How To Read Your Novel Notes

If you read my update post about my writing goals as well as my May Goals, you’ll know that I’m trying to get some more work down on my detective novel, George Florence.

Of course, in order to get any work done on this novel I need to go through all my notes, drafts, and research.

This has been a slow process.

how to read through your notes rachel poli

If you follow me on Twitter, I’m sure you’ve seen me tweeting now and again about my attempt at organizing everything I have for my novel.

I have notes, case ideas, evidence lists, research, timeline notes, feedback from my writer’s group (multiple feedback as I submit 20 pages a month), plus previous drafts I have edited myself. I can’t stress enough how overwhelming it all looks when it’s laid out together.

Before I do anything, I’ve been trying to organize my thoughts. But in order to do that, you need to be able to read your own notes.

There’s really no easy way to go through your novel notes. Not when you’ve been working on this specific novel for almost three years.

Thoughts while reading your notes:

1. “Different strangulation techniques…” Boy, I hope no one finds my research.
2. “3,000 bucks for an apartment?! Are you kidding me…?”
3. What does this mean?
4. What was I thinking when I wrote this?
5. What is this supposed to go to…?
6. Was this an idea for this novel or something else?
7. Look at all the research I have done! And I still haven’t made a dent…

Some notes I was able to make sense of. Others, not so much.

Then there was dialogue I created between George and Lilah that were too funny, but have yet to make it into the books. I know one is for a later book, but I have no idea where I’m going to fit the other conversation.

For example…

George: Why do they always look like zombies…?
Lilah: Well, they just killed someone! I would act like a zombie too being like, “Oh, my God! What did I just do…?” Unless I was super crazy and then I would be like, “Ha ha, look at what I just did!”

George (to Lilah): I bet you were the type of kid that poked dead things with a stick, huh?

This post was titled “How To Read Your Novel Notes,” wasn’t it? I guess that’s a bit misleading. Then again, I don’t really know how to go through my notes. I sifted through them wondering what to do with them and then eventually shoved them back into my notebook.

So I guess I wasn’t very helpful.

Have you ever had just too many ideas for a novel that you didn’t know what to do with them? Any notes you thought were funny or didn’t remember writing?

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My Planning Process

Yesterday I discussed different outlining methods for your novel. I talked about three techniques, but there are many more. Many are out there on the Internet and others are private between the novel and the author.

So today, I’m going to share my magnificent outlining secret!

Not really… I’m pretty sure I’ve seen people use this way before even though I thought I made it up myself.

All you need are six items: index cards, post-it notes, a pen, a pencil, a notebook, and tape. I like to use the bigger index cards to fit more notes. I also use colored index notes to make it look pretty. Same goes for the post-it notes; use pretty colors (but that’s totally optional). I use a pen to write on the index cards and post-it notes (because that’s what a pen is for). I use the pencil to number each post-it note (I’ll explain further in a minute). I use a notebook to put the post-it notes and the index cards. I use the tape to hold the index cards in place on the pages.

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I’ll use Detective Florence 2 as an example of this untitled outlining method. I have a total of ten index cards (there may end up being more). On one card I wrote a list of characters in the novel; main, secondary, minor, etc. I also wrote their ages and their purpose in the story. The list was too long so I taped a second index card on the bottom to continue the list. One card has a list of plot points; questions that need to be answered by the end of the book. One card is a general list of notes about plot, setting, characters, anything. Since DF2 is a mystery novel, two of the index cards are death details; “who, what, where, why, how, when” questions and answers. Two cards are the culprits plans; again, the who, why, what, etc. questions. It’s a lot of repetition, but mysteries have a lot of information that need to be remembered. I also have an index card with a list of dates and a small summary of what the characters did on each date. It helps keep track of the times and days in the novel for the characters. The last card is editing points, which I don’t create until I start the editing process.

I tape those down on the first few pages of the notebook, as shown above.

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The rest of the pages are filled with post-it notes. I use the pen to write in each scene on post-it notes. Each scene takes multiple post-its because I do a minute-by-minute summary. I don’t say, “this will happen in this scene.” I say, “George will do this” then “Lilah will say that.” Post-it notes are small and my handwriting is big; but I think it’s more helpful to be more detailed rather than give a general summary of each scene. I like to lay each scene out so I know exactly what to do next. Sometimes it changes, but that’s okay; at least I start off with a plan.

