Midweek Technique – writing a novel (or series) for the busy writer

I was actually going to call this post “writing for the shark brain” (on account of sharks having a three-second retentive memory) but I think  ‘busy writer’ is nicer and implies that we’re all doing other, just-as- important things, right? 🙂

Here’s the thing.  I am hopelessly disorganized and tend to forget stuff that goes on in my stories.  So what I’m going to do for this post is share with you a method I’ve been using that will (hopefully!) keep you organized so you can devote more time to the actual writing.

For the past :ahem!: few years, I’ve been steadily working on an epic medieval fantasy novel that will most likely end up as a series. The first thing I did – after writing down a heap of notes and the first 40 pages, then getting confused as all hell because I hadn’t properly organized everything – was to set up a bible.  I had some experience a few years back with our Diamonds Down Under mini series for Desire, so I knew what needed to be done.  Here’s what I started with:

  • A ring binder for each book.  I love color, so this binder must be appealing.  I sought out some bendy, A4 two-ring binders because they weren’t huge (I could carry them around) and felt really nice
  • a bunch of page indexes.  I got see-thru colored ones slightly larger than an A4 page, because sometimes I need to add pictures and magazine snippets in plastic sleeves, and those would normally block out the tabs.  I also have a labeller, which again makes the tabs more visually pleasing than my scrawly writing

Of course, you could just as easily organize your filing system on your computer.  Scrivener for Mac is apparently great, and I have a cute iPod app called aNote too, which has tabbed folders.  But I like physical pages, like flicking through them and grabbing a pen and writing down stuff.

So on the index page for the first book went the following headings:

  • Planet – this includes geographic history, maps/layout, oceans, cities, land and where it lies within the solar system.  How long is a day, month, year?  Does it have a sun and how long does it take to orbit it?  A moon?  Also who and what live on the planet, including flora and fauna.
  • History – this is all about the planet’s history and its ruling classes, invasions, wars, decrees and monarchy
  • The Exiles – the original natives of my planet, now oppressed and in hiding.  What special powers do they possess, what can they/can’t they do, how does their society function?
  • The Court – the current rulers of the planet.  How does their society run, what are their rules and customs, is there a seedy underbelly to this society (oh, yeah, there is 😀  )
  • Myths/Legends – who the natives pray to, who is the God of what and what powers (if any) they were said to possess
  • The Book of Truth – an ancient text handed down from the first living native, chronicling the planet’s history. Basically their bible

You could also go into greater detail and separate the “planet” tab into subcategories like flora, fauna etc.  But for now, this works for me.

My Short Category Novels

Of course, this procedure works perfectly well with category too, but because I’ve had so much practice at those, I don’t need to prepare to this extent (a backstory timeline, GMC, synopsis and I’m ready to go).   For these, one tab in a folder is sufficient, and in that tab I have separate pages:

  • Photos of the hero and heroine – face shots, different poses, suggestions for cover art
  • Home – where each of them live, their house/apartment, location and scenery
  • Their stuff – what means the most to them?  Do they have a fancy car?  A piece of treasured jewellery?  A pet or favourite food?  Pictures of shoes/dresses are also included here

I also do a collage of sorts – my characters’ faces, a photo of something significant, and a home interior – that stays pinned above my desk until the story is complete, then gets filed into the folder.  I also have a back story timeline that keeps me on track with their history, too.

So over to you.  What have you found works for you when you’re writing?  Do you use a bible?  Sticky notes?  A notebook? Or a whizz-bang computer program?

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3 comments on “Midweek Technique – writing a novel (or series) for the busy writer

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