Thursday, March 19, 2015

K is for Keeping Track

Debra needs a better way of organizing tid bits of information in her stories.

When I went to fill out the Cover Art sheet for my newest project "Christmas at The Corral" I was dismayed to discover I needed to look through the mss in order to find out what my characters looked like. I couldn't remember the color of her hair or either of their eyes. Now this was a story I wrote by the seat of my pants in record time, so I hadn't spent months and months with it, but it was still disturbing to think I didn't know those basics about my characters.

If I would have jotted just a few notes, I would have had something to refer back to.

As I think of more ideas for holiday spin-offs of my Corral Series, I find myself wishing I'd kept a notebook of minor character names or information about the town. Again, I need to keep going back to the stories to figure out things.

So, as I contemplate a new series, I want to keep better records. I don't tend to plot ahead, I am definitely a pantster, but I need to jot down what might at the time seem like minor details. I figure I can keep a notebook, and use sticky notes as tabs for quick access to characters (main and minor), setting information, backstory, research, etc. That way, I'll always have it at my finger tips. I don't plan on doing major character profiles, but it would be nice to have details like hair and eye color readily available. Some characters are more ingrained in my imagination, so this isn't always an issue, but sometimes in the heat of the moment I forget if she's supposed to be looking into his deep green or his deep blue eyes. Notes such as this will help with continuity throughout the series too.

Anybody have a different way to keep track of things? I've seen people who do Wikis about their stories. Or large poster boards with different color stickies for characters, setting, plot. Like I said, I'm not that much of a planner, but it will be nice to have some type of reference at my fingertips. Live and learn, right?

Until next time,

Happy Reading!

Debra
www.debrastjohnromance.com

10 comments:

  1. Some authors I know keep this sort of detail in excel files. Others extol the virtues of Scrivener. One of my first teachers had us clip pictures from magazines.
    Being a bad student, I do none of the above. I scribble notes on the horoscope printouts when I first flesh out my main characters.
    I should start story bibles. Series sell, and once you create a world, it makes sense to live in it as much as possible.

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    1. I'm more of a scribbler too. I don't think I want anything too formal. But, yes, a story bible for reference is exactly what I need.

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  2. I always print out character sheets for each of my main characters. I can then always refer to them when I forget colour of eyes, etc. But after the story is finished I invariably shred them. Bad luck for me if I ever need to refer to them again.

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    1. I definitely need to get into the habit of doing that. Just so I have something on hand.

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  3. In my more organized moments, I keep a Character File on my computer and I input any information about individual characters as I'm writing, so that I can go back to them and remind myself of hair and eye color, etc. I also create an outline when I do my first editing pass through (I can't outline ahead of time), where I list the main points of the story in each scene and also major description areas--so if I want to remember what I wrote about the apartment, I know where to jump to in the manuscript (as well as for other reasons). Otherwise, I'm totally lost. But I keep everything on my computer so I don't have to worry about running out of room or losing it.

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    1. I do a similar type of outline after my first draft. It helps me see the flow of the story and where gaps need to be filled in. But I generally hand-write it in a notebook.

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  4. A writing friend summarizes her plot developments daily (after she writes them). By the time she's done with her WIP, she has the first draft of her synopsis.

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  5. You are all far more organised than I am! I don't make any notes about any of my characters, or chapters, or scenes! Actually I don't have any problem with my main characters, as I can picture them in my mind (and somehow seem to remember everything about them, even what they were wearing on different occasions, as well as whatever information they reveal about their upbringing, past lives etc. I think maybe it's because I 'live' with them for such a long time! I can even remember all the details about the main characters in my very first novel (from 1968!). Occasionally I may have a memory lapse about one (or more!) of the minor characters and have to go back and double-check something. But I've never ever used character sheets or files. The only notes I scribble down (in addition to research information) are memos to myself about something to include in a future chapter or something to insert in a previous chapter.

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    1. Paula, you must have an amazing memory.

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