A note to my readers – I generally try to post new blogs on weekends and on Wednesdays. Someday I hope to post more frequently but I may not be able to do that until I figure out how to get more than 24 hours in a day. Okay, on to today’s rant!
Ugh. Sometimes I feel the most labor-intensive part of writing is keeping notes, and I’m writing fiction. I have commented before that I don’t like doing research, but on the other hand, I’m not going to trust I can keep track of everything in my stories without some external notes. Few people are that organized and I am certainly not one of them (there is a stereotype of a writer’s office being covered with paper and dirty dishes; I will not confirm or deny this stereotype but I will say it may be time to clean my desk). I love love love having a computer to keep track of all this stuff for me. I can’t imagine trying to keep actual dead tree sheets in an organized fashion. I mean, I did at one time (having attended school) but I’ve fallen out of the practice (and my handwriting is only slightly more legible than actual chicken-scratch).
I may have also mentioned I have a somewhat fevered writer’s brain (think hyperactive hamster on a wheel) and a fickle Muse that inspires me to write all the wrong things at the wrong times. This means I’m generally working on several stories at once and must try to keep all of that straight. Did I mention I am somewhat disorganized?
I have tried writing from an outline. My literature teacher parent encouraged writing from an outline, but I think only as a tool for critical essays. I haven’t had much luck in fiction writing from an outline. This means when I get a great idea (or at least an idea I think is great at the time, which of course depends on how much caffeine and/or alcohol I have imbibed), I write it down in one of my many notes files. If it’s just a random idea, it goes in the “random file.” If it’s an idea for a part of a story I am already working on, I put it in the story’s notes files with a description of where it might actually fit in the story (assuming of course it doesn’t fit in with what I’ve already written). If I get enough cogent bits, I may be able to string those together into coherent story. But mostly I just end up with a random assortment of ideas (sometimes just story ideas, sometimes characters, sometimes bits of dialogue). So my Muse is somewhat like a magpie – she likes piles of shiny bits of fiction. Lousy Muse. I just don’t think very linearly when it comes to stories. I usually have a beginning, middle, and ending in mind but I don’t know if that correlates to parts A, B, and C which are easy to connect or if I’ve got parts A, G, and R, which obviously are less easy to connect.
I’m not sure how other authors approach outlines and note-taking. Tolkien’s works are almost nothing but notes. I’ve read that Rowling kept copious notes of her fictional universe before getting the chance to actually write down the story. I can only assume by the sheer amount of books and detail that Robert Jordan kept entire encyclopedias of his universe. I assume many newbie authors may not keep such notes because they don’t know what’s going to be a hit. Even seasoned authors may be caught by surprise as what work demands a sequel. I have noticed some inconsistencies in the “Discworld” novels, but given how many there are, I think Pratchett does a good job keeping everything straight, even when it’s obvious he could not have possibly planned for so many different novels and so many different world threads. I wish comic book writers would take better notes, but I suppose that’s for another rant.
I honestly wish at times I had planned ahead better. When I wrote Necromancy for the Greater Good, I was toying around with the idea of a sequel but I didn’t have any firm ideas. Now I wish I had at least planned for it so I could have put in some hints that the first thirteen stories would be interconnected with others. Now that I am actually working on a sequel, I am making notes of where I can put in future stories and even including foreshadowing of those future stories. However, I am afraid it will make “Necromancy” look less polished compared to future “Nevermore” works. But sometimes I guess that’s just how it goes.
Okay, enough ranting. Time to clean off my desk and get more organized (or at least try to).