Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Before You Write a Mystery (4): Notes

I started working on a book once and was so anxious to get going, I didn't stop long enough to devise a way to keep track of everything. Needless to say, I found myself having to untangle all the details in the middle. A frustrating job.

The plots of mysteries are particularly complicated and the details of the settings and characters require special attention to those details. It will make your job much easier if, before you start writing, you set up a system to keep track of things.

You can choose to keep track of details by hand by writing notes on file cards or in a notebook, on the computer by setting up some sort of searchable database, or on a story board.

Regardless of the system you set up, here are a few of the things you may want to include in your notes:

1. Characters. As you go along, you will invent details about your characters that will enhance their presence in your story. Keep a list of those details, so you don't have to search the manuscript for them later.

2. Note all setting information, including:
  • geographical locations and descriptions
  • scene settings should include details of rooms, furniture, building quirks that may be important to the story later
  • the atmosphere of each location is important to ensure you convey a consistent mood
3. Books and articles. Keep track of references as you go along. It'll be a big job to redo it at the end.

4. People. Keep track of the people who help you and their contact information. You will want to mention them in the acknowledgment section of your book and you may want to send them a copy later.

5. Ideas. Set up a file for ideas that come to you along the way. Don't rely on your memory to recall every brilliant thought you have while showering or driving somewhere. Write them down and put them in one spot.

6. Outlines. Set up a system for plotting out your book. Fill in parts ahead of time as they come to you.

7. Rough drafts. Set up a system of keeping track of your rough drafts. I put a date in the header or footer to keep it all straight. Some other system might work well for you. You'll save time if you employ a consistent system for keeping your computer files straight from the beginning.

Okay..., there's a start to the organization of your work. Please feel free to add your suggestions in the comments section.


Terry Odell said...

All good advice. I used a 'tracking board' for summaries when I wrote my mystery. It's on my
website if you're interested.

Charmaine Clancy said...

Fantastic post! Just what I needed - I can't wait to go back and read the other posts now. Thanks.

Jeff King said...

Amen to the post above... great info.

thx I'll be back.

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