This first appeared as a topic over at my Daily Journal at http://hestanbrough.com.
It also sprang from a comment (a question from another writer) on Dean Wesley Smith’s website.
Awhile back I talked about writing a “reverse outline.”
The idea is, as you write your novel off into the dark (no pre-plotting, outlining, etc.) sometimes keeping track of characters, what they’re wearing, major situations, etc. becomes cumbersome.
Now when I write a novel, I open the Word doc (novelname.doc) and start typing whatever comes. I’m an adherent of Heinlein’s Rules and I enjoy writing off into the dark.
But I also open a Notepad text (novelname notes.txt) document. I use Windows, but Mac has something similar. I keep it open and minimized on my screen as I’m writing the novel.
In that .txt document, at the end of every chapter or major scene, I fill in a few details about the chapter or scene.
Those details might include
- character names and anything significant (wearing a brown leather vest or a grey longcoat),
- place names (was the hotel called The Amarillo Inn or the Amarillo Inn? did the scene or chapter take place in Justin, Texas or Eustace, Oklahoma?),
- names of any minor characters introduced in that scene or chapter and their occupation, and so on.
Anything at all that I think I might need to remember later in the novel.
This takes only a few seconds per chapter or major scene and it keeps me from having to scroll back or use the Find function to search for the information.
On Dean’s site, the question the other writer asked was about series short stories.
I know many writers (like Dean) can set out to write short stories in series.
I can’t and so far, I don’t.
But sometimes, a character from a short story (or novel) I wrote awhile back tugs at my sleeve and pitches another story to me.
So now when I write a short story, I also keep a reverse outline of it. Then if I do return to that world to write another story, I don’t have to open the original story and read through it for information. I only have to open the “shortstoryname notes.txt” document and I’m good to go.
Try it. You’ll like it.
PS: Hey! Only two days left before the madness begins at https://www.facebook.com/HarveyStanbroughWritingInPublic/. Stop by and watch the short stories develop scene by scene. I’ll post each scene live there as I write it. 🙂