Notes from my book, The Gallows Tree.
Technical issues with how watermills work and some brief characterisation.
This is an example of what I pin on the wall in front of me.
Eli L Sanne posted a question on Facebook:

To the authors out there. I love watching your posts here as you write and seeing how things evolve. So I have some questions ... and they will help me as I review.

First, do you start with the characters or a story idea?
Second, do you sketch out the characters and know who they are before you write.
Third, how do you know how important your secondary characters will be
Fourth, do you follow your notes from A to Z OR do you allow the characters to evolve and guide the story.

My answer which was instant and without thought was:

I totally make it all up as I go along... my secondary characters just happen... and my main characters grow as I write... I don't plan... I do research, and if I am writing a series book I have a sheet on the wall detailing characters from previous books, and scenes, and places... interesting question... 

Today's blog

Then after I posted, I thought about the question, then decided a blog post on the subject may be more in order...

So here goes... answering Eli's questions in turn:

First, do you start with the characters or a story idea?

Always a story idea. I have this epic post apocalypse story in my head born from reading National Geographic and the idea is a whole new world and I have the story in my head. Because of the story I am interested in writing I need two main characters who would live in this new world. They need to be different to other characters, resilient, brave, and hardy. I will go and look for stock site inspiration and photos will literally jump out at me.

Second, do you sketch out the characters and know who they are before you write.

No. I have nothing besides maybe eye colour, hair colour, height. My characterisation evolves as I write, and very often something I write in Chapter 4 may mean going back to Chapter 1 and amending wording in order that later actions are telegraphed in character. I know my post apocalyptic characters will be certain kinds of men, but the part of them  that drives them is unknown to me until I start to write.

I do however, sketch out maps, like for the airport in Sanctuary 7, or as above for the Gallows Tree where I sketched out where things were in the village.

Third, how do you know how important your secondary characters will be

I never know if I will have secondary characters until they happen. The secondary character in an RJ Scott book is a way of seeing interaction from the hero's through how they treat the secondary's. Sometimes I have one or two, or sometimes there is an entire cast of them.

Fourth, do you follow your notes from A to Z OR do you allow the characters to evolve and guide the story. 

I have no notes of direction only some notes from my research maybe (like the scribbled notes on the water mill and how it works including some technical terms). I sit with a blank word doc and type, and a lot of the story direction is already in my head from my research. My characters evolve and yes, I let them guide the story.

So my question is...

How do you write? Do you have rules and notes? Do you follow the notes religiously? Do you attempt to storyboard? Do you know how long a book is going to be when you start writing?


4 comments:

  1. I love your notes!!!! I've drawn one or two maps too in my time--sometimes, you just need to know where things are, or everyone gets in a bit of a tangle.

    I might have to answer this in a blog post myself, when I've thought things through, but for me, character and place usually come first. Story comes after that, though I usually have an inkling what I want to happen to my MCs. I get my best inspiration from traveling or just from everyday places I visit, and then play with ideas for my characters in the place that's inspired me, before starting to write. I then plan each chapter in a notebook before I write it, but when the writing acutally happens, the characters don't always behave as they're supposed to!!

    I also make research notes, but often end up researching much more as I go along. You just don't know what weird and wonderful thing you're going to have to find out about next (been busy reading about the weapons used by 18th Century smugglers this week!!!)

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    1. Would be cool if you did a blog post as well... shout when you post it and i will link to it... :)

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  2. Your notes make me jealous. I'm not nearly so organized. I have a good idea of my main characters and the story, but I fill in the details of the secondary characters and their situation as I go along. Some don't even get names until I go back for editing.

    I used to have like 500 character note cards where I wrote down eye and hair color and personal attributes and little things about their lives ... and I lost them somewhere. Since then I started including those notes with my stories in Scrivener.

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    Replies
    1. Scrivener is something I downloaded but never used... is it good?

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