I had an attack of the plots today, and accidentally figured out the structure and events of three quarters of Saturnalia, Book III of the Creature Court. Can I hear a woohoo? Yes, I did sell a trilogy without a great deal of idea of what happened in Book III. How could I know, when I had no idea of the surprises Book II would throw at me?
So yes, plot. Part of the reason I wanted to NaNo up the first 50K of this ms before I go back to my rewrite of Book 2 was because it involves a reveal of backstory previously only hinted at, and I wouldn’t know exactly what that backstory WAS until I wrote it. I am not a pre-plotter. I used to be, but it didn’t work for me. I generally have one or two future events in my head, and I try to work towards them, but usually end up taking the scenic route.
This makes meta-documents, as discussed in Scott Westerfeld’s post as part of the Westerbalestier Nano-tips series particularly important to me. I’m not one of those fantasy writers who has their worldbuilding beautifully laid out before they start working (though my cartographer informs me that this would be a Much Better Idea), I wait until the world turns up in crumbs and tidbits in my sentences.
Then I write it down somewhere important and memorable, because if I’m writing fast, chances are that some other worldbuilding that is Entirely Contradictory will turn up later, and that is the road to insanity and tears.
So, my current meta-documents, ie the docs used to keep track of the stuff I need to, include:
Map [hard copy, biro scrawl in notebook, now an ever expanding series of nicely inked sketches drawn by my mother]
Fasti/Calendar of Festivals [Excel, loosely based on the Roman calendar but with some extreme Tansyfication]
Glossary [a latecomer to the party, only constructed after the 3rd draft of Power & Majesty, housed in Zulupad, a platform so awesome it deserves a post of its own – it also now exists in a word doc cos editors want a less spoilery version included at the back of the book]
Playlist! [itunes, one for the whole series, separate ones for each book, mini-playlists for characters who deserve it, and a Make Write Good super playlist for writing fastly and brilliantly]
Saturnalia page [Excel, a list of important stuff the third book has to address or include, and my day by day projected & actual Nano wordcount]
Keeping Track page [Excel, used for wordcount goals for first two books, notes to self for next edits of first two books]
Character Timelines [Excel, column for each major character, keeping track of intersecting points of backstory and ages]
Courtesi and Alliances page [Excel, more backstory info, this time showing names and details minor characters and who are allied to whom, etc. Also includes all the words/descriptors I've used for my skybattles, and which animal everyone turns into]
Power and Majesty timeline [Excel, this listed every scene & chapter in book 1 and kept track of what day they happened on - now out of date because I suck and didn't update it when adding new scenes with recent edit]
Okay, that’s enough to make my head hurt. The important thing is that apart from the Fasti/Calendar of Festivals (well, four months worth of it), all of this was constructed during or after the writing process, not before. The downside of this is that I haven’t done it all that efficiently – I only started a real glossary late in the day, and probably wouldn’t have started or needed half of those Excel worksheets if I’d had it running from the start. In fact this is a problem because I have several times edited or added information in only one place, and had conflicting dates in backstory, etc. Aaargh!
On the other hand, if I’d realised how much STUFF there was to keep track of in these books (which honestly are not as complicated to read as they are to write and edit), I might have been too freaked out to even get started. So on the whole not having a plan is still the best plan for me.
However, next time I may draw the map first. To keep my Mum happy.
Oh, who am I kidding? I totally won’t do that.