My Stages of Writing Preparation

As I’m in the process of writing Pickled Petunia, book 3 of my Motts Cold Case Mystery Series. I thought I’d share the stages of writing prep that I go through with most of my novels.

  1. Make a to-do list. Seems redundant, but I work best with lists. It’s a bit of a life-hack for me, as someone who is autistic and deals with executive dysfunction.
  2. Add a new section to my book series Pinterest Board.
  3. Create both a TV/Movie and music playlist. For my cosy mysteries, I watch a lot of shows like Rosemary & Thyme and Ms Fisher.
  4. Come up with a title.
  5. Read any prior books in the series.
  6. Outline + fill out my book bible.
  7. Do any research.
  8. Names for all the new characters being introduced.
  9. Update the corkboard over my desk with book inspiration. For Motts, it’s an image of Elliot Page and photo of a village in Cornwall similar to the one in the book.
  10. Pick the notebook I’m going to write in. I tend to write in a notebook then type up what I’ve written the following do. It’s almost like sneaking in an extra edit.

Those aren’t necessarily in order. Some of them happen concurrently, particularly when I’m on #6.

2020 in Review

In 2019, I decided my word for 2020 would be balance.

And about March 2020 went….

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I thought it might be fun to do a review of what I’d hoped to accomplish this year.

What did I hope to write/accomplish in 2020?

  • Motts book 2 and 3
  • Podcast book 1 and 2
  • Patreon

Where am I at in December 2020?

  • Said goodbye to Patreon
  • Finished three novels instead of four
  • Started a cozy mystery group

Over all? Given we dove headfirst into a global pandemic this year?

Not bad. Better than I imagined.

How about 2021? What do I hope to achieve next year?

  • Motts book 3 and 4
  • Podcast book 3 and maybe 4
  • Start book one of a super secret project

How about you? How did you manage in 2020? And what are you hoping to do next year?

Why I now use an outline.

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Sort of.

I hate outlining. Always have. I hated it when I was in school. Still hate it. It, to my autistic mind, is unnecessary and illogical. I don’t like the pattern of standard outlines. They irritate me.

And I am a proud pantser.

Except.

I’m not–not entirely a pantser anymore.

I now use a bastardized version of the beat sheet.  Plus, a cozy mystery outline I found online that is basically just a series of questions to allow an author to keep track of the details of the victim, the killer, and the main suspects.

These are new additions to what I usually keep in my book bible.

As I’m now working on what will hopefully be two lengthy book series, keeping outlines and additional information will save me from losing my mind when I write book 2.

I hope.

I don’t think I’ll ever be a full planner. I doubt I’ll work with a traditional outline. They annoy me too much.

But, a little bit of planning has definitely kept my last two WIPs from going off the rails.

Fighting Your Muse.

Inspiration

I’m writing this blog post on Sunday. And my brain is all over the place. It’s hard to find peace and joy when the world seems chaotic and filled with pain.  And writing a holiday novella seems almost impossible.

Though, that is not the topic of this post.

I wanted to talk about fighting your muse. Something I don’t recommend, and something I frequently do as a pantser.

My muse likes to dump ideas on me constantly at inconvenient times and places.

In the middle of writing a story?

My bastard of a muse: “here’s a brilliant and completely unrelated idea.”

Falling asleep?

My muse: “Have you considered….”

In the shower?”

My Muse: “I am a genius.”

So when do you fight the muse?

It can be dangerous to ignore good ideas. I mean, they’re good. You want to write them.

Some ideas I have to let go because I don’t think they’re mine to write. Others I jot down in my idea notebook (I start a new one every year.) And some, I start immediately because my brain won’t quit.

The key is to know when to battle your muse into submission–like when you have a deadline and don’t have time for a new idea.

And when to go with the flow.

How about you?

Does your muse flood you with ideas at the worst moments?

 

 

 

From straight pantser to ever so slightly plotting along.

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I used to be a straight pantser.  (Someone who writes by the seat of their pants instead of plotting with an outline, etc.)

Never did anything, not even writing down character notes, before starting a novel. My mind liked it, but my manuscripts became a bit of a nightmare to edit. It’s hard to keep track of characters, plots, and timelines when NOTHING is written down.

And your memory is a bit shit.

Now, I do better.

I plot a little. I’ll never be a true plotter. Outlines bore me to tears. So, I’ve found a compromise that works.

Stage One: Faces, Names and Places

Three things I usually do before anything else is to pick the location of a story, the novel title, and visual references for the characters.

I’m not a very visual person, so I definitely need an actual image to picture while I’m writing.

Stage Two: Build out a Book Bible.

I use thin A5 Muji notebooks and fill out little character questionnaires for the main characters along with notes about family/friends. I also jot down a loose timeline. I find this helps keep the novel on track, but also with writing newsletters and blog posts once I’m done with the book.

Stage Three: Media.

Before writing, I build two essential lists. A musical playlist, my current WIP has a mostly country music playlist. I also create a TV/movie list. I find watching shows or movies based around the theme of what I’m writing can really help me get in the mood.

For The Royal Marine, for example, I watched a lot of Bake Off. For the Grasmere trilogy, it watched Poirot, of course.

Stage Four: Let’s Play Pretend

This is the stage where I’m usually supposed to be giving myself a writing break, but I’m chomping at the bit to write.

Stage Five: Write

Self-explanatory that involves a lot of coffee, sobbing, and hitting my head against the keyboard.

If you’re a writer, are you a pantser or a plotter?