Last night I realized that I need to start making notes.
I know, most writers figure this out before they are a quarter of a way into their third novel, but I’m a little slow. Partially it’s that my books are getting bigger in scope. Catskinner’s Book only had a handful of characters. Cannibal Hearts introduced quite a few more. In Worms Of Heaven I am creating even more, and bringing up a few walk-ons from the prior two into the limelight.
My practice, prior to now, has been to stop when I needed a bit of information and page back through my earlier manuscript until I found it. I’m good at remembering what I wrote in a particular scene, so I can usually find it pretty quickly. However, it does get time consuming, and last I decided that I needed to just go ahead and make a spreadsheet for my characters with their full names, nicknames, species if other than human, significant life events, and so on.
Today I’m going on a road trip with my roommate, so I’ll be bringing my Kindle and a pad of paper and work on notes, then put them into a spreadsheet when I get home.
It’s funny how this makes me feel. It feels like cheating, like I don’t care enough about the people that I’ve made to remember everything about them. I’ve always tried to keep in mind that everyone in a story is potentially the main character, and to craft fully formed people instead of placeholders.
Still, flesh is weak. I’ve always had a good memory, and I studied mnemonic techniques to improve it. I want to have a perfect memory, but I don’t. It’s good enough to make me a brutal trivia contender, but I do forget things, and having to take the time to hunt through my books to find a detail is becoming arduous.
I suppose I could look at it as growth as a writer. Becoming more adult, not to mention having what I ironically refer to as “a body of work”. Still, it feels as if I am losing something, a certain spontaneity. I never really planned any of my writing, I just kind of let James sit down and tell his story.
It will speed up my process, though, and is going to prove absolutely invaluable if I continue writing in this universe.