4 Files to Prevent Mistakes

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Use the power of your word processor to help you keep track of details while writing a novel. You’ll have fewer mistakes

Have you ever forgetten the color of a character’s eyes?

Keep a Character Bible: create a file in which you keep descriptions of each character. This is much easier than hunting through a mss in search of details.

Does Every Character Sounds the Same?

Create a Dialogue File for each character. Strip out all the actions, the s/he saids, and other details, leaving only the words that character says. Read through it making sure that this character sounds distinctive and consistent. Repeat for a second character and this time, make sure the characters are different from each other in some telling way. Print out these files and use them to revise the master copy of the novel.

Did You Create a Generic Setting?

Details are what makes a setting unique. A school in Barrow, Alaska is different from one in Miami, Florida. How? Create a Description Bank file and add descriptions from any and every source. Read a magazine article, look at pictures, remember a visit, draw a floor plan – these are sources for specific details. Don’t censor the input into the Description Bank; deposit every word, phrase, or description you find or make up. Then, when you need to describe the setting in your novel, you withdraw just the telling details that make the setting come alive.

Did You Forget to Write in Scenes?

As a reminder to write scenes, create and use a Scene Template. There should be blanks to fill in these specifics: setting, time, character’s present, emotion, function of scene, underlying problem, scene goal. Then include larger spaces for these: beginning conflict, complication, complication, complication, disaster/partial resolution, lead-in to next scene. I often work in a separate file, so I can rant and rave, make side comments, make false starts, revise, cut, add, and generally be messy. When I finally get a scene worked out, then I cut and paste into the master copy of the novel.

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