Tag Archives: outlining

NaNo 11: Character Profiles

100_6318 Character profiles are one of the most important parts of my outlines. No, not because I need to know everything about a character before I start writing.

It’s because I have a memory like a sieve. Once again this comes down to my long term outlining. Many of the stories I’m outlining at the moment have been in my head for over a year. Some longer. It won’t surprise me if some of the story bibles I’ve been compiling remain on my shelf until next NaNo, still waiting to be written. Thing is, I think that’s okay. My characters (as well as the story) slowly develop over time. Organically. Naturally. They become real.

But, buggered if I can remember how old some of my characters are. Their histories. Their occupations.

The profile is more for noting important details than getting to know my character. I can’t force the characters (at least the major ones) into being. They live and grow in my imagination often over a very long period of time.

Then there are the characters that I’ve written before. One of my NaNo possibilities this year is the sequel to the first NaNovel I wrote. As I read the book to refresh my memory, I noted down all those little canon details on my characters that I will need for consistency. Another possibility is in the same universe as another of my previous stories, so I have canon details to stick to there, as well. Those were the easiest character profiles I ever filled out. Brand new characters are a little more difficult, but I recommend not forcing it. If you immediately ‘know’ what his favourite colour is, then by all means, toss it in there, but if you don’t, sit back and wait and see. It might not come to you for weeks, it might not come till you’re actually writing the story, or it might never come to you at all. I don’t believe that you need to know how he drinks his coffee or where he went to school. If it matters, it will come.

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I set aside a page for each character, even the minor ones (because who knows what might come to light while I’m writing). If a major character has quite a long history (which happens sometimes when I write my vampires) I’ll give them two pages so I can let the bio spill onto the second page if necessary.

The fields I use vary, depending on the genre of the book. There’s the usual name, age, appearance type headings. I’m not sure how much you can see in this photo, but for Vital Depth II which is my vampire story, I have different groups of fields for my humans and my vampires. The vampires have: Name, Other Names, Age, Origin, Position (in the vampire hierarchy), Apparent Age, a bunch of appearance fields, Mate, Maker, Progeny, etc. My humans have: Full Name, Short Name, Age, Residence, Education, Occupation, the appearance stuff, Partner (which means spouse, other half etc), Birthdate, Orientation (because I write gay romance this is applicable), etc. Everyone gets at least half a page for a general biography. But all my books are different, each of my big red books have fields which suit that particular story.

Okay, I think I’m about done here for today :) VampSlash Halloween Fest authors, you can start sending me your stuff from now. You’ve got until the 30th of October to get them in. MAKE SURE YOU READ THE SUBMISSION GUIDELINES.


NaNo ‘11: The Basics

Every story has a few little details that don’t require endless description.

Working Title

I don’t worry too much about titles before I write. It’s not something I obsess over. Often it’s a line from a song that inspires me, a concept, or just the way I think of a particular story. At first they sound like Friends episodes. ‘The One With the Three Guys’ or ‘The One with Autoerotic Asphyxiation’ or ‘The One with the Gay Priest’. Yep, those are all stories I have in my head. Sigh. Too many stories, not enough time. They might graduate to the title of or a line from a song that has inspired me. I have one story that was, until very recently, called ‘The Ghost of You’. It’s gone on to a real title now. The story I’m most likely doing for NaNo is currently called ‘Vital Depth II’ because it’s in the same ‘verse as the book I wrote two years ago. It will get it’s own title once I more firmly establish some of the themes within it. Eventually they’ll all develop a final title, but that shit doesn’t matter yet. I like to let it happen organically.

Word Count Target

Just a ballpark figure, really. Of course for NaNo it’s 50k, so that’s what I’ve written down for VDII (yes, that is a terribly unfortunate acronym O.O). Some stories, once I start outlining, I realise there is far less story than would constitute a novel, so I generally mark them 25kers. When I have enough of a story in my head I’m usually pretty good at estimating the final word count—I aimed for 25k on Say Something Else and ended up pretty much bang on.

Point of View

First person or third person (or second, if you are terribly brave and perhaps a little foolhardy. Or if you’re writing a choose-your-own-adventure) point of view, and from which characters POV you are writing from. Pretty basic stuff, but it’s often something I agonise over. Which character is the best one to tell the story? In VDII, I have a human and a vampire. They are a couple, and because VDI was third person, those two had almost equal screen time. They are both important to the story. But I’m writing VDII in first person, so I had to choose (I don’t have to remind you that alternating first person POV is a VERY BAD THING, do I?). I ended up going with Lucas, my human, because I want VDII to be able to stand alone and for the reader to be able to discover the vampire world from a human perspective. Also, my vampire, Billy, is a pain in the ass because he can’t go out in the daytime. Lucas is gonna get to see much more and so readers will be better off seeing through his eyes.

Tense

Past or present tense. I write more comfortably in present tense these days, so that’s what I’m going with. You might alternate though, so this might be an important bit of information.

Start Date

For NaNo, that’s 1st November. If I wasn’t nanoing, I’d leave this blank until I started.

