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I am a writer - late developer since I wasn't published until I was 50. I have now written 23 novels, numerous short stories and articles.


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Monday 19 April 2010
Perhaps the following might help you as you write. When writing a long book it is difficult to keep track of everything that is going on. I’ve several systems I use for keeping tabs. Card Index. If I’m writing a trilogy then it is essential to keep tabs on what I’ve written before as well as the present. I then use a card index system with everything filed alphabetically. 1. Characters Each character has their own card with everything I know about them written on it – hair colour, eyes, build, education, likes dislikes, illnesses etc the list is long for I put down everything I know about them. As I write the book these are added to. This character will also have a time line of when events happen to them. 2. Scenes. As the characters have a card so do important places – particular houses, where they are, period, how big. What style is the decor, what paintings, furniture etc. Gardens – I list what flowers are planted, when they bloom. I also do this for wild flowers too. Imaginary towns, any facts about them I note on that towns card. PLANS. HOUSES. I always draw a plan of the layout of houses. This prevents someone entering the front door and turning left into the drawing room when in chapter one you said that room was to the right of the door. I also note on this plan where the furniture stands. TOWNS. If I’ve created a town or village then I draw a map. It is too easy to forget that Pond street leads into Mill Street. But readers have an unerring knack of noticing discrepancies. REAL TIME. Then there is real time as opposed to your made up one. When writing an historical then in my card index are cards for every year the book covers, on these are written historical facts – they probably don’t even get a mention in the book but it’s a good idea to have them there. CHARTS. VIEWPOINT With multiple viewpoint the easiest thing to do is to concentrate on one character to the detriment of the other, or one begins to fizzle out. Using a spread sheet, I make a chart, and,using a different colour for each person, put in which character holds centre stage in Chapter 1, 2, 3. You soon get to see if you are favouring one over the other when you don’t want to or you are forgetting one, PACE. I construct another chart which looks rather like a temperature chart. I judge the tension or lack of it, mark it on the chart and soon you see where the dead patches lie, where the highs are and whether you’ve put in too much. CHAPTER BREAKDOWN As I write I give a short summary of each chapter – don’t delay or you will forget. I put in bold which characters appear. I also put in the page numbers – Chap: 18 – P.125 – 146. It is amazing the number of times you need to search for something and a page number with breakdown will speed the process for you. PS. I tried to put example of charts in but failed miserably, if there is a clever soul out there who knows how to do it, please let me know.


  1. I do something like this - but not in as nearly an organised fashion. One day...

  2. wonderful Annie - just what I needed as I begin the first rewrite of Penderown. If you send me the charts I'll put them up for you.

  3. Much more useful than a creative writing course!
    Thank you very much.

  4. Your charts come out very nice and big if you just click on them. Lovely and helpful, Anita!

  5. I LOVE the card index idea. Thank you very much for it. It's a super blog, Annie.

    Liz X

  6. I'm very keen on your chart idea. I keep spreadsheets for characters and the timeline but the charts look like a very useful addition.

  7. Great ideas, thanks for sharing.