Ideas for logging your novel
Published: July 29, 2005
|Writers use a variety of techniques to keep track of their novels. Here are a few examples:|
David Morrell, best selling author of 28 books, including First Blood (Rambo), controls his work by beginning each day with a letter to himself. Up to 20 pages long, it serves as a record of his progress, and he returns to these letters frequently during the rewriting process.
Novelist, essayist and memoirist, Marita Golden, whose awards include the 2002 Authors Guild Award for Distinguished Services to the Literary Community, explains, "My process is to make frequent outlines of the novel that detail plot and scenes chapter to chapter. But a novel is such a fluid and dynamic process that in reality I can easily write three or four different outlines during the course of a week's writing."
Writing about our writing gives us focus, motivation and a yardstick to measure progress.
Fulbright scholar and author of the thriller Rift Zone, Raelynn Hillhouse uses an Excel spreadsheet to analyze structure. "I have a short entry for each scene, plot points in that scene, the setting, time, characters, POV and notes. It's a very efficient way to tinker with alternative structures and gauge their impact on the whole. I move things about and squeeze until I have distilled events into the tightest series possible."
Australian author, Andrew Maconachie tapes large format architectural drawing sheets to the wall. "I like the metaphor of 'construction' and 'design,'" he says. He writes thumbnail outlines and characterizations, adding more as the story progresses. These guide him and keep him focused.
Best selling author Gayle Lynds tosses similar notes into a box labeled for her current novel. About Simon Childs, her lead male in The Coil, she wrote: "Going native" (a spy who comes to support the causes he's investigating). But as she got to know him she jotted: "Don't you care about anything?" This changed both his character and the dynamics of the whole book and appeared in print as "Where's the real Simon Childs? Where's he hiding?"
Novelist and memoirist Susanne Strempek Shea prints her manuscript every 50 pages and edits it by hand. Then she updates the document on computer, and writes the next 50, then prints it all and re-edits. "That way, every 50 pages, it's a new animal; changes are made throughout the piece."
Freelance writer Jillian Abbott is an essayist, novelist and screenwriter whose work has been published in the U.S., Britain and Australia.