Whoop! Whoop! I just finished pre-book writing work. So, this is a book I’ve started and stopped a few times already. I feel like I’ve been stuck on being prepared to write the book. You see, I typically write without preparing much. This has worked in the past for me, and I enjoyed being surprised by what would happen next. I would let the characters drive where the story was going. Sometimes, I’d be surprised by what came out. The problem: I usually never got much more than halfway through a story. It works great for so long and then you need to know where it’s going.
So, I have my Five Star binder, in which I’m keeping all my key information. I can even fit my laptop – currently using a Lenovo IdeaPad – into one of the pockets to easily take my stuff with me. I had been using a regular hard three-ring binder and a backpack. This binder is working very well for me, even though I moved to this binder after the quarantine, so I haven’t had the chance to enjoy its portability outside the house.
I have started the binder off with basically a blank page. As I come up with ideas for the book title, I’m going to fill out this page. We will see what makes the most sense at the end. Currently, you may notice, the page is empty. The book has taken a different direction than what I had previously thought, so my other titles don’t seem to work right now – Abigail and Abigail’s 18th Birthday were the previous suggestions.
From there I’ve put the time frame for the book. In the past, I’ve also written without a reference of time – I guess it has always been present time. The problem with that methodology is the inconsistencies in my writing. I would re-read what I had written, and the book would switch from Autumn to Spring to Summer, and it had only progressed a couple days. Now, I live in Ohio, and it’s possible to experience all the seasons in one day, but I would be inconsistent with the time of year. Identifying a time frame (it doesn’t mean the book necessarily takes place during that time), it allows me to be more consistent and identify dates, using the ol’ internet to look up items like the weather or events during that time frame. Again, it is simply for consistency. I started doing this with the last draft of this book, and it really helped me out a lot. That said, history will most likely need to be changed to fit the needs of the story in some places, but it is still beneficial, just like the setting is based on a real area in Cleveland but has been altered to help move the story. Along with the Time Frame, I have written a few ideas for the Purpose of writing the book. The purpose may change as the story unfolds, but it’s nice to have the idea I’m writing for a specific reason.
What I started to do with my last attempt at writing this book, I’ve created a Pre-Book Timeline of Key Events leading up to the first word on Chapter One. Again, this idea is to help with the consistency of the writing. I would often reference events in the past, and they would change from chapter to chapter. Also, this will give me an idea of where the characters are coming from and, possibly, the events shaping the story.
From there, I decided to map out a character tree. Now, this is what I currently know. This list will most likely grow as the story gets written. I’m sure there are many characters – many who will end up being important – I haven’t identified yet. Still, I thought this was a nice visual and quick reference for character relationships. I got this idea from a book my wife bought for me. Aside from the Character Mapping, I have written Character Biographies as well. I take a picture of a celebrity or person I know who embodies my vision for the character. In most cases, I am thinking that picture may be close to how the character looks, but, sometimes, I get a feeling from that picture, which puts me in the right state of mind for that character. In some cases, it may not have anything to do with the person or how they are perceived, but the picture itself may give me the character’s feeling. Currently, I have 19 characters (10 male, 9 female) identified. The four main characters have pages all to themselves. The minor characters have shared pages. Again, this resource is invaluable to reference back to keep their histories and characters consistent.
Lastly, where I am now, the last tab in my binder is called Chapters. I have loose-leaf paper and a few Black Ticonderoga pencils, sharpened and ready to write. Each Chapter will have its own piece of paper. I will start by writing what I intend to write in the coming chapter: events and what I hope to get out of them (example: They go to a restaurant for lunch. We learn the character is vegan). After prepping the chapter, I will actually write it. After I’m done writing it, I will give a synopsis of the actual chapter and what we learned. Even with being prepared, stories can still take you in unexpected directions as a writer, so the end product may turn out to be much different than originally planned.
It’s nearing midnight in Cleveland. I’m debating whether to get started on Chapter One because I really want to get going again. Or, should I listen to my eyelids, which want to close and head to bed instead? Maybe I can start it up refreshed in the morning…