The first part of the answer is that I find the characters and world as I write the first three chapters. These are heavily edited throughout the drafting process, but in the beginning I allow my Muse the freedom to breathe.
The second part of the answer is that the first three chapters don't have as much track laid down and are therefore easier (for me) to construct. I've only written one out of fifteen novels without having to resort to an outline of some sort at some point.
When writing Urban Fantasy, I find that it's virtually impossible for me not to create a mess without the structure an outline provides. There's simply too much going on. Over the past ten years, I've honed a spreadsheet that allows me to plot at a high level while still leaving room for creativity. It's also easily edited and transferable to any genre in which I'm dabbling. I literally can't write without it.
I use this template to track character and world building notes on secondary tabs as needed, but primarily I use the first tab, which has a place to track my word count, chapter progress, and high level outline. If I get stuck, need to add a chapter, or am writing a longer or shorter book it's also easy to add in extra rows to track these.
If you're still searching for a way to track your own work, I provide a link to a downloadable file as my thank you to you when you confirm your email sign up. Click here to sign up! It's free and never shared with anyone but moi, so don't be shy!
I'd love to hear about how you track your work. Please help your fellow authors out and share in the comments below.
It used to hang on a window in my office overlooking the snowy backyard. I completed my first novel, a Middle Grade titled Blurb about a librarian who loves books but who never reads because he is afraid he won't be able to finish the books in one sitting. His friend teaches him about chapters in books, and that he can stop there without feeling overwhelmed. "They are tiny books within the stories," she explains. It is, to our adult eyes, obvious but, possessing an MLS myself, I have seen how intimidating chapter books can be to newer readers.
But, I digress...
Stained glass making never happened, but writing did; and I still own the few pieces I collected during that time. Now, I piece together colorful words to paint pictures of worlds made of glass and fire. They come alive for me on paper in much the same way I imagine Tiffany's imagination breathed life magic into glass.
If I devoted enough time to drawing, stained glass, knitting, or even gardening, I'm sure I could become at least proficient in them. I would never be a Michelangelo or a Tiffany, but that's not what matters. What matters is what medium calls to me in a way that sparks the magic of life. For most of my life, for reasons unidentified and mysterious even to me--it can't be a familial love of reading, because I'm the only writer in a family full of crafters--I have created with words on paper. Ink is in my blood.
Before I leave off, I want to share a doodle-like poem I scribbled while in grad school.
Sheets of color,
in breath and flame.
Shards of pane,
with lead and iron.
upon a world of glass and fire.
Nope. Turns out I hadn't somehow stumbled into an alternate Etsy-verse. Bullet journals are a THING that has taken the crafting and paper-minded world by storm. Now, anyone who has known me for long enough realizes I've got a bit of an office supply store fetish. Michael's comes a close second. I've mostly weaned myself off of buying a ton of craft and paper supplies through multiple moves and an unwillingness to lug around things that I almost never use.
This bullet journal thing though really hit me where I live. It's pretty, creative, AND has to do with paper and writing! I spent about two days watching calligraphy videos and practicing with bad pens while waiting for an order of the suggested pens to come in. Could it be that for once I might find something that I not only liked to look at but also had fun doing?
The pens came in, I played with them and have been having fun learning calligraphy from another set of YouTube videos. Today, I finally decided to create my bullet journal. I sat down with new pens, new journal, my metal ruler, and a lot of hope. I started with the calendar pages, as the videos had suggested. Of course, it's March, so I began three months into the year. I numbered the pages, made sections for goals and word count. The first three months were cool. Four, five, and six, I started to wonder what I'd gotten myself into and why I wasn't working on my WIP. By the last three, I had remembered why I keep trackers on my laptop and not on paper. They don't need an eraser or white-out to correct the mistakes.
I find people who can do crafting and make pretty things inspiring. I love buying their pretty things and playing with them to relax. I'd say I'd like to be one of the gifted paper crafty types, but my craft is writing. Words are what I put my character skill points into, and they are mostly what I enjoy sculpting with. I track my word count and outline my stories in a giant spreadsheet. I'll share it sometime. It's not pretty, but it works for me. Still, watching this YouTube video is one of the most relaxing things I've done in a while. The music and the illustrations are a little slice of bliss. Oh, and my new pens aren't too shabby either.
Whether you're a word warrior, artist, or crafter, how do you track your year and projects? A bujo or another method?
Not another Kate!
I am a word alchemist, angel apologist--no, really, I'm very sorry about them--and urban fantasist. I reside in all possible worlds.