Monday, 12 October 2009

Do you just write your book or your world?

Several comments that you guys made in my last few posts regarding your writing habits, and especially Chris' comment today in this post made me wonder how do you manage to keep all your thoughts together - and I mean the kind of stuff that's not supposed to go in your draft, but comes into your head anyway.
For example, when I am writing a story, there is a lot of note-taking on the side. That's not for the story itself. That's the brain storming. If suddenly it occures to me that my heroine had an accident when she was 5, or that her favourite uncle is Uncle Bob, I write it down. It could be totally irrelevant to what goes in the book, but if I learn that little tid bit about my character, I want to make a note of it.
So for people who don't keep a writing journal or a notes file or whatever, what do you do? Do you just keep all that background information in your head? The act of sitting down and writing 1000 words a day or specific goals like that to move the story ahead, for me, mean actually getting ahead with the book. I don't count the brain-storming time amongst that. In my stories, there are nearly always long stretches of brain storming time required, because I tend to write more fantasy, and therefore I have a lot of world building to do, which is its own challenge.
But even in my "reality" based stories, I end up with piles of notes. Sometimes, I never use them again but they are not wasted, because once I write down something, I remember. I may not always remember where I wrote it, but I always know that oh yes I have thought of this before.
It's amazing how the brain works, and how much I underestimate it, because sometimes I think of something, think it a totally new and fabulous idea, but then I would find old notes from somewhere, written months ago, and I would have noted down exactly the same thing. That's precisely the reason why I am now learning to organise my notes a bit better, and keep same projects in same places, or nearby.
So that makes me wonder about people who say, I just sit down at certain time and write certain words. What about the thought process? Do you just do it in the beginning, and never have to go do it in the course of the writing? Or do you only follow the story, and not worry about anything else?


  1. For me, writing is the last part of story telling. I see it unfold over and again until I know not just the story, but the characters, better than I know myself. In fact, for my first book, it was about six months between my intial spark, to putting the first word on paper.

  2. Matt,

    So how do you keep track of all that you think? Do you keep notes, or is it all just in your head?

  3. I do keep notes, but not as many as I should. I've probably lost quite a few good ideas along the way. Oddly though, I do tend to remember most of it. In fact, it evolves so much, when I look back at the first notes I took, it doesn't even resemble the same story.

  4. Shoot, I have to take notes. I love taking notes, actually. If I don't take notes, I forget things, because I have so much other stuff to cram in there.

    I carry around a notebook at all times (even to fancy dinners and parties, which gets me in trouble at times) just so I have somewhere to put all the notes that will sometimes randomly pop into my head.

  5. I write flash fiction and poetry so it just tends to come out rather quickly. I'm in the beginning stages of working on a book that originally was meant to be flash. I've considered what I've written now to just be the first chapter. It's no where near where I want it to be so I have notes all over the place (more details, background info here) and things like that.

    I'm trying to keep things organized so it's going to get interesting as I move along with the book. I do keep a separate folder for everything I write which helps me to focus on one project at a time and know where everything related to the book is located.

    Since I normally don't write short stories, this is going to be a crash course.

  6. Writing characters is like making friends for me. In the first draft, I might change eye color/hair color or even the name, but once I hit on something perfect, it sticks in my head - no need for notes. I don't take notes on people I meet in person, I just listen and remember. It sticks in my head. The same is true for my characters - by the time I'm done writing the first draft, I know everything I need to about their past, motivations, etc...and it's all in my head, no need for notes.

    I'm still working on the world-building thing,and may need notes for that eventually.

  7. Matt/Jamie,
    Even though I usually remember stuff, I still finding writing down a comforting thing. It's just my way of thinking.

    LOL...notebook at dinner party! Mind you, I carry post-its with me in such situations.

    Looking forward to hearing about your experiences.