Nicola Vincent-Abnett

Nicola Vincent-Abnett
"Savant" for Solaris, Wild's End, Further Associates of Sherlock Holms, more Wild's End

Saturday 12 January 2013

Grunt Work

Every writing project, whether it’s flash fiction, a short story or any piece of longer fiction all the way up to the novel series has a cast and a location, or in some cases a whole set of locations, and it has stuff in it; it has props and catchphrases; it has personalities and business; it has landscapes and settings and all kinds of things: stuff and things as we have come to call them.

You might have read my recent blog If Memory Serves, and, if you have, you’ll know just how much trouble I have remembering stuff, right down to the names of all but my major characters. So you can also imagine me trying to remember the eye colour of a minor character, whether he is left handed, how many brothers he has, his address, occupation, his wife’s name, or, indeed, whether I have ever mentioned any of these details.

Of course, you might also be able to imagine the trouble I get into when I decide to write a second or third story involving the same characters and locations. How the hell am I supposed to know what their verbal ticks were in the first tale, or what sort of watch they wore, the colour of their trousers or their cat, or which side they parted their hair on.

The truth is, obviously, that I’m not going to remember that stuff. How the hell am I supposed to know whether the second housewife on the left preferred to wrap her husband’s sandwiches in foil or put them lovingly in Tupperware? How?

I’m not going to remember! I’m simply not!

That’s why I spent most of this week re-reading a novel I wrote some time ago, using various coloured text liners to separate characters from locations, and creatures from things, and that is why I then opened a series of spreadsheets on my computer so that I could unravel all that information, sort it, collate it and manage it.

When I come to write the next book, very soon, I will have all the information I need right there at my fingertips, and all the hard, dull work that I have done will have been worth it. To be fair, it was worth it to read the book again... I’d forgotten it, so I was able to come to it with a fresh eye; fortunately, I thought it was really rather good.

There is just one small drawback. 

I do wonder what slipped through the net. I do wonder what I missed. I do wonder what will come back to haunt me. I do wonder what that small detail will be. Could it be that I thought it would be amusing to call a little boy Shirley or Valentine or Tracey, and I now assume that character is, in fact, a little girl? That’s the problem, you see... There’s bound to be something, and you can bet your life that I won’t know what it is until it’s all too late.

1 comment:

  1. I know what you mean, the longer a story goes on the more confusing it is to remember details (Although I managed 'A Thousand Sons' with no problems, despite all the odd names and trying to remember what the hell each characters sphere of magic was).

    For my own ends I was making several documents to cover each chapter and had them lined up on the screen next to each other so I had reference. As you can imagine, it got cluttered fast.

    Have you considered using software like Scrivener? Its part word processor, part organiser, part research tool. A friend put me onto it last year and after an odd stint of hospital visits and recovery I've slowly managed to learn how to use it effectively. Its just an idea.

    For me, its saved having a giant pile of A5 notes to wade through ever time I want to find specific details (although I do miss shuffling through them).