Guest post from Alma Katsu author of ~ The Reckoning (book 2 of The Taker trilogy).
We have Alma Katsu here today to share with us a bit about her writing techniques – specifically around her methodology for plotting.
With her second book from The Taker series -The Reckoning – just released last week, I am sure she has had quite a challenge connecting the complex plots within the books.
Let’s welcome Alma!
Taming the Writing Process
I’ve found that writers tend to be infinitely curious about each other’s process. I think it’s because while each writer’s process is highly personal, we’re always hoping to pick up a new tip that will make it work a bit better.
We’re all familiar with the (somewhat undignified) terms “pantser” and “plotter”, meaning do you meticulously plot out your stories or do you fly by the seat of your pants. I flew by the seat of my pants from day one, when I was thirteen years old and writing a chapter a night to feed to my friends at school the following morning. Making it up as I went along. Later, the graduate writing program I attended only reinforced this: we were encouraged to let our writing happen “organically” and that overly plotted work was somehow less artistic.
Over time, however, I saw the benefit of adding rigor to my process, especially as I aspired to introduce more plot into my stories. That, plus it can get awfully discouraging, writing yourself into one blind alley after another, chucking out all those pages. These days, I use a hybrid of the two styles, starting out with a general outline but allowing myself the freedom to follow interesting developments as they spring up. I tend to write the first draft in longhand and this, for some reason, seems to lead to more serendipity than when I bang it out on the laptop.
I often wish I had a better process, especially when I’m in the second or third draft, trying to catch and keep track of all the tiny yet enriching ideas that popped up during the revision process. I’ve heard of people who use index cards and storyboards; color-coded post-it notes and a big magnetic bulletin board; software like Scrivener; or stuff everything into a notebook (their “bible” for the work-in-progress) that they carry around until their current is completed.
None of these systems has worked for me. (Although I must admit that I haven’t tried Scrivener yet.) I always end up with piles of scraps and post-it notes, spreadsheets started and abandoned, and parts of the handwritten first draft spread over several notebooks.
One tip I can pass along—though it’s not mine, it belongs to novelist Jamie Ford—is that when I’m at the revision stage, I print out each POV on a different color paper. I edit all of one POV together, especially if those chapters aren’t consecutive in the book, to ensure that the character’s train of thought makes sense and is consistent. Then I shuffle all the chapters in numerical order and go through the manuscript again for continuity. Color-coding the POVs make it easy to know at a glance if the rhythm and balance of the POVs looks about right (depending on the story, of course).
What about you? Do you have any tricks or tips you use to make the writing or revision process easier or more efficient?
About the author: Alma Katsu is the author of The Taker and The Reckoning (Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster), the first two books in a centuries-spanning supernatural trilogy about love, loss and redemption. The Taker was selected by Booklist as a Top Ten Debut Novel of 2011, and Library Journal called The Reckoning—just released—“beautiful and mesmerizing.” You can find out more about the books and join the mailing list at http://www.almakatsu.com/