Ah yes, the first scene: the signal to actually begin writing the damn novel, as opposed to just scribbling notes about it. However, by the time I come to (and I wince at the term) create my narrative I will have committed some of those scribbled notes to electronic files, and that’s what I’m going to go on about next.
The ‘timeline’ file is the skeleton I hang everything on. Actually, it’s a table. Each row will eventually represent a chapter and has columns for: date/time (when the chapter takes place); location (where it takes place); initials (the chapter’s viewpoint character(s)); a single sentence which sums up what’s going on in this chapter (for example: ‘ambush at the docks: exit, pursued by locals’); and a word count (initially blank). At the point I start writing, the timeline table will have a maximum of half a dozen entries, all incomplete. There’s likely to be four or five numbered ones at the top for the initial chapters, and one or two, without numbers, lurking at the bottom in the hope they’ll eventually evolve into the story’s end point.
The ‘outline’ file is messier. It’s mainly notes, under various headings. There will (though I probably shouldn’t admit this because I write SF and not literary fiction) be a heading for ‘themes’. There might be another called something like ‘The <insert spoiler here> subplot’. For Bringer of Light there are two major headings representing the two main plots, and a third labelled ‘denouement’ for the point when these two plots come together. At the end of this file there will be numbers, representing chapters. When I start writing, only those few chapter numbers I’ve filled in on the timeline will be listed, with their associated one-line description. We’ll be coming back to them later, though.
There will also be a ‘character’ file, though as I get more experienced I find I no longer need to know everything about a character from their phobias to their inside leg measurement. It helps that a lot of my characters are ongoing, but I still need to think about their (another wince-making term) arc in this particular story.
And there will, of course, be ‘questions’. I could write a whole entry about how useful questions can be in making a book, and one day I probably will, but for now I’ll just say that I use an ongoing, evolving file of ’em, and they drive a lot of what I do.
Finally, there will be a ‘reference’ file, with world-building and technical notes. How comprehensive and ordered these notes are depends on the novel.
So, my support structure’s in place, and that first scene is nagging me. Time to start writing …
… to be continued