Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Writing Tip: Stay Organized
by Tricia Fields, 2010 Winner of the Tony Hillerman Prize for The Territory

Writing a novel without a clear plan for organizing the project-from broad plot outline down to specific details-would be a nightmare for me. Here are three different methods that I use to maintain order.

1. The Spreadsheet: I use Microsoft Excel extensively. The different tabs enable the writer to store and sort a variety of information that is important to keep track of when writing a full length book. For example, I have a character tab that lists the basics for each character in the book: name, age, physical description, distinguishing traits, etc. I have another tab for businesses in town, another tab houses my scene outline, another lists ideas for future books in the series..

2. The Binder: I maintain a reference binder to store all of the printed material that can't be easily stored in an Excel file. For example, I have a section on average weather ranges in West Texas for each month of the year, a section for newspaper/magazine stories that relate to the area or the topic I'm writing about, etc.. I keep state, county and town maps that I have either copied or created myself. Detailed maps of my fictional town have proven extremely helpful in writing both my books.

3. The Notecards: Post-It notes, or stickable notecards, are another great tool for organizing the storyline. Most of my book is plotted out in a scene outline using Excel. Each scene is written on a separate row with specific details noted in the columns (POV, Characters, Purpose, etc.). Post-it notes serve a similar purpose, but they allow me to see more of the story at one time. Each scene can be summarized on a sticky note. For the BIG picture, post a piece of butcher block paper on a wall and map out each scene using sticky notes. This gives you the flexibility to easily move and add scenes as your changing plot dictates. This is also a great exercise to check the pacing in your book.

If you are interested in more detailed information you can visit my Sunday Afternoon Writer's Blog.

Tricia Fields is well into her second book in a mystery series to be published by St. Martin's/Minotaur in October.
Connie Gotsch www.conniegotsch.com Host Write On Four Corners KSJE FM, Farmington NM www.ksje.com Author two award winning youth novels ‘Belle’s Star,’ and ‘Belle’s trial,’ based on the life of a real dog and written from her point of view. Available from Artemesia Press at http://www.apbooks.net and amazon.com, and Anazon,com Belle’s Star was a New Mexico BookAward in 2009 and 2010; First Place for Juvenile Fiction New Mezxico Press Women and National Federation of Press Women Communication Contests 2010’ Silver Mom’s Choice Award 2010.
Belle’s Trial’ won First Place for Juvenile Fiction in the 2011 New Mexico Press Press Women’s Commuication Contest, and a Silver Mom’s Choice Award for 2011. The book received an Eric Hoffer Award nomination for 2011.

Sept. 2011 Casa de Snap Dragon Publishers released a reprint of Gotsch’s novel for adult, Snap Me a Future as an ebook at casadesnampdragon.com

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