Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Writing A Novel - Organization

Last night I sat down to do my writing and was immediately stymied by my own confusion. This is not to say that my plot is convoluted or that my characters are fantastical creatures with unfamiliar powers and design. It was due to a lack of organization (and a thundering headache). You see, I started off this month's Camp NaNoWriMo challenge without a plan, so I have been "pantsing" all the way through. This doesn't have to lead to the kind of confusion I experienced last night, pantsers can be organized too!

For me, this type of organization has to happen in longhand first. I don't know why this is, but if I try to do it on my computer, it just doesn't stick. Here's what I needed to do to get my head straight (and this is why today's post is so late!):
  1. Write down all character names. Since I was pantsing I was making up names on the fly and characters were coming to life right beneath my typing fingers. While I am at the point where I know them all pretty well by their first names, I completely forgot the last names of some of their last names. In my list I included some quick notes on personalities and appearance.
  2. Make character connections. Who's dating who? Which characters are related? Keeping this information handy is helpful as I move forward.
  3. Sketch timeline. I remember having this issue in my first novel. Even with a plot plan, I got down to writing and starting thinking, "How much time has passed in this scene?" In my current WIP time is even more important since a major blackout makes sundown a major factor. 
  4. List locations. This is necessary for world building. While I remembered all of the locations, I wanted to list them and their identifying characteristics. Are these places distinct? Do they have their own personalities? Having the list in front of me keeps that in my mind.
  5. What's Next? While this is a bit like plotting, I am deep enough into my story that some ideas about where I want to go are coming to the forefront. Unfortunately, since I am doing this A to Z Challenge, doing some mega at home spring cleaning and trying to write this novel all at once, if I don't write these ideas down they may be gone for good. I am not 100% committed to them, but I don't want to lose them either.
It's not a fantastic graphic organizer. I'm not even using the full capabilities of my Scrivener software with this (yet), but it is some organization. It was needed, so I could continue my chaotic pantsing. I figure, when I am done with this first draft I will be able to tell which method I like better (my last project was planned first), but, for now I won't judge, and I will try to organize as I go.

How do you organize your writing?
Are you a plotter or a pants-er?
Thanks for reading! 

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  1. I like to do outlines and notes in notebooks, and to keep track of stuff like family trees, birthdates, future couplings, and future names in a big stack of loose papers. I have an elephantine memory and have kept entire books and storylines memorized backwards and forwards in my head for many years, but sometimes it helps to have it written down. It jogs your memory better when it's finally time to get it out.

  2. God bless your memory! I believe there was a time where I was once that way, but not anymore. However, you're right, even then, writing things down has an uncanny ability to jog so nicely :)
    Thanks for swinging by! I love the idea of family trees. I think I could have used one of those in my notes last night. I am going to go back and put one together.