That’s exactly why I use post-it notes. If something changes, I can easily add, take out, or simply rearrange the notes. That’s also where the pencil comes in. I number each post-it note–despite they’re already in order in the notebook–so if I move them around I can erase and re-number them instead of crossing out the numbers with a pen.

Since I’ve already edited the manuscript once, some post-its got moved around. Others got cut completely. However, you should never waste an idea you once thought was good or needed. So, in the back of the notebook I stack all the unused ideas together. Some might end up back in the novel and others might appear in the sequel. You just never know.

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If you look closely at the picture, you’ll see there are 15 notes that didn’t make the cut this time around.

Now, why do I use a notebook? When I first thought of this method I used a giant poster and stuck everything on there. I hung it on the wall behind my desk for easy access as I wrote and edited. The thing was, the post-it notes kept falling off the more I moved them around. They lost their stick so I tried taping them down like I did with the index cards. That just ripped the poster so I would have to replace the tape each time I moved a note. It was more tedious than it needed to be.

So I decided to use a notebook. I can close the cards and notes inside so they don’t fall off and they don’t get crinkled up. Plus, you can see from the pictures that there is still some room (mostly just the margins) to add in notes about the notes.

This method is easy, flexible, and doesn’t take much time. That’s why I love it so much. So feel free to try it out for yourselves, regardless of what genre you’re working on. I hope it works just as well for you as it does for me.

 

Lost And (Hopefully) Found

Via Pinterest
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Does anyone remember when my flash drive died about a year and a half or so ago? I lost just about everything. All my manuscripts and ideas. There were a few novels I didn’t lose because they were all ready printed out, but I lost about 85% of my writing. Yeah, that was not a fun time…and I’m sure you’re wondering why I’m bringing that up again.

So…Camp NaNoWriMo ends in about three days. I have been writing my novel Detective Florence (Book 2). I wrote a little over 3k words yesterday bringing my to about 44k. After that, I decided to write my Short Story Sunday because it was getting late in the day and it needed to be done.

Well, I have been working so much on Detective Florence that I have been in the habit of clicking on that document when I hit the “save” button. So when I was working on my Short Story Sunday and I hit save…

Yes, I saved over my entire 150-page-44k-words-so-close-to-being-completed-for-Camp-NaNo-and-the-entire-story-line manuscript. The worst part of it is that I did not do this once, but three times. Yes, three. When my flash drive died, I had no back-ups so I got Dropbox and fairly recently got Google Drive. Every time I work on something–writing, homework, anything–I save it to all three. Therefore, when I did my Short Story Sunday, I saved it to…all three.

However, I have overcome the initial shock and sadness of this tragedy. I have been taking notes and writing the scenes as I write them on sticky notes so I have all the ideas. Plus, the story wasn’t going where I originally wanted it to go. So today I moved around some sticky notes, got rid of a few, and added new ones. The story (hopefully) will make much better sense.

Kris was good enough to get back the very first draft from when I saved it the first time, so she got me back the first 5,012 words of my story. This means I have about 45k left to write in order to validate for NaNo. With five days left (including yesterday and today), I decided I’m going to rewrite the entire novel. That’s about 10,000 words a day.

Since I all ready had the 5k I just needed to write 5k yesterday and then 10k for the rest of the month. Except I was too discouraged yesterday so I decided to start fresh today.

It took me from 8 in the morning until a little after 7 tonight, but I wrote 15,029 words. My novel is now back up to 20,041 words. I can only hope I can keep up this pace for the next three days (seriously, pray for me!).

Mind Blown

Ready To Be Confused…?

 

First things first: I lost count of my word count. Seriously, I thought I was doing really well with the word count and keeping up with it, but I just calculated everything out and I was about 4,000 words off. The word count on here was higher than what my calculator said. So I decided to change it. I’m adding the words from Take Over, Saving Each Other, Seeing Things, and so far of The Blank Page because that’s really all I have written for 2013. So the word count is a little less, but oh well. I think I might have gotten confused because of the NaNo count, as well.

That’s not what I meant by the confusion, though. Although I am pretty confused about the word count, but whatever. What I was going to mention about being confused is the fact that I am trying to write four books at one time right now. Yes.

I have been trying to stick with one book at a time to make it easier on myself and to force myself to be more organized. So far, it’s been working. The only thing is that I have Seeing Things started, but I plan on finishing that as soon as I finish The Blank Page.

Speaking of the The Blank Page…you know how that novel is about three writers getting together once a week to write their own novels? Well, three novels plus The Blank Page, equals four novels. There you have it. I am going to be writing four novels at once.

