I’ve been working on my next Mapleton Mystery, and am back to using my story tracking board. I didn’t use it for Jinx’s Blackthorne, Inc. book, mostly because I was lazy. No excuses; I didn’t take down the sticky notes from the previous book, and by the time I thought about it, I was so far into the book, the thought of recapping to that point was too daunting.
(Note-this was definitely a ‘do as I say, not as I do’ situation)
But for Gordon’s book, I cleaned off my board and went back to my tried-and-true method of tracking. For me, it’s another way to remember stuff if I write things longhand, but using sticky notes means I have to be concise.
Things I track:
Plot points for each scene/chapter. In this case, I’m writing strictly from Gordon’s POV (at least for now), so my chapters are what would have been scenes in the previous books. Part of the reasoning here is that the trend is for shorter chapters, because readers will often keep reading if they see there are only a few more pages to finish the chapter—and then, if you hook them, they’ll see there are only a few more pages to finish the next chapter, and so on. I’ll also not important reveals, so I don’t get ahead of myself and refer to something that hasn’t happened yet.
Story day/time of day. I don’t worry about what day of the week it might be until I have a plot point that needs to happen on a particular day, and then I backtrack and fill in from there. I might be half way through the book before a day of the week is mentioned, and if it’s not important, I don’t bother with it.
Where the scene takes place. This helps make sure that 1)I’m not stuck in the same setting for chapters on end, and 2) I’m not talking about being in the police station when I’m really at the crime scene. Or at a restaurant.
Secondary characters. It’s easy to glance at the board and see whether a character hasn’t appeared in a long time, and if so, if that character’s really needed. Or, in the case of Deadly Secrets, looking at the character sticky notes gave me the killer. (No, I usually don’t know when I start the book.)
What I’m finding I should be noting now, although not necessarily on my tracking board, is power outages. I’ve shoved my characters into a remote Bed & Breakfast during a blizzard, and since I can control their electricity to suit the needs of the plot, I’ve been turning it on and off. However, on my re-reads, I’ve found places where they’re using flashlights when the power is on, or a computer when it’s off. While it’s not worthy of a sticky note, because the power might go off and on more than once in a scene, I do need to remind myself of what it’s doing. For this, I use my nightly printouts, and make a mental note to highlight these places or scribble what the electricity is doing in the margins.
What about you? What things do you discover (perhaps the hard way) that you need to keep track of? Do you ever catch characters changing clothes as if by magic? Or eating dinner twice? How do you keep things organized.
And, another reason I’m writing this post today is that on Saturday, I’ll be attending a workshop given by Gwen Hernandez, author of Scrivener for Dummies, and I’ll see if I think using a computer program instead of my low-tech system makes sense for me. I understand the program has great tracking capabilities.
Causes Terry Odell Supports
Pro Literacy Worldwide, The Nature Conservancy, The Adult Literacy League, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society