Sometimes the best advice is the telling off you give yourself
Don't make notes, write stories
Planning a book is an odd thing. We are encouraged to write lists, create linear timelines (even if the story is told out of order), find photos to use as inspiration and so on. All good advice and it can be as tedious as hell.
With a huge saga, the number of lists you end up with is simply mind boggling. My notes for my saga currently consist of thousands of words and are probably a novel in their own write, length wise at least. This is not necessarily a happy state of affairs; writing is meant to be fun, after all!
Rather late in the day I changed the way I wrote up some of my notes, especially about characters and places. Rather than make lists or have bullet points or strange disconnected comments, I started writing stories. They are not spell checked, grammar checked, well constructed or anything else, but they are happy little tales that take the place of the boring notes.
So, with Johnson Farthing rather than make a list of his like and dislikes, I wrote a little essay on him and just let my mind play with the character.
"Farthing can be right idiot at times. No, I mean it, if he looks at a sunny day he will not sit there and lap up the sun he will question why it is sunny and when it will rain again. Probably the fault of his dad who was an obnoxious git and could make a living being miserable ...."
On and on I go, wittering about this character, his family, where he lives and so on. Once I have done that, I then go back and chuck out anything that makes no sense or will cause me problems. Anything I think might be useful later, I highlight. If my characters are going to have influence in a story, I need to be prepared for them to come up anywhere and at anytime without contradiction, even if it is only by dint of a memory of that character. Remember, I am trying not to go backwards too much here - for the writer who has already seen the first book published, going back is now impossible! At least I do not have that problem for the moment.
Sagas can trip you up and if you do not have everything at least discussed, you will run into problems. But if like me you find note making tedious, find a way of making it interesting - ignoring it is simply not an option.
Next: Keeping track and adding notes »