Since my childhood in the 1970s, I knew I wanted to write. I cannot recall when I first read that a writer always needs to carry a pen and paper for inspiration’s lightning strikes, but a few months later I was the proud owner of scrap paper piles. I said to myself “Wow, this is helpful.”
Then I heard about keeping a writer’s notebook; the concept impacted my skull like a brick. This eleventh Commandment (somewhere in Leviticus I think), inspired me to load a three ringbinder with two hundred sheets of filler paper and two packs of index tabs. Many hours of scribbling later gave me a full trash bin and an invaluable personal fiction reference resource: my notebook has become a lifestyle.
Later I began writing in another genre: my first act was to split my notes into a second notebook. Duct tape could not revive my original binder, may it rest in pieces, but the system upon which I’ve come to depend, lives on. It doesn’t matter if you write notes in a hard copyfolder or type in e-file, the important thing is your ability to access your own catalog of ideas.
THE TABS: These will vary depending upon one’s form and genre. I write speculative and fantasy fiction so my own look like this:
ONE LINERS & PHRASES
SETTING AND BACKGROUND
I’ll detail each of these categories in coming months, but a recent question from the Fellowship of Christian Writers Newsgroup makes me focus on the last in this list: the nebulous SEQUEL NOTES.
firstname.lastname@example.org asked, “I am trying to organize some of my short story ideas into coherent story outlines. Does anyone have advice and examples?”
The following methodology serves either long or short fiction:
I begin with a concept, an inkling of story-line and characters, then turn to my SEQUEL NOTES tab to gather up some particulars. My loose outline is left intentionally rough in order to accommodate brainstorms that occur as I create.
Themes: this is where I start. Meaningful fiction carries messages. List here the social concerns that have weighted your heart to address in future fiction.
Plots: I’ve begun with a kernel, but this treasure of notes fleshes out the skeleton.
Scene Ideas: little mind’s-eye concepts that add silk leather and velvet to each tale.
Characters: the heart of any story. By now I have enough of the story constructed that I can fill one page bios.
Concepts: The little things that would otherwise slip the cracks between characters and construct: symbolism, misdirection, strategy, etc.
Snappy Lines: a record of THAT’S-what-I-should-have-said. One of the advantages of our craft is time.
Every writer’s bag of tricks is of unique cloth, but each of us dumps it out our work must have details and depth.
“Trifles go to make perfection, and perfection is no trifle.”
To God be the glory,
Scott “Frank Creed” Morris