I am a Gemini. Anyone who has ever known or spoken to a Gemini will understand why this is an important place to start when discussing my writing process. We are known for doing several things all at the same time, which gives us a sense of personal satisfaction, while making everyone in the vicinity totally, completely nuts. Add that trait to the creative mind, and you’re looking a powder keg – and I say that with pride.
Being a Gemini, I’m usually knee deep in several projects at the same time. Right now, for example, I’m in the editing process on a historical romance novel with one publishing house, currently writing a short story, editing a novel for another editor and revamping a Special Forces series of six books. This is just the writing and editing faction – don’t let me start on the marketing.
In this regard, every writer is different. For some authors, one book at a time is the way they work best, delving deep into a storyline and staying there until the book is complete. For others, jumping between tasks is a way to prevent writer’s block, keep progress moving quickly and stay entertained ourselves. There is no right or wrong way to accomplish the final product, and I have great respect for authors who do it differently than myself.
All this being said, because I am a mad scientist writer with my hand in several pots all at the same time, I need to be organized. Really freaking organized.
Over the last three years, I have learned more and more about myself as a writer – what types of outlines work for me, how to better build unique characters, what role setting, time period and profession play in my novels. These styles may or may not change, but I have finally settled on certain elements that really work.
One of the most important of these truths is that I’m a visual worker.
As of right now, I have a bulletin board on my door, covered in stickies with book titles, series titles, notes on napkins, scrap paper and the backs of receipts. One pin simply says politics, sports, Norse, brother. I can promise you I know exactly what that means, even if it’s gibberish to anyone else. This my outline, coming soon, the in-process board, which gives me an overview of the chaos that is my current writing deck.
In the middle of the room is an even bigger bulletin board, with the outline for my six book series, split up into heroes, heroines, villains, the plot line of each book (number five is very, very blank right now), and other fundamental pieces of information I’ll need readily available during the writing process.
Over the years, I have learned how important it is to have details for a series at the ready. It is a waste of time to spend half an hour looking through old documents for the first book in the series to figure out a character’s eye color or sister’s name. Since I’ve never done a series as large as six books before, I’m taking all the preventative measures I can.
I have a small whiteboard leaning against the wall, with my four current WIPs outlined for quick reference, and I recently cleaned off the massive whiteboard I had set up downstairs, with the scene by scene for my full-length novel, which needed serious editing. My mother could not have been happier to see it go.
In addition to the whiteboards and pin boards, I have two notebooks for my biggest series at my right hand as I’m sitting at the desk, and a journal in my front drawer for any new story ideas that don’t belong on the board just yet. The room is a little messy, and my desk is definitely up there on the chaos factor, but I know where everything is, which makes the whole writing process so much easier.
I’ve never been a pantser, but I definitely used to be more big picture. I’d outline my book in large strokes – here he robs the museum, here he meets the heroine, etc. I left all the research, characterization and background for the actual writing process. It turns out that doesn’t work for me.
Recently, I have begun to understand that the more I know going in – the character’s looks, their history, their personal challenges, in addition to setting and plot points large and small, the better the book is going to be. For me, as a Gemini, researching during the writing process is a detriment to progress. I get distracted by what I learn and end up on some Internet search adventure.
Now, I research, I characterize, I outline, I interview. I know how my hero and heroine sound. I know what they regret from their childhood, what they dream about, what they see in each other. I look up pictures of the city where my story takes place, determine the route the characters take and learn all I can about their favorite hobbies or professions. It has made me a better writer and my books better reads. Not all of the information shows up in the novels – of course it doesn’t. But the details and knowledge I have of these characters, settings and storylines, give them more depth, more three dimensionality.
I’ll probably always be working on several projects at a time. I used to think I was rushing through them by doing so many, and I probably was. But now that I have a better understanding of just how important research and outlining is to my books, the organization and preparation will allow me to turn out the best novels I possibly can.
Sure, it gives me more to do, but I feel like I owe it to my readers and my characters to take the time the story deserves, besides – Geminis work best under pressure.♦