I’m unsure of how many other authors do this, but maintaining “production logs” for major projects has been a habit I’ve kept for the last few years. This all started back in college, when I was dragging myself through the mud to finish the “final draft” of Master of Monsters.
In all likelihood, it’s pretty obvious to you what a production log is. The term is almost “cinematic” in a way, or at least, it is to me. And I like the way it sounds and how it rolls off my tongue. Makes me feel like a professional business artsy-fartsy-type instead of a deadbeat shmuck who mooches off her parents under the delusional pretense that stories about sealing monsters in glass orbs, talking animals who wield swords and magic, and homages to all things 1990s anime and Don Bluth era motion picture features will ever make her a dime in the Canadian YA literary market.
To me, a production log is, in all intents and purposes a diary related to all events, incidents, insecurities, triumphs, and failures that surround the subject of the project involved. Not so much writing about what I ate for breakfast that morning, or how much of a fucking two-timing slut that bitch Lindsay is (unless — of course — Lindsay stole my precious “baby” and changed all the names and published it under her own name, and just to twist the serrated blade, went and blackmailed my editor).
No, a production log serves a greater purpose. For example, when I was in the midst of bashing my brains against the computer monitor over MoM, I started the production log so that I could track of events that happened in the novel, notes of affirmation and experiences related to publishing, writing, and marketing the project, as well as a fully drawn out history of how the story came into fruition way back in high school, who supported me through that time, and how the story and characters have changed over the years.
I do this for a couple of reasons. The most important is for mental health. No, really. Something that absolutely concerns me as I grow older is Alzheimer’s disease. Not that it really runs in the family (The only person I know who suffered from anything remotely similar was my Uncle Bill, who passed away due to dementia.) Honest to God, if my brain begins to rot, and I start to lose these powerful memories related to the most important creative experiences of my whole life, I want to be gat-dang sure I have a record of everything that I may look back on, or that my family can look back on, with great pleasure.
The second reason I do this is for the sake of marketing and publicity. Yeah, I know, it’s shallow as fuck and I totally admit this. But when it comes time to face the possible fact that I may be interviewed over one of my projects, I want to be sure as hell prepared as best as possible. Put me up against a wall: my brain goes blank and my tongue falls off. If there is an important aspect or theme of a book, I want know that it is recorded so that I can go back and explain to… Oh I don’t know, Ralph Hapschat of Denton TV … how Master of Monsters explores “deep” themes and constructs of homosexuality in a small town Catholic elementary school.
Finally, production logs are a great fallback, just in case stupid Lindsay does steal your work, and you need to provide proof in court that those million dollar rights to the Chris Columbus feature coming out next year (hahaha) are, in fact, entitled to you as well as whatever other copyright losses there are to your intellectual property. Remember, kids: Authorship is a legitimate business practice – not just some angst-ridden cry for attention from your family or Tumblr followers.
In any case, I think production logs simply make a lot of sense. From a personal perspective, I think they’re a lot of fun to not only write out, but to read back on. It’s actually pretty amazing the things you had forgotten that simply spill from the pen. If this is something you’re interested in pursuing, whether you’re an author, illustrator, or whatever – I’d say go for it.
The advice I’d give you is to not think too hard when you go to write it out. And for the love of God, don’t do it all at once. It’s an obvious truth but I know some of you reading this have just let out a long breath of relief. Let the memories flow back to you. The brain will naturally work itself in-tune with your pen. Don’t beat yourself up if you remember things out of chronological order. White Out is your friend in those situations. Or – even better, just go with it and slap together a “final draft” production log later. I’ve honestly blotted out whole paragraphs to include a year’s worth of forgotten material. Maybe that’s a little insane on my part – but I wouldn’t be an author if I wasn’t bat shit crazy.
To end off, production logs kick ass. I think as I continue working through the third draft of Quest for the Crystals, it would be a lot of fun to publish snippets of the log here on the site. That book has such a storied history that is just so personal to me. I’d love to share some excerpts with you all.
Until next time, keep writing.