When I first heard about the topic of writing tips and tricks, I got scared. I have yet to write a full-length novel – what could I possibly say to inspire people? Then I took a breath and really thought about it. I may still be working on that first novel, but I’ve taken a lot of workshops and tried different processes to find what works for me.
I’m a pantster so I don’t have outlines or plot boards. Everything is my head and this works well for everything but tracking my characters descriptions. Did this guy have a beard? Did that girl have gray or brown eyes? These things need to be tracked because going back through your story can be time consuming.
For the very first story I wrote (buried in my files waiting a major rewrite before it will see the light of day), I listed my characters on a piece of paper and made some simple notations. This doesn’t scale well and I went looking for something else.
There are plenty of example character sheets on the internet. Anywhere from 2 to 20 pages worth of questions. My brain seizes each time I sit and try to fill one out. Not the method for me.
I have a list of software programs different authors have said worked for them to use for plotting and research. The Super Notecard program from Mindola Software looked like it would work for keeping track of characters. The trial worked okay. I could have notecards on the laptop instead of piles of cards the kids would knock over and get out of order.
But my husband didn’t like it because you had to pay to fully activate it. Also he wanted to institute a server setup at the house and we’d need a copy for the server and my laptop. (What can I say, he’s a computer geek.) He suggested FreeMind – a mind mapping program. It’s free and java based so it works on any platform.
I’m still learning the program, but it’s going good. You’re also supposed to be able to organize research, so that would be a plus when I need it. You can add notes (like meaning of names or story ideas), insert links, and add pictures. You’re able to collapse and expand trees as you need them. Below are some maps I’ve created for stories I’m working on:
Template for Novels
Mended Hearts – fantasy story in progress
On Hidden Wings – paranormal romance in progress