Finish Date

For NaNo, 30th November. Coupled with your wordcount, it helps you to figure out how much you need to write per day to get done.

Themes

This I only ever start noting once I’m well into the outline or even when I’m writing the story. I have two separate stories, one with ‘Love Conquers All’ as a theme, and one with ‘Love Does Not Conquer All’. I think that’s kinda funny :D Stories can and often do have more than one theme.

These all go on the first page of my shiny red book. They are some of them obvious, especially if you always write in a particular tense or POV, but knowing how it’s envisioned as you outline is very useful, especially if, like me, you outline and plot and brainstorm over often a long period of time and can sometimes forget stuff. There might be other basics you need to note down here, too. Different books have different stuff on that first page (yeah, I’ve got 4 red books going now for 4 different stories, and plans to buy 5 more books. I have too many stories! BTW, these books are fucking brilliant. I’ve laid one out for a half finished novel that has been sitting unloved for more than a year, and it’s helping me to sort out what needs to happen in the story.)

You don’t have to fill in all this stuff at the beginning, either. Some of the stuff you won’t even know till you start outlining, and sometimes even writing. I generally let it all happen organically.

Next time, hooks and blurbs <—the scary stuff.


NaNo ‘11: Outline Method

My outlines take quite a bit from the snowflake method, but it’s more organic. I do character profiles, basic story breakdown, chapter and scene descriptions. I do a one sentence summary or a hook, and I do a paragraph summary/blurb. But I make notes on this stuff as it comes. There’s no particular order or time limit I have to do them all. Usually I end up with a bundle of torn out pages, or bits and pieces in scattered notebooks.

100_6320I’m loving my hardcover exercise books. I’m currently using them for two of my nano options. The two stories are very different, so I’m sectioning them off accordingly. One book has a lot of world building, so I need space for that. The other one has flashback scenes, so I’ve created another partition for those. Basically I’m just sectioning the books for the way I outline best, but in a way that I can keep it all together, and file it easily.

It’s quite interesting that as I’m outlining one of these stories, I’m finding that it’s likely to be a lot shorter than I originally thought. With all the notes I’ve been making on that story for the last 9 months (and god only knows where most of those are now) I had no idea it was such a compact story.

Next time I’ll write a bit more about the individual parts of my outlines.


Planning for NaNo ‘11

NaNoWriMo is less than two months away. Some of us are already thinking about what we’ll be writing come November 1st, and some are already planning heavily.

I’m not usually much of a planner. Tried the snowflake method last year. As someone who is usually a pantser, I found it far too structured and regimented. I can’t force an outline. Nothing good comes if I make myself think of a plot or a scene or a chapter or a mid-point disaster. And my NaNo last year was pretty much epic fail. So I’m relaxing a bit this year and just letting the plot come to me.

But I need somewhere to keep all the little bits as they filter in. Last year I made a private blog, but that didn’t really work. It was pretty, well-tagged, easily searchable and editable and stuff. But I had to go online to view it, and while I was writing, that did NOT work. Too distracting to have to open the browser. And if I got an idea while I was doing the laundry or the dishes (yep, I get most of my ideas while I’m doing housework) I’d have to jot it down on a scrap of paper or in a notebook and hope I remembered to transfer it to the blog once I got on the computer.

So I’m going back to pen and paper for my planning. I go through a whole lot of notebooks. The filled up ones always have some plotting or planning or brainstorming or something in them left over after I tear out the pages I don’t need. I have dozens all around the house with bits and pieces of forgotten stuff. It’s a travesty, really. I’ve tried to keep all that kind of stuff in Scrivener, but transcribing from handwritten is such a pain in the ass. I’ve tried apps like Evernote and SpringPad which sync between my handy dandy Droid and the computer, but… yeah not so much. My brain works so much better with pen and paper. I thought about using a ringbinder, but talk about cumbersome, plus, I’d likely be too lazy to actually put the sheets of paper in the binder *headdesk* I have used a document file before, but it wasn’t the best way of organising things.

So I bought myself some hardcover exercise books. Lecture books they’re called here, but I’m not sure what they call them in the States. It’s just a school book with a hard cover. 188 pages, and I reckon that’s plenty for anything I’m going to write. One of my NaNo options is an urban fantasy/paranormal with worldbuilding and an epic cast of characters, and it looks like it’s going to be fine for that. I figure these will be useful to keep, with all my planning and reference info in, for editing, for subsequent books in the same universe (the NaNo option I’m talking about right now is actually the third book I will write in this universe, and the sequel to the book I wrote for NaNo two years ago). And they fit nicely on the bookshelf without slipping and sliding away. Hopefully they’ll reduce the amount of abandoned spiral bound notebooks in this house.

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I attached wee tabs (after making quite sure I’d have enough room for everything) on some of the pages so I could easily find what I need. I basically want everything I need to start writing to be in one, physical, easily navigated place, in a format that doesn’t stress me out as I compile all my information. I want to be able to chuck it in my bag and take it with me if I have to leave the house during NaNo, so I have my story (bones, but still) right there in my hands if I feel the need to reconnect with it.

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I’ll let you know how I go as I fill it up and get closer to November :D