Research. Plot. Character. BIC. World-building. Story. Voice. Backups. Theme. Scene. Conflict. Revisions. Rising action.
The list goes on and on. The question for today’s post is How do I juggle all of this?
Well, like everything in writing there is no one, simple, easy answer. We are all unique, and we all deal with the challenges of writing in our own unique way. However, there are a few things I can suggest that may help you at least get started.
For the supremely disorganized, I suggest a simple checklist. In fact, I suggest two simple checklists. The first checklist is for the work as a whole. This is not necessarily to be done in order but rather to make sure you have included the crucial elements to a successful story. Here is where you list plot, protagonist, antagonist, world building, theme, etc. Most of the items on this list should be checked off before you actually start writing the work. Depending on your writing style, some items such as plot may not get checked off until the very end. It will alter as you go. I’ve never had a story finish exactly as I envisioned it, but making sure you have the basics in place will make the exploration of writing a bit easier.
The second list is for your daily writing. Here is the checklist to handle your actual approach to getting words on the page. Some authors like to warm up before tackling the actual WIP. John Steinbeck often used a writing diary in which he would lay down his thoughts about the WIP, the current scene, as well as the mundane events of the day. Others prefer a simple writing exercise whether it be to describe the scene or character or moment. Still others warm up using a short story (this has the added benefit of producing a short story when you finish). If you’re a warm up type, than make that the first item on your checklist. If you prefer to jump right in, then do so. The daily writing checklist also includes items after the day’s words are finished such as reminding yourself to backup files, research that seafaring lingo you thought you knew, and plot revisions you’ve made along the way (and you will make them).
For the moderately organized, perhaps some computer software will help. A few options already have been mentioned in earlier posts, and as I have not used any such software myself, I cannot speak to their effectiveness. However, even using a simple spreadsheet might help. The idea is simply to find a secure place to organize your thoughts so that they’re not bouncing around in your head all the time. You need to get that stuff out in order to make room for the new thoughts.
Finally, for those of you already organized or those of you who really like to fly by the seat of your pants, I return your attention to a suggestion made by David a short while back. Write some short stories. Write stories about events your characters have dealt with before those of your WIP. I tried this method with my current work and discovered it to be of great value. I learned more about my characters and the world they live in than in any world I had ever created before. It’s not just the practical side of things either. Not just the names of flora and fauna or the placement of buildings in the town or the history of one of my characters. I learned about the textures, the aromas, the tastes of the world I had created. In writing a few short stories (I wrote three), I was able to take all the research I had been juggling in my head and stir it together in the cauldron of writing. When I actually began my novel, I had already lived in its world several times.
What works for each of us is, of course, different. The more you write, the more you go through the process, the easier the juggling act becomes. Well, all right, not really easier, but rather you’ll develop a method that eventually will work for you. So what works for you now?