What No One Told Me I Should Be Writing
by Tari Faris, @FarisTari
You’re writing your book, editing your book, and submitting that book over and over to agents and editors waiting for the big break. But in the process of it all what else should you be working on? You’ve heard you need a proposal and you’ve probably heard to start a second book. Both are sound advice.
But now that I’m a few months into my first writing contract and about two hundred ninety-four days away from my book hitting the shelves—not that I am counting —I’ll give you a list of four other things you should be writing.
A Character List – Maybe you are better at keeping track at people in your head but my book is just the first of a series in a small town of people who are not magic so they shouldn’t be changing eye color, hair color, or—my personal favorite—names partway through the book or series. As I created my character list, I actually discovered one man’s name changed. Not a lot but it DID change.
A Character Log – My publisher didn’t ask for this but I found it so helpful and will continue to do it for every book. It was just a simple spreadsheet with scenes listed on one side and characters listed across the top. Then I simply placed an X if they showed up in the scene. I found this helpful to notice when a character should be in a scene but wasn’t. Board meetings (Note: are the same characters on the board as last meeting?), a waitress who doesn’t show up until halfway through the book (Note: need to introduce her in an earlier scene), the dog (Note: My dogs have always wanted to be where people are so if the dog is in the house he should be in the
A Timeline – Get specific. What date does the scene occur? You can’t say how cold February is in one scene, and then a few scenes later talk about the warmth of spring approaching a few weeks later. (Yes I did that) Well, maybe in Arizona...March is warm, but since my book is based in Michigan, any Michigander knows that there is no spring in March in Michigan. (It snows in April most years!) You also have to leave space for things to happen. In my book, they have to clear some property after a fire. I can’t have the scene where they are talking about clearing it and the scene where it is already cleared being only a few days apart. These things take time to plan and get done.
Maps – You may think you can keep all the street names straight in your head, but trust me It gets confusing. I had my main character drive down the same street three times but every time the street was named something else. I found a town about the size I wanted and took a screenshot of it on my iPad. Then, using a few apps, I renamed the streets and even moved around a few things to fit my story. That will be invaluable as my next two novels take place in the same town.
So, between writing those masterful scenes or maybe when you are stuck in your plot, take time now to create these documents. You will thank yourself later – and so will your editor.