When Scott invited me to share my organizational system for writing, I was thrilled. I've been writing and blogging since 2007. I occasionally blog about writing, but usually my posts are about life, books and other writers. There are so many blogs doing a terrific job on the craft of writing that I thought I would stick to other things.
Some people say they are plotters and some say they are pantsers, to be honest I'm not sure what I am. Maybe you guys can tell me once you see my writing process.
For the historical fiction MG novel I just completed (well, until I hear otherwise), I started by listening to my grandparents tell about their experiences during WWII. I started taking notes and telling them why I was jotting down their memories. I took lots of notes and am so grateful they were willing to share what was a difficult time in their lives with me.
I also wrote letters and got letters back from other family members who lived during this time period.
Then I typed up notes and potential scenes to use in my manuscripts.
I read a lot, both fiction and non-fiction. Some books were for children and some were not, most notably I read selections from Winston Churchill's THE SECOND WORLD WAR series. (I have to quote him here, as his words were and are such an inspiration to me.) ~Never, never, never give up~ I realize he was talking about the war and the spirits of the people in England, but for me it took on a whole different meaning. Sharing my families and friends stories is something I have to do and I won't give up until it is published. It was my honor to fictionalize moments in their lives.
I visited museums and took lots of pictures, then organized them into envelopes, so when I started writing I could pull out photos for those scenes.
One museum I visited had replicas of government brochures, posters, and letters available for purchase. These items were extremely helpful for finding details about daily living. I also visited antique shops and purchased bits and pieces to inspire me. My grandfather gave me some documents from the war, too.
Then I organized all the research and books into files based on locations that they applied to.
I printed of a variety of different maps of England. I even found one that showed the railroad system during the war.
To my surprise, one of my blog friends, Gary at Klahanie Blog, told me he was from the village in England I was writing about. He sent me photographs, which was spectacular, as I hadn't been to Leek since I was a child.
Once I finished with my initial research, I organized and typed up my notes. Then I wrote them on index cards. It may seem redundant to write notes, type notes and then write them again, but each time I did this I was ingraining the research into my brain.
I kept a list of words and phrases that I liked and were appropriate for the time period. I mounted them on poster boards and then hung them up on bulletin boards in my office.
By now I kind of know where the scenes are going to take place in my story, so I mount the scene cards on poster board and then mount what could potentially happen in each location. I try to use the senses as much as possible in each scene. (ex: the sounds, the smells, how things feel and taste)
Most of the poster boards were hanging on the bulletin boards in my office, so I could glance up from my desk and review them as I was writing and thinking. I also used an easel for the scene I was currently working on close to me.
I didn't use all of my research notes in this manuscript, but I left the manuscript open ended so if I do have the opportunity to write a sequel I already have some starting spots.
I'm sure there are much better ways of organizing your research and thoughts, but this worked for me. I think you have to find what method works for you...
Thanks for letting me share my process with you guys. If you are interested in reading my blog it's called SK Mayhew, Kidlit Writer. I'm @SharonKMayhew on Twitter.
So, what do you think? Am I a plotter or a pantser?
What are you?