Sometimes things work.
Sometimes they don’t.
Remember that single index card I wrote out? The one that was the great breakthrough? The one that would lead the way for the other hundreds of index cards I was going to write?
It didn’t happen.
That one index card was the only one I wrote.
A few days after I wrote it, I gave up on deluding myself. I sat down with my laptop, opened a blank document in Pages, and put numbered headings in bold down the left hand side of the page, one for each book in the series.
And so on
Then I broke out the bullet points. I said to myself, okay, each bullet point is one index card. And I started typing.
- When Nathan Walker’s wallet is stolen, he gives chase and meets a street thief named Nita.
- And so on
And it’s working. I’m making progress. I have over a thousand words in bullet points. It’s nowhere near finished: at a rough estimate I’d say the finished list will be anywhere between ten and twenty thousand words. The more words, the better. It’s essentially a rough outline of every single book in my series, and it has to note every subplot and how they progress over however-many-books-they’re-in, where the foreshadowing is for certain events and how much is needed at different times, what my characters are going through and what they’re feeling from what they went through in the last book, and so on and so forth etc etc ad nauseam.
Some of these points literally consist of three words.
- Nate meets Celia.
And some of them consist of entire (and very long) paragraphs filling in the backstory of a fairly minor character.
- Blah blah blah backstory blah backstory blah character motivation blah backstory blah history blah backstory.
And that’s ok. Because it works for me.
So. My advice: find out what works for you. Try different methods. Give index cards a shot. Try handwriting notes. Try typing out bullet points. Try drawing diagrams of plot arcs and filling them in. And if one method doesn’t work for you, try something else. Even if it does work for you, try something else, and if the Something Else doesn’t work better, go back to the method that did work for you.
In the end, it’s all about finding what works for you.
“But Rowling used a hand-drawn spreadsheet!”
If that works for you, fine. But remember: You’re not Rowling, and your book isn’t Order of the Phoenix.
“But Ted Dekker does it this way!”
Again: if it works for you, fine. But you’re not Ted. You’re you. You have to do it your way.
“But – !”
I repeat: You are not another author. You are you. Your writing is yours and yours alone. Your plots, your characters, your books will be yours and yours alone.
Find what works for you.
And then tell me, so I can give it a go and see if it works better than doing it my way.