Another “classic” blog post to beat the summer doldrums.
When I write, I work with three basic documents.
The first document is the manuscript itself, my "Story." I begin at page one and I'm off. I usually write in linear scene order, start to finish. If I don't know something, I'll put in a line of XXXXXXX's. If I need to check on something I've written, I'll highlight the section in red or yellow. Sometimes I don't even worry about chapter breaks. I just keep my head down and plow ahead, knowing I'll figure everything out during the revision process.
The second document I use is my roadmap ("Notes"). Even though it's a single "document," it's really a mish-mash that serves several functions (it's just easier for me to do it this way, especially when I know I'm going to end up searching frantically through it five months later looking for that certain vital detail I needed YESTERDAY!).
This Notes file includes:
- The outline of the novel, scene by scene
- A list of character names used, sorted by letter of the alphabet, so I don't have too many names beginning with the same letters (too confusing for readers and too confusing for me)
- A brief character sketch of the major players (anywhere from a sentence or two ("uncoordinated, couldn't hit his mouth with a cheeseburger"), up to a few paragraphs). For more detailed bios, I will sometimes open new files--but I've found I rarely consult them!
- Other information I want to include somewhere in the manuscript: nicknames, setting descriptions, types of cars, pets, jokes, possible character names, cool phrases I've decided to plagiarize, etc. I put all this miscellaneous stuff here because I know I'll review the entire file during the revision process.
The third document is my "Snips" file. In it go all the words, sentences, paragraphs, scenes, and chapters that I've written, then decided don't fit. I cut them out of my draft and put them here, just in case I change my mind and need them again. When I finish and realize I'm 8,000 words short, this is where I look first to see if there's anything worth salvaging. Hey, I've learned you can't be too careful.
What "document" system do you use when you write?