Friday, August 26, 2016

Getting it together ... "it" being the nitty gritty, of course

I blogged recently about my process for kicking off a book. I'm into writing it now (chapter 3 done, 12 more to go). As others have noted, there's more to it than just figuring out the basic plot points. Here're a few other things that are involved.

First is The Book. Every story of mine has a special notebook, usually something picked up at random while browsing in the office supply store. Not a spiral book per se, but something small, portable, and well, "right" for writing.

I create sections with those marvelous sticky tabs: Who, Where, Timeline, Snippets, Misc. In this book, "Misc" contains bits about the book on which I am basing this one (it's a Remembered Classics book, so I need some details from the original book). Then it's on to details.

Characters: I need to have pictures of people in my books. I always use actors and then describe them in rather broad terms so their identity is somewhat unknown. I find pictures of them and keep them in The Book. I jot down info about them: age, height, weight, eye color, nervous trait, favorite startled expression ("Holy crap!" "Damn", etc.) I do this for the major players in the book, villain and hero alike.

Where: oh, I love this part. I look at house plans and find the perfect houses for my people. This book takes place in a mansion and I had a firm idea in my mind of the floor plan. So I had to go online and skim through various plans until I found the right one. Then I skimmed through assorted designer sites for furniture, etc. I've designed so many lovely homes this way.

Snippets: these are the scenes that pop into my head when the characters start to speak in my brain. Sometimes this is just a cryptic note or two ("Charlie sees stray dog; approaches; John acts like she's crazy; contrast: she trusts; he doesn't"). Fuller scenes goes into the Snip file on my computer.

Timeline: I keep two types of timelines. Every character has a back story, so I'll jot down what their timeline is ("Charlie married when she was 22; her husband died when she was 30; she retired at age 50").

And I also write out the timeline for the story as I write it with one or two points from the chapter  ("Chapter 1: August 15/Sunday night; sticky humid day: Charlies agrees to interview for job. John comes to her house. She insists on taking her car to the mansion").

The timeline bit is really important because I need to track the days, the weather, etc. so there's continuity from chapter to chapter. I normally write a book from start to finish, but I do get interrupted now and then and it's good to have those reminders.

So that's the setup for the writing. Now it's just a matter of getting the story that's in my head down on paper. Piece of cake, right?


Leah St. James said...

You are so organized, JL. I'd say I'm inspired except I know I'd buy the perfect notebook, add the sticky tabs and labels, and then forget to use it. I usually end up scribbling notes on scraps of paper and tossing them on my desk...not the best system. Maybe I should give it a try! I love your idea of a character timeline. I've always done story timelines, but not for a character. Makes a lot of sense. Thanks for sharing more of your process!

Diane Burton said...

I keep a lot of the same records digitally and add to it as I write. In my PI mystery series, I really need to keep a calendar of events for many of the same reasons you listed. Notebooks wouldn't work for me because, like Leah, I'd forget to use it. Congrats on finding what works for you, JL.

Jannine Gallant said...

You are the organization queen! I used to be but not so much anymore. I created a town once with a Paint program since it was part of a series and I couldn't remember if the movie theater was on the corner of pine or fir etc. etc. That was super helpful. Great tips!

Rolynn Anderson said...

Thanks for giving us some details on your process, JL. I love how you make a book for each novel archiving pictures, plans and info. Brilliant idea. Vpike and Google maps have helped me describe real places...but the house plan idea drills the detail down even better!

Margo Hoornstra said...

You definitely are the queen of organization. Great idea finding actual floor plans to keep logistics.straight. Whenever notebooks go on sale, I buy them in bulk for pen to paper notes. It's the computer notes I usually lose track of. Thanks for the insight, JL

Barbara Edwards said...

I envy your organizational skills. I just pile things on my desk. Thanks for sharing.