Everyone gloriously blogs about Christmas and gifts, and here I am, blogging about novel writing. I have scratched my head a lot on this, but so many of you asked me about my post-it notes board from this picture, and since I'm finishing 3rd draft of ROSEHEAD next week (can you believe it?!?!?), I'm tying up loose ends via using my post-it notes on my board, and I thought I'd share with you my process in detail, because it helps me keep my sanity. It's only my 2nd novel, technically, since SIREN SUICIDES can be all called one novel and my 1st, although I had to break it into 3. There are almost 30 characters in ROSEHEAD, and a whole living garden, and a whole lot of plot twists, and sub-plot twists, and lost berets of 4 different colors that surface in places at times, and other things to remember. I have found myself yesterday staring at the wall, completely lost in one sub-plot twist and rewriting it, only to cut it out this morning when I realized that I have already covered the problem by explaining it earlier in the book. Duh! The notes above my head saved me. Here is how I do it.
A sticky note goes for every object in the book. Call me anal, but I like it when everything in the novel is accounted for, and if something shouldn't be there or has no purpose, I cut it out. I'm talking about things like handkerchiefs, or pens, or bow ties, or a particular pair of shoes, or garden shears, or whatever it is your characters are using. For each of those I write a quick note and stick it up on the board. As I start editing/writing/rewriting the very first chapter of the 3rd draft, I start putting them up in order (as they come up). For example, Lilith Bloom, my main character, loves her berets and keeps losing them in places, which, naturally, lands her in all sorts of trouble. They are of different colors, and I had to remember which one she lost where and who found it and how. As I keep writing/editing, some things cease their purpose, so I take the sticky note off the board. Then later I might stick up a new one, and so it continues until I'm done. In the end, my goal is to wrap up every object used.
A sticky note goes for every character's goals. In every chapter something happens, some dialogue, some action, and the characters resolve to solving some problem, it could be small, could be big. Now, I'm not as sophisticated a writer yet to have multiple characters with multiple goals (one day, I hope... right now my secondary characters have one goal each), so most of my notes are about Lilith. I write a quick list of things, like she decided to do this, she is determined to do this, she hopes for this, she really might not be able to do this, and I stick them up. Then, as I keep writing, I glance at them occasionally, to make sure I don't leave anything out. When in the next chapters something new happens and her goals change (the big overarching goal stays the same, of course), I peel off those sticky notes and add new ones. Seriously, I think Post-it notes is one thing I now depend on. Like a visual representation of what happens in the book. I know some people use white boards, write on them and erase stuff, but I find immense satisfaction in being able to physically peel off the note, crumple it, and throw it into trash. Yes! I did it! One more thing done! Well, being the crazed Seattleite that I am, I later throw them into recycling. Still.
A sticky note goes up for every question I have. You know how you read a book, and you wonder, hey, what happened to so-and-so, or hey, where did this thing come from, or, hey, where are they going? I hate it when there is too much infodump, and I try not to give out any information at all until the characters themselves deem it necessary. So I stick up notes with those questions, and then occasionally glance at them when writing, and when there is an appropriate moment, I insert an explanation. I also keep them up there to make sure that even if I have not found a good place to insert this information, at the end of the book I do it for sure, I make space for it, because if I have had this question while writing, my reader will have the same question when reading. And keeping track of all of them in your head is pure hell, though I'm noticing that I'm getting better at it.
Random suggestions also each get a note. I have some strange random notes in the bottom right corner that sort of remind of me of how to write things. I have one that mentions sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. When writing descriptions, I sometimes get carried away and delve into visual too much, forgetting that I can inject smell or taste or texture of whatever, so that's that note. A few others, funny enough, have already crept into my head for IRKADURA, the novel I haven't started writing yet (first week of January!), and I empty my brain into those notes and put them up. I also have a list with the names and one liners for every character (it that hangs on my board by the magnets). At one point I had notes screaming at me LIMIT THE USE OF "WAS"! or CUT OUT AS MANY ADVERBS AND ADJECTIVES AS POSSIBLE!. Stuff like that. Glancing at those helps me remember these things as I'm still discovering my style as a writer, being all green and a newbie and whatnot.
Bam. That's it. No big mystery, see? But it definitely is a process I'll be using in the future, because, well, Post-it notes are so gluey and yellowy and stuff, I love them. Oh, and for the next post let me know what you want me to blog about. I thought since it is Christmas, maybe I should compile a list of books that I'd buy someone as gifts? Just a wild idea. Anyway, let me know. xoxo