JERRI CORGIAT’S NEWSLETTER
Feature Article: (ONE) ORGANIZATIONAL PROCESS
Best Book(s) I’ve Read This Month
I’m sorry it’s been such a long delay (since February, did you miss me?) between newsletters, but...
Wow, did the you-know-what ever hit the fan at the end of February. I had a family crisis explode on each end of the state. I won’t go into all the details—heaven knows, I don’t want to relive them, so why should you? Suffice it to say that anyone who’s had a taste of being one of the Sandwich Generation—ending up at least partial caretaker for children and parents simultaneously—knows exactly where I’m coming from.
But now things have calmed down—at least for the time being. And I’ve survived it all—at least so far. And you just know that in the future I’ll be writing about women who are torn between obligations! Hmm... should she stand stalwart and be everyone’s shoulder to lean on? Or should she grab a credit card, her minivan, and her dog and run off into the sunset?!
HOME AT LAST in bookstores August 2, 2005
Visit my web site: www.jerricorgiat.com, and click on the Contest page.
Romance Writers’ of America “Readers for Life” Literacy Signing
5:30 to 8:30 PM, Wednesday, July 27
Reno Hilton Hotel
(Open to the Public)
Coming this fall:
Johnson County Libraries. October 9. Talk & signing. Details TBA.
I’ll be back online at least monthly (sometimes more than monthly depending on how much I’m procrastinating on my real work) at the NAL Authors web site, and would love to see you there. Chat with me and other NAL authors: Visit http://nalauthors.com/forums/. Browse around, see what’s cooking. There are lots of discussion threads, as well as ongoing contests listed under (who’da thunk it?) “Contests and Games.”
FEATURE ARTICLE: (ONE) ORGANIZATIONAL PROCESS
As I get started again on my series on Creating a Novel, I want to stress once more that my way of doing anything-writing is absolutely not THE way. Every writer I know uses a different process and different approaches.
And also different organizational tools. The following are those I’ve found useful—developed over the course of four books. If you’re a writer, they might give you some ideas. If you’re not, they’ll illustrate how writing is not always just a right-brained endeavor!
1. My Notebook
Because my books to date (both the two that are published and the two that will be) are a series with repeating characters, I’ve developed a notebook filled with information on characters and settings. I no longer need to refer to it for character information as I’ve gotten to know these people so well in the last few years. But I do need it to keep straight such things as:
Note in any book you’re reading how often some past event is mentioned: like a marriage; a birth; a death; a divorce; how long a character has lived in one place and how many years he lived in another...
“When she divorced Steve five years ago...”
“After Johnny’s death last summer...”
“She’d been stuck in this job since leaving college fourteen years ago.”
Authors usually need to ground readers in such information. For me, it’s far easier to track such things on a sheet of paper than in my head. Especially over the course of four books.
I have a mini-calendar that spans 12 years (that I made by simply typing three-letter month abbreviations across the span of one line to make one year: JAN FEB MAR, etc...). Believe it or not, it all fits on one page of paper.
Making copious use of colored highlighters and pens, I pinpoint the dates of important events in my characters’ lives, as well as highlight the time frame where each book takes place.
When I need to find X, as in, “when Lil and Jon got married X years ago,” I can easily count from the time frame of the current book back to the month they married in Sing Me Home.
I use a second calendar (copied from the first) that shows birthdates and ages of each character. Since my books also have a multitude of offspring, I also indicate on this calendar the grade each child is in.
In Sing Me Home, the O’Malleys’ house is located south of the square. In subsequent books, I wanted to make sure it hadn’t gotten up and walked over to North End. Nor did I want Peg O’ My Heart diner to suddenly have traveled from a few doors up from Merry-Go-Read bookstore to a few doors down. So, I drew a map. Nothing fancy, purely functional.
I also sketch floor plans of prominent settings, like homes or workplaces, so that the kitchen doesn’t mysteriously travel from the back of the house to the front.
Prior to my first book, I wrote about each member of the O’Malley family. Extensively. I included notes from physical attributes to mannerisms and habits and slang expressions; from religious and political beliefs through childhood history.
But over the course of four books, while I found things I’d recorded like eye color and middle names* useful, I found the characters revealed themselves in new and different (and usually more interesting) ways once they came alive in my story.
Were I starting another book with a brand new cast, while I’d still jot some notes, I’d forgo the “extensively.”
*(Why middle names? Well, doesn’t every mother suddenly rediscover her child’s full name when she’s angry? I remember lots of times where I was Jerri. Lee. And it never indicated anything good.)
2. Progression Calendar:
When I begin, I decide on a starting day of the week—sometimes determined by where the character is (at work? at play?), and sometimes by what comes next. If I want the characters at a weekend houseparty after a break of a few days, then the book had better begin mid-week. I usually sketch out (briefly, very briefly) some ideas. Then...
On a legal pad, I write down a heading indicating the date & day of week, the chapter number, where the scene takes place, whose POV (point of view) the scene is in, and who is present.
AFTER I have written the chapter, I jot down bullet points of what took place. The following is the entry for the first chapter in my work in progress:
Fri/Oct 8 Chapter 1 O’Malley Home--wedding
Patsy Lee POV / PL & Zeke
PL Breaks Ankle (will be cast Mon)
* * *
PL POV / PL & Daisy & Zinnia, et al.
5 hours later-after hospital-family meeting
Meet rest of famly (Bebe mentioned first time)
* * *
Zeke POV / Zeke & family
Volunteers to help
This progression calendar is invaluable to me in tracking passage of time passage so that I can make sure the characters are where they should be: “The next day, back at work, Patsy Lee...” Or to easily see the time passage between scenes without referring to previous text: “On Saturday, three days later, Patsy Lee laid in bed till noon.”
This calendar also provides a very handy tool during revisions. At a glance, I can see where I might be able to layer in ideas I thought of while I wrote.
3. Which brings me to... The Ideas I Thought of While I Wrote:
As I am writing, new ideas, items to check, items to emphasize, et. pop up. Sometimes these are A Big Deal, but more often they’re not. However, all are integral to making the story more believable or better written or more interesting. Intead of interrupting the flow to return to an earlier passage (or passages) to layer in these ideas, I keep a second legal pad at my elbow to record them. Again, entries made for my currrent work in progress:
Speed up pace in first 75 pages by removing some dialogue beats.
Pet name for Lily-Too is Sunshine. Make sure used.
Pg. 99, there’s mention Zeke “formulated plans”; what are they? carry through.
Look at end of 2nd scene 2nd chapter. May want to start ch. 3 here.
I started using this particular technique with my second book. During the first, every time I got an idea while writing the initial draft, I’d go back and laboriously add, change, delete, or rewrite what I already had. But during my revision process, I often cut paragraphs or a passage or entire scenes(or rewrite same). I realized—duh—that it didn’t pay to spend the time on these ideas until I was near the end of my revisions.
Once again... this is just my way of organizing my writing. Many writers don’t use any formal organizational tools, although most have some method of keeping a few things straight as they go. Whatever works.
BOOK(s) I’VE READ THIS PAST MONTH:
MISS JULIA SPEAKS HER MIND by Ann B. Ross
A delightful character and a fun (and sometimes pointedly insightful) read!
PERFECT MATCH by Jodi Picoult
SKINNY DIP, by Carl Hiaasen
Quirky escape from reality!
Here’s a site I discovered (that probably everyone else already knows about) that’s a great tool for writers—or anyone else who wants a quick knowledge fix: www.howstuffworks.com.
Happy Reading! Jerri
Fiction for and about women rediscovering themselves