Website Update: April 3rd: I switched some posts around; sorry for the inconvenience if you were waiting for the publishing tips on April 4th. It will now be on April 6th.
So this is my 100th post, and there’s 29 days until the Minutes Before Sunset release. (Obviously, numbers excite me.) And I’m celebrating by posting two writing tips in a row :] Hope you enjoy!
The believability of your novel is going to reside on many factors: characters, plot, language, etc. But these are the obvious reasons, and many writers forget that the smallest details can also make or break your credibility. I’ve talked about this before in Writing Tips: Keeping Track of Time on March 11th. I described the importance of tracking every minute, day, month, and even moon cycles of your novel, and now I wanted to discuss the physical world you also need to track.
When I write a story, I always draw maps–both of the exterior and interior of places within the story. I even draw a much larger map, showing how the story moves. But that’s for another post. Today, I’m strictly clarifying the importance of a floor plan. Where’s the living room, kitchen, and bedroom? How are these places laid out? Where do your characters stand? What would they be near? These questions are important, because you can easily contradict yourself from scene to scene.
For example: In chapter one, you may describe Person A walking through the living room to get to the kitchen. THEN–ten chapters later–you write about Person A (or someone completely different) coming out of the kitchen into a hallway that leads to the front door next to the living room.
These little mistakes, even if the reader isn’t consciously aware of it, can upset the flow and take them out of the story. In other words, they may feel as if something isn’t quite right.
We can avoid this with detailed maps. (Even if you base your places on real-life, because you’re bound to change something.)
I really recommend drawing the map before you write a significant amount of your story. In my opinion, you can wait until that room appears in the book, describe it naturally, but then take note on EVERYTHING you said. That way, when you come back to the scene, everything is in place.
Another way to record it, however, is to physical draw or use realtor websites that allow you to create a room digitally.
I really like RoomSketcher, because you can morph the walls, stack floors, and even add furniture. I wasn’t able to use this while making November Snow in 2007, but I did make two with this website for an example:
The first drawing is of the first floor of the Northern Flock’s home. If you’ve read November Snow, you know many of the scenes take place here, so making sure my characters’ movements were flawless was very important. On the left, you’ll even see the lamp by the stairs, because it (and I don’t want to spoil anything) becomes very important at some point in the novel. This is just another reason to guarantee that I knew where it was. Other furniture that I used was a couch, desk, T.V., dining room table, and everything in the kitchen–the fridge, oven, and sink. The doorways are also very important, because it shows how the characters could leave and enter while also reminding me what would be in front, behind, to the right, and left of them as they did so.
As a comparison, I also created Calhoun’s house.
I did this to show how RoomSketcher can allow you to create your own floor with walls, carpet, windows, and stairways. It’s very easy to use, and there’s even different kinds of furniture you can choose from. (Notice Daniel’s room–the blue one–has a different colored bed than Calhoun’s.)
I’ve had these maps drawn since I began writing, and it allowed me to be confident that my book could correlate with such pictures. I have no doubts that, if you read November Snow today, you could follow my maps along with the characters.
I have to admit that some rooms, homes, or even streets are very clear to me, and I very rarely have to go back to my notes. However, when writing the smaller scenes, the ones that I probably do struggle with, I often go back during revisions and use a pencil to trace the movements. This may seem tedious, but I feel as if it is necessary, and I have found mistakes before.
Plus, it’s fun to take a break from writing and editing to create something else. And you can share it as an extra with your readers & fans! I know I’ll keep spending more time on this website. I love how easy it is to manipulate the walls, the furniture, and recreate something without losing what I’ve already made. (I’m a pen addict, so that’s really hard to do when I draw on paper.)
I suggest you guys try it out too! And if you don’t like RoomSketcher, I remain loyal to the dedication of drawing a physical map. In the future, I will expand on how to draw an exterior map and/or trace the movements of characters in specific scenes along with overtime in general.
Good luck & have fun! (I also have Interior Maps for “Minutes Before Sunset” coming April 4.
UPDATED: April 4: Movie Mention: The Host
April 6: Publishing Tips: Introduce Extras.