Friday, February 15, 2013

Once More Into the Breach, Dear Friends

I'm starting another story.

Yes, folks, in the very teeth of a storm of public indifference I'm taking keyboard in hand to create yet another fictional world, yet another collection of somehow complimentary characters, yet another set of astounding circumstances that will throw them all into conflict, keeping the reader in nail-biting suspense right up to the ultimate, satisfying conclusion.

Not useful
Maybe it will be a novel. Maybe it will be a short story, which I can shop around without the help of my agent, who takes so long, so very long to read my work. Maybe it will be another historical. Maybe it will take place in the twenty-first century, an era I have no particular fondness for. (How could I have dared to bring a child into this world? But I digress.)

The point of this fevered screed—quite literally fevered; I'm having trouble shaking a bronchial infection—the point of it is that I have a new system. Beverly Graves Meyers invented it. She described it in a blog post last week for (The Poisoned Pen Press). It's quite a bit more useful, and I think more successful as far as encouraging output goes, than those formulas I used to pass on for torturing your plot into general acceptability, such as Save the Cat. I've broken her system down into bullet points, herewith:

  • A three-hole punch
  • For each novel, a three-ring binder (an old used one from college will do)
  • As many sets of dividers as necessary
  • Three-ring punched plastic pockets with zippers


…And, of course, your computer and printer. Then, everything you find in your research or the bubblings of your imagination goes in the binder, labeled, on the outside, Marvelous New Novel or whatever your working title might be.

Just inside the front cover:

  • A calendar for the novel's time line (Google "perpetual calendar" and pillage at will)
  • Master list of characters
  • Master list of settings, if helpful

After that, the dividers, labeled appropriately:

  • Characters (with sub-dividers, one for each character)
  • Settings
  • Background on main plot points
  • Clues (sometimes)

For each character:

  • A summary of the character's physical characteristics and life events, worked up last, but put right behind the divider
  • A photo or painting approximating the character
  • Your notes on this person's history and personality
  • Printed articles on the character's profession or hobbies
  • Any little squibs and bits you might want to put in one of your plastic pockets

For each setting, your own notes, similarly, plus anything useful you found while doing research. The plastic pockets are good for maps.

Behind the Plot Point divider, whatever you might find helpful. The contents of the pockets include, but are not limited to, those notes you made on the cocktail napkin at Bouchercon.

So there you have it. I'm off to write The Next Big Thing. You may do the same. May the best man keep his desk in order. Oh, yes, and find a publisher.

Kate Gallison


  1. Kate, I have all of the supplies and have used them for all my stories. Many notebooks. I could not write a historical novel without them.

  2. Damn! That might even work for me. My habit is to make notes in many wide-ruled composition books which I have difficulty finding later or can't read my hand when found. Any help is appreciated.

  3. Kate, how in the world did you take that picture above of the mound of my scribbled notes in my home office without my knowledge????? Thelma Straw in Manhattan

  4. Thelma! It's all over the internet. You have been ratted out.

  5. Oh, good night Miss Agnes, I'd better take a plane off planet earth, then. This is too embarrassing for me, as we crime writers are supposed to be neat freaks. Farewell, crime writers ! Amici, , ave et vale! See you on the next planet!!! tjs