When I first started writing The Blank Page (before my flash drive died) I thought about writing their novels along with the real one because I thought it would help me keep track of their progress, figure out their own writing styles and habits, and I could get their plots straightened out. I never did, though. I don’t know why and I got confused a lot and there were a lot of holes in The Blank Page…holes that my characters found and jumped through as I tried to continue on with the novel. So not only did I have no idea what was going on, but they decided to play hide-and-seek on me…and I lost.

So I decided to write each novel as I write The Blank Page. It’s going to be tough, but I think I will be able to get through it. I hope I can, anyway. It’s tough right now because I gave each of them their own way of thinking on how to write a novel. For example…

Adair is writing fantasy. She doesn’t know the title of her novel and she doesn’t think. She just writes whatever comes to her mind because to her, editing is when the real writing begins so the first draft is going to be crap no matter how well she writes it. She just wants to get the editing process sooner rather than later. Her novel is single-spaced, but she still has more pages than the boys because she types a lot faster.

Justin is writing a young adult drama and he is the complete opposite of Adair. He knows the title and he thinks a lot. He has a notebook filled with notes and, outlining for this novel. He knows the exact beginning, middle, and end to his novel to make sure that he doesn’t get stuck behind writer’s block. He hates editing, which is another reason as to why he plans it all out. He also types really slowly to try not to make too many mistakes to make editing easier, as well. His novel is double-spaced “as it should be.”

Dominic, in a way, is a mix of Adair and Justin. He came in not even knowing the genre. Apparently, he has written mystery, suspense, and thrillers before, so he decided to write a mystery after Adair told him to. His is double-spaced, but still has the least amount of pages. He doesn’t plan, as he didn’t even know the genre, but he hates editing. He has no idea what the title is and he has no idea where the plot is going to end up. He doesn’t even really have a plot at the moment.

So as you can tell, it’s a little tough because I have to write two novels entirely from scratch and I have to plan out Justin’s novel. Well, I don’t have to, but I want to. It’ll be a good exercise to step into my characters’ shoes and get to know them a little more. I’m just a little afraid of what I might find.

 

2013: 119,319/350,000 Words Written
2013: 1,749/18,250 Pages Read

Enjoying Myself

I May Be Having Too Much Fun…

 

I have been doing a great job keeping up with everything I said I was going to do! If I may say so myself…for example, my sister and I admin a few websites together (all the links are on the Come Find Me page, they’re all RPG sites) and we made a schedule so that at least one of us is on every day for our members. I’m supposed to go on Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. I haven’t really missed a day yet!

Then, I said I was going to write more. With the exception of January first, I have written every day so far. I told myself (I never mentioned anything about it on here because I thought about this at three in the morning the other day) that I was going to post on here every single day this year. Or I’m going to try to, anyway. However, I usually post about my writing. So in order to post on here, I have to write a bit first. So I guess it’s another motivation thing to get me to write every day. I also said that I was going to treat this like a NaNo month. I’m keeping up with that, as well. I should have 4,839 words today but I just got up to 5,843. Yay me!

I also said that I was going to read more, but…we’ll still wait and see how that goes. I said on GoodReads that I was going to read 20 books this year, so as long as I make it to that goal, we’re good. It would be nice to make it past that goal, but you know…other things get in the way.

Anyway, as you know I am writing The Blank Page and I am really having too much fun with it. I am in love with the characters that have developed for this story. Adair and Justin argue like an old married couple. Justin seems to be bothered by every little thing Adair does and Adair knows this. So she tries to do everything in her power to bug him with it. Also, at the beginning of chapter two she bought a large coffee with two bags of cookies. I think she has a bit of a sweet tooth…

And then there’s Dominic…he’s the peacemaker, even though he is amused by Justin and Adair’s arguments. But he also wants to get things done. Except when the other two finally shut up to get things done, they actually work on their novels while poor Dominic is stuck not having a clue what to write. But it’s okay, he just figured out a plot!

Writing this story is also really interesting because they’re each writing different genres. Adair is writing fantasy, Dominic is writing a mystery, and Justin is writing an adventure story. Writing this series is going to be like writing three different books at once without actually writing them. It going to be fun and interesting, but I am going to have to take a lot of notes to keep everything straight. Good thing for sticky notes! 🙂

Well, that’s really it for today. I’ll post again tomorrow with my newest word count.

 

2013: 5,843 Words