Monday 11 September 2023: Anatomy of a messy desk

I hate to be greeted by such an untidy desk…

So this was the sight that greeted me when I went into the office this morning. I can’t stand an untidy desk and I can’t work at one. But this is how I left it on… Wednesday last week. Yes, Wednesday. And not a single item has moved. Why? Because I fell down a complete rabbit hole and stayed there until well after tea on Friday.

The anatomy of my messy desk

Starting in the bottom left of the picture… the pile of paper on the desk is the current proofreading job. The one that’s around 500 pages. On top of that is my Filo-Fax, still opened at Tuesday and Wednesday. On top of that is an empty blue jelly (plastic wallet). It’s empty because what was in it is strewn across the desk.

On top of the blue jelly is a bundle of two notebooks: a shorthand (reporter’s) notebook and an A5 paperback notebook. These contain early versions of early chapters of The Beast Within. They’re bundled up in a rubber band because I’m not using those at the moment. There’s a packet of tissues and then there’s a printout on top of two more notebooks.

The first book, a chunkier paperback A5 notebook, can just be seen beneath the printout. That has planning notes for The Beast Within inside. The hardback A5 book underneath it is the actual notebook I used when I was planning Night Crawler… back in 1996. In 1996 I only had one notebook per book on the go. Somehow, between then and now, it’s grown to four, and I want to consolidate it back down to one.

The red notebook contains biography notes for Marcie and a few other recurring characters as well as some location notes. I’ll only be stripping out what’s pertinent to The Beast Within, and then this book can go back on the shelf. The printout on top of these two notebooks is eleven pages of writealong I prepared for Project Management for Writers: Gate 2.

Next to that pile is Save the Cat Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody, still open at the page I was working from about the main character’s ‘why’ of the story. I’d never given Marcie Craig a ‘why’ before, other than wanting to solve a case for whatever reason. For The Beast Within I’m giving her a mini-character arc, and I hope it makes her more likeable. The poet bought me the hard copy of Save the Cat because I loved the ebook so much.

Save the Cat is leaning on a pile of handwritten and typed pages. Some of it is early versions of early chapters again. Some of it is previously worked planning notes. Some of it is A4, torn out of A4 books or printed out. Some of it is A5, torn out of A5 books or shorthand notebooks. There are seven bundles, each fastened with a paperclip.

Finally, to the right of those and in front of the computer keyboard is the current planning A5 journal/notebook. It’s open at a page for Marcie Craig and it’s written in green ink, for character notes. This book is where I want to consolidate all of the above, apart from, that is, the early written chapters. This A5 book is spiral bound and it matches an A4 book in which I’ll handwrite the revised first draft of the book.

You can also see my ClickUp calendar on the computer screen, and my real calendar on the wall with the last week of September marked out in blue highlighter pen as holiday. On the monitor riser (made for me by the poet) you can see a pink plastic dachshund. That’s a pen one of the kids bought me as a stocking filler. The ball is an eyeball that you’re supposed to squidge when you feel stressed.

Everything else is the usual gubbins you might find on my desk at any one time plus the compact red pencil case the poet bought for me to put in my book bag for when he goes fishing and I take some work to do. There’s a pile of pencil tins at the back of the desk, with a paperweight on. I use these tins too, and each of them has a full set of blue, black, red and green pens, a pencil, pencil sharpener, rubber (eraser) and ruler.

The blue wire baskets on top of my laser printer have shredding (to do) in the top and filing in the bottom.

So what happened? Why was my desk left in such a mess last Wednesday?

I forgot about the story! 😱

After all of my careful planning. After spending time creating the artwork and the book cover. After making sure it was on my calendar, in my diary, on my ClickUp… I completely forgot about the 12 Stories in 12 Months story that was due in on Wednesday at midnight.

How did this happen when I was so prepared?

I disappeared down a stupid winding, twisty rabbit hole where I remained for days.

On Wednesday… I was researching a replacement for my Kindle Paperwhite. I thought I’d ordered the latest model, but the model I’d ordered was actually just the basic Kindle. So I cancelled the order – again – and started looking into alternatives.

The latest Paperwhite looks like it might do the job, apart from the independent connectivity. But it’s bigger in real size than my current model, which is a 5th generation. Yes, it has loads more storage, 16Gb v 2Gb, but it’s the size of my Huawei tablet, which isn’t the size of a paperback book I can easily hold in one hand due to its uber-slimness.

Also, it seems the Paperwhites no longer have independent connectivity and many are failing to work even on people’s household wi-fi connections. Yup, instead of making their basic and ink e-readers work with the times, Amazon seem to making them more and more difficult to use. And let us not forget that Amazon can pull an account at any time on a whim and bam! there go all of your books. I want to keep mine.

