Hello My Dear Writers,
I owe you another sincere apology for making you wait so long for more blog posts – I am truly sorry, and want to thank you for your patience!
Last year (2018) turned into a series of challenges for me, starting with the crash of my laptop, followed by the crash of two long-term relationships, and punctuated by several complicated relocations. What a year! But it wasn’t a total loss. My outdoor adventures were few, but mighty. I didn’t finish writing Storm Rising, Book 2 of the Storm Series, but I did solve several major problems in my story map. My grand plan to incorporate video into my blog posts was a bust; I managed to shoot some great footage of my adventures, but editing it into something worth sharing was another matter entirely.
This year, I’ve recruited help with the video projects, but we’re still having technical issues. With a little luck and some good old-fashioned elbow-grease, you’ll get to see some of my adventures soon. Watch for my tour of amazing National Parks, paddling with humpback whales (without getting eaten), and my six-day SUP/camping excursion on the Colorado River. Keep an eye on my website, KSPaulsen.com, for information about my YouTube channel – coming soon!
The best thing about challenges is that they don’t last forever; personal growth is a close second. Gratitude, and total immersion into my regular editing work, pulled me through the chaos, and ample business travel satisfied my wanderlust. I’m glad 2018 is finally over, but I did learn some valuable lessons. I feel stronger and more determined to succeed on my path. I’ve settled into a beautiful new home for a while, affording me the luxury of a larger dedicated and ergonomic work space and a more stable daily schedule. I’m reestablishing a regular writing routine; it’s time to finish Storm Rising and write several environmental blogs that have been waiting on the shelf. Scheduling time to write can be a challenge, but is essential to finishing any project. I plan to cover this topic in tip #14 of my WriteIT! blog; watch for that later this year. In the meantime, let’s get back to business with Tip #6 – Developing Your Log of Facts.
What is a Log of Facts?
It is a support document that is arguably just as important to develop during a writing project as a Story Map, described in WriteIT! Tip #4. Any well written story, whether fiction or non-fiction, is supported by real information about the people, places, and things that bring the story to life. During the writing process, you will find yourself conducting research about myriad and innumerable subjects (scientific, mythological, historical, logistical, etc.) in order to weave believable details into the fabric of your story. Whether you are an expert on a specialized topic, or a novice about many topics, you will inevitably want to include information in your story on subjects about which you are neither an expert, nor a novice. Your Log of Facts is a place to record all of the most useful information you find and keep track of important decisions and technical details you don’t want to memorize, or may forget several months down the line.
For example, in Storm Shadow, Book 1 in the Storm Series, you might recall that I included detailed information about weapons, ships, and whales, to make the action realistic and immersive. A significant amount of time was spent researching factual content to confirm that facts provided in the story were accurate, and events, timelines, and outcomes were plausible and authentic. The more complicated your story, the more you will need to research, and the more you will need to reference your Log of Facts to keep everything straight. You can certainly do this in a paper and pen, hard-copy format, but I highly recommend using an adaptable, reorganizable, electronic format like a Word or Excel document. Your Log of Facts is a living document, because as your story evolves, your log grows.
Track Your Decisions
In addition to your research facts, your log can be used to track long-term decisions about characters and locations in your story. For example, you may decide to develop a fictitious organization that is based on a real organization. To make that fictitious entity as realistic as possible, you may find yourself researching many kinds of details about a real organization that possesses some or all of the attributes you want to emulate in your story. Similarly, as you develop characters, you establish the details of their personality and life, which for the most part do not change, or if they do change, should do so in a logical way. Keeping track of your decisions helps to maintain consistency throughout your story. If you have a short, simple story, you may feel that you can remember all your decisions and details without a log. However, our brains are highly suggestible; in the beginning of your story, you may have given your character a calico cat named Fluffy, and months later, find that it has morphed into a white cat named Foofoo. Who knows why this happens, but it does, more often than you think.
As you add characters, locations, and complexity to your story, the amount of information you have to recall increases dramatically. This increases your potential for error. By tracking your decisions, both big and small, the details of your story remain consistent, and become logical facts about your characters’ experiences over time. Add information about different locations, time zones, languages, differences in laws, culture, food, weather, etc., and your log quickly grows into a manuscript in its own right.
What To Include in Your Log
Aside from stockpiling source information from your research, pictures are one of the most important things you can save to your log. You’ve probably heard that old phrase that a picture is worth a thousand words. Pictures make excellent models of people, places, and things. They can make up for whatever you might lack in imagination, memory, or personal experience with a given subject. A picture may literally help you write a thousand words that you might not have otherwise written.
For example, when deciding whether to use a real location, or make one up, consider the amount of detail you will need to make the scene authentic. If you don’t have a clear picture in your mind, a photograph can provide important details you might not have considered, such as the layout and décor of rooms, views through windows, and discoloration, fading, or shading of objects. You can always make up a convenient location, a fashionable outfit, or an intriguing object but sometimes seeing and then describing the real thing contributes greater authenticity to your writing. Whether you have been to a location or held an object in person, having a picture to refresh your memory and observe small details can help you write meaningful descriptions that enhance your reader’s experience and help them imagine the scene as if they were immersed in the story.
As you develop your log of facts, make it as general or specific as you desire. You may decide to put details in chronological order, as they follow the story line, or alphabetical order by subject. In addition to pictures, you can copy maps, specifications, text from sources, and links to websites, so that you can easily return to the source of the information at a later date, to confirm your understanding or add more detail. Consider keeping more information than you think you will need about important topics because good information can be hard to find when you need it. Do what works for you and be consistent about updating and saving your log as you write. To keep yourself organized and moving forward, try working with all three documents open on your desktop: your story map, your log of facts, and your manuscript. Save often, and have fun with it. Now, go forth and write!
Thanks for joining me,