Isn’t it fascinating to hear how other writers plot and create their stories? Only recently I found myself exploring this very subject, even trying out a couple of processes like the post-it note board and Scrivener. Although these processes are great, for me it was like trying on hats that didn’t quite fit.
To some, my writing process might be considered clumsy and cumbersome, but I have come to accept that it is my process. For better or worse, it is how my mind works.
I write full length novels which I am supposed to keep around the 100K mark but always go over. I have two series on the go, having completed the first novel in both, and am writing the sequels simultaneously. Both series are quite different from each other, including the writing style. One is written in first person, present tense, and the other, third person, past tense.
In my mind, the characters live their fictional lives in mini-worlds. It’s easy to keep track of the details of the hero and heroine in both stories as they are as vivid – if not more so – than the people I actually know. It is harder to keep track of the incidental characters, like the colour hair of the person who works in the bakery down the street.
So this is what I do.
I have folders. Huge leather folders, with tabs and dividers. For each series I have a document titled, ‘cast’. I create pictures and a bio on every single character in the story, adding it as soon as they pop up in the story. This serves as an invaluable and easy-reference guide. The details include, where applicable, facts about the character’s history, past, parent’s, down to the make and model of the gun they carry.
I have matching folders electronically on my laptop. I have two ‘working files’ for each series. One titled ‘manuscript’, another ‘additional’. Additional is where I write any scenes that are out of sequence. I usually have an overall idea of how the story will play out (mostly), so it is only a matter of finding the time to get it out of my head and onto the screen. At any point in time, I may have some major scenes written and stored in ‘additional’ which I then cut and paste when the ‘manuscript’ catches up.
I write in bursts, and I write everywhere. I might be driving along, and suddenly know how to write the next scene. I have notebooks everywhere, and carry one with me wherever I go. I would feel anxious if I left home without something to write on. I write to music, using playlists to match the mood of the scene I am creating. And I always write in pencil.
The issue I have in choosing to work this way is keeping it organised, hence my recent research into other processes as I mentioned earlier. But I found that all I really needed to do was transfer my messy notes into my ‘additional’ file frequently so that my notebooks didn’t end up filled with pages and pages of multiple books and scenes. Far from a chore, the transfer process is actually the catalyst to help me ‘get into the zone’ for the writing of the next section.
As you can probably guess, I use the same process for including information about the timeframe, location, town name, pics, population etc. Anything I come across that I think could relate to my stories gets printed out and put in the colour coded in trays. (Did I forget to mention that?) Yes, sadly I admit to also having colour coded in-trays to keep track of which information belongs to which series. Purple for one, black for the other.
I am sure there is an easier way to do this. But as convoluted and confusing as this may sound to you, to me it works.
So, for better or worse, this is my process.
Now that we have all shared what works for us, we would love to hear from you and hope you take a moment to share your process with us. Perhaps you have discovered some tips that you are willing to share? Whatever it is, we would love to hear from you.
Until next time, happy writing. Karen x