Off I went in search of an alternative ink e-reader and it seems they all have pros and cons, they all have people who love them and people who hate them. And they all use epub format and can’t read the Amazon epub formats…

So off I went again to see if I could make my existing extensive library compatible with more e-readers instead of just Amazon’s, and yes I can. Or books bought before January 2023 can be converted. (DISCLAIMER: Purely for my own use. I have no intention of benefitting commercially from the conversions, which is illegal.)

I made sure I had all of my Kindle library backed up, and then off I went again, this time making them compatible with other devices.

Or most of them. There are close on 500 that can only be read on a Kindle device or app. All bought this year.

And that’s where Wednesday vanished too, in a puff of thin air.

When I remembered, the following morning at about 6am right after the dog wanted out, I was so cross with myself I was still awake an hour later. Then I told myself that while it was true I had missed this month’s deadline, it wasn’t all bad. I could always start again next month. And then I told myself that at least I had eight brand-new short stories that I wouldn’t have otherwise even written this year, and I sold one too.

I missed the deadline on Wednesday, but I still decided to work the story, taking it to Plottr where I could make it meatier and longer.

In between I did some more admin work on my ebooks and converted a load more that wouldn’t convert before. I had to download an older version of Kindle for PC in order to do it, but I did it. I’ll probably keep the older version too.

And that is why I was greeted by such an untidy desk this morning. Usually the desk is pristine and I can get to work on something straight away. This morning I had to tidy up before I could start.

But it’s good news too. It means I was working on something of mine, and I’ll carry on working on it this week. I may as well. It’s all out, after all. I’ll just put it all on a pile and work my way down it.

Moving on…

On Thursday I found out that I could convert books bought this year as well, so I set about doing that. And it took me all day to do the conversions. On Friday I started to upload them all to Google Play, but I made a mistake.

When Calibre converts an ebook to epub, it produces three files:

  • the epub file
  • a jpg for the cover
  • an opf file

I have no idea what the opf file is, but the mistake I made was uploading the entire directory to Google Play thinking it would only grab the epub files.

It didn’t. It also grabbed the opf files.

I also thought it would ignore any duplicates.

It didn’t. It uploaded all of those too.

In all, it uploaded more than 2,500 files, and I think we’re only supposed to upload 2,000 to Google Play.

So the rest of Friday was spent removing all of those opf files and any duplicates. I didn’t finish the job, but I do believe I made a massive dent. I’ll carry on, but I’ll do a page at a time rather than sit and bash away at it for entire days on end.

The weekend

We had a busy weekend, doing the shopping, spending time in the garden, visiting. Plus, the poet had a gig on Saturday night. I dropped him off and went back a couple of hours later, just before they went on. This is so the dog is left for as little time as possible. He’s been a bit more skitty since Holly died, but if he’s had his drugs, he usually sleeps for a few hours anyway.

Oh, but it was so hot at the weekend, which was something I took into account when writing up this week’s meal plan. Neither of us wanted to be standing in the kitchen cooking or baking when it was so hot outside. On Saturday we had a nice chicken salad. On Sunday we had a nice (tinned) salmon salad. And we bought cake and biscuits this week.

Today we still have salad but it’s a lot cooler and I think the poet is going to make a quiche.


Today is the 22nd anniversary of 9/11. I didn’t know anyone who was killed that day and beyond, but I do have friends who did lose people. It’s those friends I think of today.

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6 thoughts on “Monday 11 September 2023: Anatomy of a messy desk

  1. I wondered what you’d gotten up to! My goodness, every tech thing makes more work not less, and it’s so frustrating, isn’t it?

    Hey, do you want an invite code for Blueksy? It has its issues, but there are more and more writers, editors, agents, publishers on there. I can email you an invite code if you would like one.

    For some reason, this 9/11 is a very rough one. So much hypocrisy in the media, so I’m staying away from a lot of it. The Table of Silence performance at Lincoln Center was beautiful, though.

    1. I’m coming this close to throwing whatever tech I don’t actually need out of the window! And going back to basics. It’s more trouble than it’s worth at times.

      Yes please, do send me an invitation. The chatter I’m seeing coming out of there is all good.

  2. I’ll email you the code. It’s not for the faint of heart; it’s got more than its share of shitposters on there, but you can block them/curate feeds. #author feed is the liveliest, I’ve found.

  3. I find the same rabbit hole many times. I hate technology, and I know it hates me, so I keep my use of it really basic.
    As I catch up I’m sure you will have crawled out and caught up. xx

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