I’m still working on how to find them once a few months have passed.

  8. LOL I don’t even try because it gets messy when half of the information and rules contradict each other.

  9. I so wish I could remember all the great advice I’ve read in those how-to/craft books! I’ve gotten better, at least, at keeping and marking up those books that really speak to me and passing on other books that didn’t.

  10. I read the rules for guide lines. As stated before they are constantly being broken, twisted, or STRETCHED… If we concentrate on what others tell us, we lose our own voice and style. That is the uniqueness of each writer. Come up with your OWN spin and create something beautiful that others will want to emulate.

  11. I never remember all the rules I’ve read in how to books. I’m sure I must be breaking a whole lot of them, all the time, every time.

  12. It gets bad when you’re writing a series. I have to keep notes to remember all the details of my characters’ lives. @mirymom1 from
    Balancing Act

  13. Oh! I like that pet peeve. I definitely do not remember everything and sometimes I get so frustrated because I can’t even remember some of my own scene paths I have carefully mapped out and I ended up changing them for the worse. Sigh. I am working on a better means of working and writing. I also love it too much to quit. Have a great rest of your week.

  14. I sometimes have trouble remembering the line I just wrote. I think creative people are only meant to remember so much because our minds focus on creating and not remembering or calculating. I take lots of notes and rely heavily on others to offer me feedback and corrections, hopefully in a critical non-hateful way. Just keep writing, improvement is in our nature. Thanks for stopping by my blog.

  15. I take notes, but I do tend to have to look back over those notes to get a refresher course.

  16. I think unless you practice something over and over, it’s hard to memorize. If it’s a rule you don’t use often, you’re going to find yourself looking it up repeatedly.

  17. I use Scrivener to keep everything together– couldn’t write without that– I leave myself notes so I can watch out for and improve stuff I suck at.

  18. That’s what editing is for. =) I have layer edits where I try to focus on just a couple aspects at a time until the whole package is complete. Sometimes it works, sometimes I jump the gun. When heavily writing though, I tend to study writing books simultaneously. Usually while exercising.

  19. Suzanne Furness

    It can be a tricky process indeed! Post it notes are always good, and I have been known to highlight passages if I think I might need to refer to them later.

  20. Hi,
    When it comes to remembering numbers or codes, I have no problems. Usually I have a hard time remembering that I have to eat and that happens when I am writing.
    Shalom aleichem,
    Patricia at Everything Must Change

  21. I’m not sure it’s healthy to stress over remembering everything. That’s what revising is for. And a great critique group will help you find areas in the story that need work.

  22. I’ve always had reading comprehension issues, ever since I was a kid. I could read it, consume all of it, and not be able to tell you a lick of what it was I just read. For that reason, I mostly lean toward audiobooks or converting text to speech, because if I hear it, I can probably give you an exact recount of what was said. It’s not so much as a hindrance in critiquing because I make notes as I progress and as I see them. So even if I couldn’t tell you what happened after I finish the chapter, I can at least provide notes of what I saw in the moment.

  23. Most of the rules of writing can be broken in the right circumstances for the right effect – in the past few years since my attention’s been drawn to it, I’ve noticed writers who don’t use speech marks around dialogue at times.

    As for remembering things, I keep changing character names by accident because I forget what I had planned to call them…

  24. Groan, I hear this! I have such a bad memory I was checked for premature demential years ago. I have to reread chapters if I leave the book for more than a night. X

  25. I probably have as many how to books as you, and no I don’t remember most of it either. So I go off and do what I want. Write what I want. I do what works for me. Maybe someday someone will ask me how to? LOL 🙂 Have fun, that’s all that really counts Stressing over the how to isn’t worth it!!! Make it yours!!!!

  26. I think I’m a little like you, where I’ll have to go back and re-google something like ‘best first lines.’ And I’m always doubting my grammar, checking to make sure I remember a rule correctly. 🙂

  27. I definitely don’t remember everything. I need to remind myself, re-learn a rule I’ve learned a thousand times before, and continually read books on writing. It gets easier when I put what I’ve learned into practice, but it’s not a guarantee that I will remember later down the track.

  28. Yeah, just because I’ve read it a bunch of times already doesn’t mean I’ll remember it while I’m writing. My only hope is to read about some technique of writing right after I’ve finished a chapter that needs help. Then I can immediately go back and apply what I’ve learned.

  29. Sandra Ulbrich Almazan

    I don’t mind being reminded of things I previously learned. Sometimes you have to review information several times before you digest it.

  30. I remember by writing it down. When I read how-to books, I make notes of the salient points and refer back to them as needed. Otherwise, forget it.

  31. To remember anything I have to write it down. I have a paper calendar and one on my phone. For writing, I keep a file of details–characters (descriptions, careers, etc.), locale, timeline, and so on.

  32. Isn’t that what editors are for? Just kidding, of course. But, it would be nice if all we needed to do was put the story down and focus on the creative aspect, while someone else can deal with the form, structure, grammar and spelling.

    I have an awful memory and it is one of the reasons I keep a diary since I was 14. Before that age, I probably didn’t care. 🙂 It is also why I can enjoy movies again years later, just like you. If only all the important information was gathered in one non-fiction book that we could reference at any time… Yep. This is a struggle, but I hope that practice will incorporate all those pieces of wisdom over time.

  33. I have the worst memory. But I think things stick in our minds more than we realize. We get them on a more subconscious level. And we definitely remember the things that are important. But the good thing about not having a good memory is that you can reread those books and still get something new out of them!

  34. I have a fairly eclectic method of flagging pages of books (I’m not much of a highlighter), cutting articles out of magazine, and sticky notes. Rereading tends to give me a “oh yeah, I remember that moment.” For the actual project, I have a character notes folder that I update occasionally and a fictional town map with landscape notes. I don’t know how much it all helps me remember, but it is an impressive amount of paper spread around.

  35. Remember everything? Is that possible?
    Are there writers who actually remember the rules while they’re writing? Maybe the younger ones with stronger memories, hehehe… 🙂

  36. I definitely don’t remember everything, but I keep working at each draft and hoping that I get most of them eventually.

  37. When I first started writing I voraciously read writing help books. And they did help. After so many though, they all started to contradict each other. Or repeat. I learned to filter what made sense to me.

  38. What I enjoy about the creative process is just letting myself go and letting the words flow. With fiction writing, I try to regard rules as just suggestions.

  39. You do the best you can, absorb the most you can and go from there. As long as you keep going 😉

  40. I like to think that the stuff we read about in all those craft books seeps into our deeper subconscious, stains the fabric of our writing minds, and changes what our writing looks and sounds like without our being fully aware of it. As someone who also reads craft books like someone with a mild OCD issue, I can empathize with your frustrations. But it’s like becoming a veteran driver. We all had to learn the rules of the road when we first got our licenses. It was by driving (a lot, and in a variety of conditions) that those rules became innate. We draw upon them without realizing it now. If you’re writing your own stuff regularly, then put trust in the fact that a lot more of all that advice you’ve read and re-read is impacting you as a writer. Good luck, and keep up the good fight.

If you're new to writing, ask me anything and if you're experienced, feel free to share what you know. Learning something new in the craft is always welcome.

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