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I haven’t spoken with other authors about their method for tracking and maintaining plotlines, so I have no idea if what I do is similar. Before I start working on an outline, I begin with an idea, which first sees the light of day in a text file oddly enough called Ideas. I tend to have a dozen or so at any given time, some just a sentence, some a full page. There’s no rhyme or reason to their order, as I tend to not have any control over what I write next anyway. It just starts writing itself in my head at some point.

Once an idea, or plot, graduates from the Idea file to its very own folder, I start work on Notes and an Outline. I don’t follow the snowflake method, but I think I do something close. I put down small statements for absolutely everything I need/want to happen, in your typical ABC format. I don’t finish the outline in one sitting, and I go back to add or reference it for the life of the manuscript. Notes are to keep straight important events, people, relationships and descriptions. It might have ideas that could be worked into the outline or used in a later story, something I can allude to without having to go into detail just yet.

I continue to go through the outline from start to finish, adding subsections to each line or fleshing each out into sentences. While focused on any given line, I try to include any and everything I need/want to be in there. It’s during this process that I decide whose point of view the scene will be written from, which may or may not change how the section is fleshed out. I’ll also begin a Timeline during this stage. Keeping track of days, moon cycle, travel times, etc. is important to me insofar as I hate to be inconsistent or make mistakes that might pull the reader from the story.

Once the outline is filled enough to start writing, I’ll cut and paste the first section into a new chapter file and begin converting each line into paragraphs of prose. I always have my notes and timeline at either side for reference, and delete from the outline as each bit is used up. Once that piece is complete, I’ll repeat the cycle in the following section or start a new chapter. When the outline is gone, the first draft is complete.

There it is, in a nutshell: extensive notes and outlining. I’ve tried using notecards, to keep track of characters (description, lineage, anything of importance), but it was too cumbersome, too messy for my taste. I prefer my printed notes and spiral notebook. Of course, if anyone has a better system, they can feel free to share it with me. I can’t promise I’ll change – I’m too old and stubborn for that – but it’s always fun talking shop.

 

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