Pre-Book Work

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 Binderfit 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 Title Ideassense 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 TIme Framereference 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-BTimelineook 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 Character Mappingcharacters – 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 Character Sketchmind 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…

 

 

My Chair

This is my chair. Well, anyone can use it, but it’s the place I find myself more often than Chairnot. Many times, I’m working my day job, playing on my phone, watching tv, or surfing the web a little bit, hoping to hear it will be safe enough for the Cleveland Indians to start playing games again, even if we won’t be able to see the games in person.

I sit here.

And I sit here.

And I sit here.

I finished writing my pre-novel events, which is basically a timeline of key events happening in the characters’ lives up until the start of the novel. I did this to keep any past events consistent. When writing about past events, it is easy to be inconsistent with a person’s age, so I wanted to make sure I had a reference. Also, if something inconsequential is mentioned in a chapter, it is easy to contradict it later on because you may not remember what you had written. In the past, I’ve always started writing with word one of chapter one, surprising myself with the unfolding of the story without thinking much about it ahead of time. I decided to put a little more thought into this one. I also finished a character chart for an easy view of how characters are connected and have finished character summaries of the four main characters and a couple side characters. I have the other supporting characters to summarize. Then, I will be able to get started with Chapter One (I had previously written the first five or six chapters, so I will be using those as a starting off point as I start re-writing the book).

But…this chair. I sit here and think about how I could be completing the character summaries. I think about how I could work on recording some music as well. I could be doing something…anything. In fact, you see that blue binder in the lower left of the picture? That’s my writing binder. It’s in view. It’s ready to be opened and used. All I have to do is reach down and pick it up, but, I sit here. Ideas run around in my brain. I thought I’d have plenty of time and inspiration to make a ton of progress. I’ve made some decent headway in the pre-novel process, but all that has been done over two or three nights. How long have we been home now? About two months?

I am hoping to make a schedule for myself to set aside at least two times per week (at a minimum) to work on the book. I am also going to set aside at least one time per week to work on music. Scheduling has helped the kids get through their school work. Maybe I need to create a schedule for myself. Maybe that’ll help as well…

I hope you are all able to get through the items you’d like to get done. I know, in Ohio, they are starting to re-open the state, but I can’t imagine people venturing outside their homes for too long.

Take care,

Alan Keith

 

Shelter in Place

We started to work from home March 16th, so it’s been nearly a month and a half already Shelter in Placewhere we’ve been sitting at home, waiting for the all clear to return “back to normal.” Of course, we’re never going to ever be fully back to normal. We are most likely changed forever with how we look at life.

In a way, for an unpublished writer, you may think there is some positivity in all this. A writer can take this forced isolation, set up shop in his little corner of a room, and write all night long. My first thought when told I’d be holing up in the house was I’d, at least, be able to make some headway on the ol’ novel.

For over 30 days, I’ve been doing my day job during the day, and I hadn’t written a single word of the novel. Not a single word. Not an additional comma or some sort of grammatical fix. I hadn’t even looked at the text. Is there any positivity you were hoping to get out of the extra time at home (for those of you who have spent extra time at home)? For those still doing their normal day jobs at their place of employment, has that made things easier for you? Or, are you bitter and worried about having to go into work?

This past week, I transferred my notes from one binder to another. I also decided to type up some of the notes/pre-novel events that have occurred. On the positive note, I’ve expanded some of the events from the characters’ pasts, so I had a good week. I still have a few pages to type up and character outlines before I start editing/re-writing the first five chapters that I had already completed. After all this time of playing some games on my phone, watching Schitt’s Creek (if you haven’t seen that, it’s probably Top 5 tv shows ever created) and Top Chef, and catching (so far) the first five Friday the 13th movies on Shudder, I think I’m finally in a headspace to get moving on the novel again.

I’ve decided to relaunch this site and see if I can keep up with some writing updates. Maybe I’ll take a couple breaks and get a couple short stories written for the site as well. So, a toast to everyone and hoping they can find some sort of positive in this situation.

Sheltering in Cleveland,

Alan Keith