If You Want to Make Your Book Laugh at You, Tell It About Your Plans

Before you ask, I am borrowing from Woody Allen's terrific quote about God. This morning, the notion seems appropos because the manuscript on which I'm currently working has made a mockery of what I like to think of as my process.

First of all, this particular story demands a larger than normal cast of characters. So large, last night I resorted to something I never in a million years thought I'd do. I input every character's name, description, relationship, and page of first appearance into a spreadsheet because I could know longer stand to use my usual Ctrl-F (that's the "find" function on MS Word) or frequently-lost index card method of keeping characters' names and traits straight. (On the last book, I ended up with one minor character who had *three* different first names. Thank goodness, someone caught this before it went to press.)

Already, I've seen one benefit in that this allows me to see that A. I have entirely too many characters and B. several can be combined to perform overlapping functions in the story. For whatever reason, it became obvious as I input the information. Since I've always smiled and shaken my head indulgently over people who use bookkeeping software to organize novels, this was a big deal.

An even bigger deal is the fact that for the first time in about fourteen books, I've decided to try writing one organically. In other words, I can't make myself stop and hash out a synopsis, as I've been in the habit of doing after the third chapter or so since writing my second book, back in the day. This change feels pretty risky, considering the story's heavy mystery component. Besides that, I've blathered on quite a bit about why writing a synopsis early in your game is a fabulous idea, and I certainly meant what I said.

But this book seems to have its own agenda. Like a fractious horse, it's taken the bit in its teeth and ripped the reins from my hands. Whether or not this wild gallop's a good idea, I've given up fighting. Instead, I plan to hold on tight and enjoy the fresh, new scenery rushing past.


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