Today, I’m hosting a feature I haven’t hosted in a while and that’s a guest post! This guest post is done by Robin Elizabeth Mason, and I’m so happy to welcome her to Cover To Cover Cafe! Let’s see what she has to say, shall we?
“Break the rules. That’s my number one rule. I know the rules [of grammar] and I know how to break them.”
ORGANIZING YOUR FICTION WORLD
Seven books in and I’m finally getting organized before I’m swamped in scribbled notes, scattered hither and yon, and scrambling to find that detail—are his eyes blue? Or brown? Did I say he has curly hair? Or not? You know, the write-it-down-on-anything-handy method?
I’m a pantzer, and my organization comes as I write, especially my characters. I ‘meet’ them along the way, much like meeting a new neighbor or a new coworker. Appearance first, then name, then as you become more acquainted you move on to details like family members and favorite food and sports teams.
I’m always looking for ways to improve, and streamline the process. I now, therefore, give you my (ahem) process. And as a picture is worth a thousand words, brace yourself for all.the.pics!
The story chooses it for me. But I do locate the area on google maps and “borrow” (a) town(s) for my purposes. Well, for my previous stories anyway.
I’m a visual person, and have to see the setting where my characters live. When I started writing Tessa, I knew she lived in western New York State—don’t know why (I’ve never been there) but that’s where she lived. So I visited the area via Google maps, and found the spot!
In Tessa, I had mentioned her mother’s family was from Durbin, WV, so when the third book, Cissy, came about, I had to create the town for the story:
I repeated the process for my last series, Seasons.
With my new series, FourSquare, I’m starting from scratch. I tried to put my characters in the city where I live—but it was not working! Thus, I totally invented my own town.
I have an Excel spreadsheet with all the places the characters go—business name (or their home), the street, and a key to locate it on the map.
I also draw floor plans for some of the key places, like homes, or the office where Bethy and Mere work. (The opening scene takes place there.)
I have other plans, but do not draw a floor plan for every house or building in the story. I mean, a coffee house is a coffee house, right? Pretty basic.
Again, my process has evolved since those first words of Tessa. For the most part, once I “meet” a character, I can remember details. Not so unlike making a new friend in life.
That said, it’s a good idea to keep track of specifics, like favorite flower, nervous habits, and what car your character drives. Cue reams and scraps of notes. Last time around, I did at least create a Word doc so I had a list of names and places… and pets and who-what-where-when-why.
On the same spreadsheet that holds the map key, I have four (so far) other tabs—people (MC’s), family, friends, and timeline.
So far I have: birthday, best friend, social cause, birthdate, hair color, eyes, height, favorite color, favorite snack, favorite meal, favorite flower, car / vehicle, nervous habits, phrases, hobbies, sports, traits, job / career, and pet(s).
FourSquare family tree still in process.
Like most of my “brilliant inspirations,” I stumbled on this fanTAStic website, https://www.timeanddate.com/.
e future) it goes, but it was INVALUABLE to me while writing Seasons. I went from 150 years and seven generations in my unsavory heritage series, to four books in ONE year in Seasons. I had to track each event. Otherwise my timeline ran away from me and was WAYYYY off.
Some events overlapped from one book to the next; each book is keyed with a different color.
FourSquare is not so condensed a time frame, as you can see:
I did discover, though, that I had breezed right past Bethy and Mere’s birthday! And, thanks to my timeline, I corrected that egregious oversight!
Although relatively obscure, I like to know and make accurate reference to day of the week a date falls on.
I don’t know about you, but all my files are digital. With ridiculous amount of pen-n-paper back up. And as I’ve already mentioned, this is not my first rodeo. With each book, and especially moving to a new series, I have quantified my process (sort-of) and organized it (sort of.)
NOTE: I am Indie, and the FINAL files include front and back matter, each saved as a separate document: Title Page, Copyright and Credits, Dedication, Request for Reviews, Thanks and Appreciation, Preview of my Next Book, and About Me.
Like everything else, the process has finessed through each series.
NOTE: I am an artist, and have done all of my own covers. To that end, I have files set up for that purpose. To maintain a uniform look for all books in a series I first create a mock-up to place the text and images. (I work in PowerPoint, because that’s what I’m familiar with.) By doing this at the beginning of the series, I saved myself no small degree of frustration—the title fourth book in my Seasons series is longer than the others, specifically the word, “Whispering.” Had I not blocked the covers for the whole series, that cover would not have been consistent to the first three—and I would have been pretty darn agitated. (cue my OCD!) Also, that’s another post for another time. #winkwink
Like the whole of my writing journey, promotion has been trial and error. With the release of my fourth book, The Long Shadows of Summer, in August of 2017, I enlisted the help of Sydney Anderson of Singing Librarian Tours; when JustRead Publicity (Carrie Schmidt and Annie JC) launched last spring, I snagged them to help after the launch of The Whispering Winds of Spring, to promote the whole series. Prior to their help, I was doing my own promotion, with a book signing and virtual party on FaceBook.
Moving forward with FourSquare, I will finesse my process even further. Now, I know more what I need: prizes and winners, cover reveals, and my own month-long blog blitz.
Finally, in the vein of keeping it simple, and keeping oft-used bits at hand, I have a doc entitled rem links (rem are my initials, also abbreviation for Rapid Eye Movement.) In this doc, I have quotes I like, my social media URL links, my bio—which changes and updates periodically—and the blurbs for each book in the series I’m currently writing.
I also have an Excel spreadsheet that I use as my calendar. Primarily for my blog, I make note of EVERYTHING I have going on: blog posts, doctor appointments, word count for my current WIP, and of course it’s all coded. Each month is a different color, as is each feature on my blog.
PS – I do not, DO NOT, like to work online. With the exception of comments, I create and work from ALL my docs strictly OFF-line, and then upload to my blog or website.
In honor of my birthday yesterday, I am offering one winner a signed print copy of one of my books, winner’s choice.
Winner will be notified within 2 weeks of close of the giveaway and given 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen.
Giveaway will begin at 12: A.M. on Wednesday 13 February and end at 12:00 A.M. on Wednesday 19 February. Giveaway is subject to the policies found on Robin’s Nest.