Tuesday, March 19, 2013

House of Cards



It's that time of year again--when I'm plotting a book, and our dining room table disappears under lines of index cards. My technique is always evolving, but generally involves some combination of color-coded cards and flags. The yellow cards across the top are labeled "Part One" through "Part Eight," since when I'm plotting I find it helpful to divide the book roughly into 50 page chunks. If you see the line of cards closest to the camera, you'll realize that I have the ending of the book plotted out already, along with the beginning; now I'm working out where things will fall in the middle.

The working title of this book--which will be number 10 in the series--is WHO BURIES THE DEAD, and I may actually get to keep that one since my editor has already told me she likes it.

And yes, that is a coffee cup sitting there; my attempt last year to give up caffeine did not work!

27 comments:

Helena said...

I feel safe knowing that there is a goodly supply of Sebastian books in the pipeline. They're my caffeine!

I'm fascinated by this very visual method of plotting. I think I remember your saying that you also split the MS into different documents on your computer (which I thought was very sensible). Do you also use Scrivener or equivalent, or you do find these methods suffice?

Charles Gramlich said...

I gave up caffeine once, for about a week.

Courtney said...

I love seeing how writers plot (or don't) when working on a book. Have you told us the title of #9 yet? Cheers, Courtney

cs harris said...

Helena, I do split my manuscript up into roughly 100 page chunks, both because it's easier to handle and because it gives me a better feel for my story arc. I had to look up Scrivener, but don't think I'd ever want to use a computer program. For one thing, I can see all of my cards laid out on my table, which is much bigger than a computer screen. But I also like being able to physically manipulate things, as opposed to virtually. I recently read an article in the Economist about research that shows writing with a pen produces a tighter, more creative product, so I now feel that my old-fashioned methods are blessed by science!

Charles, I do limit myself to one latte a day, but there's always tea...

cs harris said...

Courtney, #9 is WHY KINGS CONFESS. I'm planning to post the first chapter soon. Believe it or not, they're already working on the cover, so hopefully we'll see this one (the cover, not the book, since that's now firmly scheduled for March 2014) sooner than the last.

Liz said...

So interesting to see how you work, and so nice to know we can look forward to more St Cyr mysteries. I can't begin my day without a mug of tea and require several more at strategic intervals throughout the day. Just finished listening to Davina Porter's rendition of What Darkness Brings--it got me through some boring but necessary knitting preparatory to a photo shoot. Not sure whether I was listening so I could knit or knitting so I could listen.

Anonymous said...

Agree with the several comments on how comforting it is to know there are at least a couple in the pipeline. So, when you recently said it would take about 8 books to tie up all the loose ends, were you being serious? Just wanting to set my expectations in line. I've found the older I get the less "coffee"ish my coffee is, and the more latte (milkish) it is. Only bad thing, I work in downtown Seattle and the coffee houses, Starbucks included, get pricey. It never tastes as good from work or home though. Can't wait for cover and first chapter. Sabena

Steve Malley said...

Funny thing, my client yesterday was asking how books get written-- she couldn't seem to believe my 'pantsy' ways. I told her, "You should see my friend Candy, *she* does this whole thing with index cards and colors and, well, you'd love it!"

Have to point her at your blog, I think! :)

Steve Malley said...

And I gave up coffee once-- worst three hours of my life!

cs harris said...

Liz, the audio book cover just now appeared in my email box; isn't it odd that they sold it without a cover?

Sabena, yes, I was serious about the 8 books, although that's not carved in stone. A friend is currently ending a long-standing series, and it occurred to me that I ought to plan out where exactly I want the rest of my own series to go. So I sat down and looked at the upcoming historical incidents I've thought about tying in to a mystery, and made a list of all the things in Sebastian's life I want to have happen and/or tie up, and then drew up a tentative plan.

And my morning coffee is a latte; I have a machine, grind my own beans every morning, and have this wonderful caramel sauce from Whole Foods...

Steve, the more I do this, the more I realize that all writers are "pantsers", it's just a matter of when and how we do our flying into the unknown. I do mine up front, weaving together my cards and colored flags into a nice static line/safety net, for the same reason I'm not one of those people who likes jumping out of airplanes. At least, not anymore...

paz said...

That table actually looks appealing, not at all like my own writing space when I am in the midst. I only get to carefully laid out paper when I am doing copy edits!
And thanks to Sabena for pointing out this 8 book business. I am much more relaxed now, since we are only half way into Sebastian's and Hero's life

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cs harris said...

Paz, the only time I use the dining table is when I'm laying out these cards. I'll have to do a post on my writing spots--since I write on a notepad, I have a lot of roosts.

Elaine Cohoon Miller said...

So glad to know about the 8 books to come. That is, of course, 8 beyond What the King Confesses and #10 (in which someone buries something? can't remember at the moment), right! So glad to see the great reviews for WDB, which I loved! Went to Amazon & B&N to do customer reviews and saw many already there. Would another one help?

Anonymous said...

Do your cats ever mess up your note cards?

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