The WRs, Aiden Turner and 6 billion post-it notes: it’s all in the planning.

aidan-turner-poldarkThe Write Romantics have a secret. I’ve said it now, it’s out there. Don’t get too excited, it’s nothing that involves weird rituals or complicated handshakes, and certainly nothing involving dalliances with celebrities you could sell to the Sun newspaper. More’s the pity. That said some of us do have Pinterest boards that might make Aidan Turner want to take out a restraining order…

Our real ‘secret’, though, is the private Facebook group we use. It’s like a virtual watercooler around which the ten of us meet to gossip, complain, share and celebrate our writing lives and beyond. It helps stave off the loneliness that can come with being a writer and it’s also a brilliant source of information.

Just recently, Alys, who teaches creative writing, as well as creating fantastic fantasy and steampunk novels, asked us to tell her our methods for organising writing ideas, so that she could share these with her students. Suffice it to say that, as a pantster, I learnt a lot and I promised to share the responses here. I hope you enjoy it and we’d love you to comment if you have your own methods. Let’s face it, I for one still have a lot to learn.

Jo x

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Alys

I’m a notebook and photos kind of person. I had a pinterest board for my steampunk book that I used while I was writing, but mainly for fab pictures of clothes, hats and steamcars!

Helen R

I make notes on my iPhone and then email to myself… I have a file in Hotmail with lots of ideas now! I don’t think I have time to write them all though. Once upon a time it was a notepad but now phone is easier as I always have it with me. When I start a new book I have a new file and stash away photos, drafts, character notes etc

Jackie

I have a whiteboard for particular stories and stickies on the computer. I also use three separate pages of ‘notes’ on my iPad for names, titles and emotions. Although don’t let this give you entirely the wrong impression, I also usually have a whole heap paper in my ‘office’.

Helen P

I use Pinterest boards for every book, notebooks and I have a notice board for each book where I pin my pictures and postit-169631_960_720ideas. I also use a whiteboard to keep track of characters and plot strands. Evernote on my phone is great too, when I’m awake at 4 am but can’t be bothered getting out of bed to write it down! Oh, and post-its. Lots of them.

Jo

I have a little black book and notes on the pc, but I am a disorganised pantster so would not want to give anyone my advice. I tried Pinterest once, but then I forgot to go on there for ages and now I can’t remember the password… Are you sensing a theme here?

Lynne

I email stuff to myself and store it in a file called ‘inspiration’ and I have a notebook with me all the time and one by the bed to jot nocturnal notes in.

Deirdre

I have nice hardback notebooks, plus little one for my bedside table and even smaller one for my handbag which I always forget to take, but that’s the theory. I’ve got a computer file labelled ideas but never remember it’s there, so the notebooks work best for me. I also keep a file of cuttings from newspapers etc which might trigger ideas and a Pinterest board to store images.

Rachael

I have a special notebook where I write each new idea. It might be a title, or just a sentence, but each idea has its own page. As the idea develops in my mind, I then open a file on my computer for it and add photos, info etc and build it that way.

pinterestSharon

I use a secret Pinterest board for each book. I jot ideas that pop into my head on my phone then I write up rough story ideas on the computer. When it’s time to pull it all together and start plotting and going into motivation, theme etc, I use a notebook. I also have a pinboard with a timeline worked out for a couple of characters and a complete list of all the Kearton Bay characters’ birthdays and the ages they’ll be in each book.

Jessica

I use a mix of post it notes and other little notes hiding in a drawer and a file on my mac which has ideas for titles and ideas for concepts.

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We hope you enjoyed hearing how we capture our writing ideas, now over to you.

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Out of Control by Alys West

I’ve got a confession to make.  I’ve been trying to deny this for a while but I can’t anymore.  I have to admit that I’ve lost control of the characters in my second novel, Lughnasa. Orkney Aug 2010 009

Now some might say that’s a great thing.  Those would be the pantsers who like to go with the flow in their writing.  But I’m a plotter.  I write suspense. I need to know what’s going to happen so I can put the clues in the right places.  And not knowing what’s coming is starting to freak me out a bit.

It started with Winston.  After having a minor role in my first book, Beltane, he’s taken centre stage as the hero in Lughnasa and he’s grown and grown.  He’s a rather gorgeous archaeologist who just happens to be also a druid.  But now he’s got flaws that I never saw coming. He’s late for everything, he’s got a really arrogant streak and an unexpected fondness for Glenfiddich. And he never does what I expect.  I sit down to write a scene thinking ‘Okay, this and this have to happen’ and then Winston turns up and something else entirely actually unfolds.

Orkney Aug 2010 029

Now I’ll be the first to admit that I have a few control freak tendencies.  I like to be organised, I like to plan ahead.  So Winston’s unpredictability is quite hard for me to handle.  And now it’s spreading to the other characters and no one’s doing what I expect.

I realise to non-writers this probably sounds like a borderline personality disorder but I’m pretty sure that other writers will have experienced something like it.  So what did you do?  Did you give them their heads? Or did you force them back in line with your plan?

I realised how far we’d gone astray when I re-read the synopsis that I’d first mapped out about eight or nine months ago.  There’s a small possibility that we may hit the same ending but the middle looks nothing like what I’d planned.  And I don’t know what to do.  Should I tear up the synopsis and see what happens?  Or should I try to persuade them back on track? All advice will be gratefully received before I start tearing my hair out.Orkney Aug 2010 057

If you’d like to leave a comment (and I’m really hoping you will as I need all the help I can get!) you can do that by clicking where it says ‘leave comments’ in teeny, tiny type below.

Alys xx

P.S. Lughnasa is set in Orkney which is why I’ve included a few photos of the islands.