When it comes to my stories, I’m not so much a plotter as I am a discoverer. I have a basic premise in mind (a McGuffin), know in broad strokes how it will end and what the major plot points will be, but unlike a lot of writers who break down their stories by chapter and scene, I’m something of an authorly slob. As I’m working on the third installment of Decker’s War, now fast approaching the two-thirds mark, I’m finding my bad habits catching up to me.
Let me explain. I make up planets as I go along – if I don’t stop, my Commonwealth will be a lot bigger than I mean it to be. My editor, trying to maintain continuity, has come up with a compendium of the planets I’ve mentioned in all of my books, so at some point, I’ll have to reuse settings, which means I need to start keeping notes on each of them. Worse yet, I make up characters willy-nilly to advance the story and I’m getting repeat appearances by secondary actors because… well, because. So I need to keep that straight. Same with ship names, etcetera, etcetera.
So, to make my life easier, if only to maintain consistency within a single novel, I’ve plunked down $20 Canuk bucks for a charming little piece of software called Scapple which works just wonderfully for a messy (and, I dare confess, lazy) mind like mind. It’s essentially a electronic version of post-it notes or index cards, but in a format that gives me a single glimpse overview of anything I care to list: characters, ships, planets, major plot points and very importantly, those plot points that I’m not sure about (whether to keep, develop or delete) and those ideas I need to further explore. So far, so good. As a supplement to my memory, it was worth every penny. The storyboard for Fatal Blade has been growing apace as I add notes on various things; remember elements I’d thought about earlier and forgotten and the like. I’ve started one for Like Stars in Heaven as well, so it’ll be waiting for me when I go back to it after sending Fatal Blade to my editor.
Small things can have a multiplier effect that really affects the way one works. This is a case in point, i.e. finally finding something I actually want to use, that’s simple enough so that I don’t feel like I’m wasting my time and that I can consult by a simple click of the mouse whenever I have a thought, an idea or a memory lapse.