Monday, February 28, 2011

March is Butt in Chair Month

I haven't touched my five days. I've barely thought about it, and when I did, it was to reflect on how much I missed the writing. I had no time. Study. Work. Study and Work. The boyfriend. Work again (seriously, I think half my workplace was ill at once).

Life getting in the way, in short.

I realised something during those five days, however. I never miss writing as much as when I can't do it. This is good, in a way. What is less good is that when I have plenty of time to sit down and work on the novel, I do something else. I procrastinate.

March rolls around tomorrow and I'll have 15,000 words on White Echoes. I wish I had triple that amount. Especially since Script Frenzy will keep me from doing much in April (except the script, of course, which is for the Shiny New Idea I had at the start of the month)

What does this mean? March is Butt-in-Chair month. By the end of the month, I want to be at 50,000 words. This means a little over 1000 words every day. I can do this. There may not be November's frenzy, but I have my writerly friends around, and they know how to kick my ass into gears.

Discipline is essential for a writer. There will always be tons of things happening in my life to keep me away from my WIP. I might as well learn to deal with them right away.

So bring it on, March! I'm ready for you.

Edit: After receiving some feedback from friends, we decided to make this an 'official' event. If you want to join, pick a goal (it can be any side project) and jump in! We'll be tweeting with the #MarchisBIC hashtag. 

Friday, February 25, 2011

Magic As a Set of Natural Laws

I had this interesting conversation with someone recently about fantasy. It's someone I need (and want) to get along with, but he said the one thing you can't tell a fantasy writer:

"Fantasy is easy. You can just use magic to solve everything."

I hesitated between growling, laughing or crying, went with a simple shake of the head and I did not even comment the subject. That's how badly I needed his approval! Only, he brought the topic up again, and since by then I had his approval (m'hahaha), I debated his point.

Magic isn't a Deus Ex. If your magic is a Deus Ex, you're doing something terribly wrong.

The fun thing with magic is that you can do anything with it! If you have a superb, eccentric idea that involves magic, you can grab it and run with it. It's the ultimate freedom of fantasy.

But as a French theatre director once said: "Freedom is the liberty to choose your limits."

No matter what your magic is, you must establish the laws that rules it early on (don't infodump it, though. For the love of all that is holy, don't infodump it). It cannot be unlimited. There must be a cost to the magic, or a limit that is impossible to break. With magic, you are bringing a new set of natural laws, just like physics, and you must abide by them. 

Don't break your rules. Those who do are the reason we have this reputation of Magical Deus Ex. Be smart, and enjoy your high magic. When you do it right, it's a boatload of fun!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Sweet Sweetness!

A quick note to everyone: I have mid-semesters exams coming next week. This means I am busier than usual, and will be posting less. Apologies to all, but you'll understand I can hardly post something intelligent on a regular basis when my head is full of molecules and metabolism reactions.

On to the post itself!

Are you hungry now? I sure am!

Apparently I am sweet. I received this award not once, but twice! Endless thanks to Margo and Cacy for this. I'm thrilled to learn you're enjoying your time here so much.

1. Thank and link back to the person who gave you this award. (done!)
2. Share four guilty pleasures that you have.
3. Pass the award on to six other blogs.

Guilty pleasures!

1. Nutella. I kid you not, I could eat seven slices of bread with Nutella in the morning. I used to do it when I was 10, and I think it accounts for some of the neverending energy I have today. I'd put Nutella anywhere. I once did on brocoli (and it was still good!)

2. Being a groupie. I can be a bit obsessive. No, wait, scratch that. I'm obsessive. I almost never just 'like' something. I adore it. I squeal and dance upon hearing its name. I'll be sure to buy tickets for concerts from artists I love. I'll put their music on repeat for months. I'm the perfect fan. Obsessive-compulsive, but never a stalker!

3. Inglorious Basterds. This goes with #2, but I believe my love for this movie goes beyond the normal amount of groupie-ness. Ironically, I'm not into violent movies most of the time. Something about Inglorious Basterds strikes me as so damn funny, though... and, well... Hans Landa. 'nough said, otherwise I will start quoting him.

4. Feigning I don't get sarcasm. Whenever someone says something in an obviously sarcastic tone to me, I act as though I think he's serious. It puts people off-guard and I find it hilarious. My friends are used to it now, and most of the time they carry on, but anyone else doesn't quite know how to react. TRY IT, I guarantee some fun.

Other sweet sweet friends 

First, two of my fellow NaNoers who've yet to receive this award, and whose company I still enjoy long after MSN is over: BookOwl and Rebecca Enzor (at Sticky Notes Stories). They're two great, funny aspiring writers!

Then we have Susan, at Ink Spells. Susan writes middle grade fiction, and her blog is full of great advice, deep reflexions and general fun. Check it out!

You should also check out Jen, from Jen's Bookshelf, who contributes daily to making this online community friendly and funny. She's just made a great post about new ideas and love affairs.

Finally, I'd like to link to two "blogs" over the internet. They're not writing blogs. In truth, they're not even proper blogs. They are webcomics. I read a great deal of webcomics, but these two have a striking art and an intriguing, absolutely unique storyline.

Because I couldn't quite sum up the story as well as its creator, here's from the website:
The Meek is a graphic novel about Angora, an inexperienced young girl who has been sent on a quest to save the world. War looms on the horizon, and at its helm is the Emperor of the North and his hellish adviser. The two countries are overwhelmed with as much terror, crime, disease and revolution as they are with those who wish to create peace. Armed with only her instincts and an unexplainable power, she must experience and judge the world—and decide once and for all if it is truly worth saving.
 Second is Hanna Is Not A Boy's Name. Hanna is a paranormal detective who sucks at his job. Thankfully he has his zombie partner to keep him out of trouble (or, well, alive) and a whole crew of shady friends to make his life lively. Gorgeous art, hilarious strips, intriguing storyline. This webcomic is a gem.

Because we're speaking of sweetness, I think Sommer Leigh should get a special mention. She already has the award, but she's everything the word means! A mention to Hillary, at Impudent Hatchlings, who'd be on this list if she wasn't the one who'd passed the award to Margo.

Before I go, thanks to everyone for making blogging so insanely fun!

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Pleasure of a Good Surprise

Last Friday I went to my University's cooperative to get some class notes, and I happened upon a rather beautiful edition of Pride and Prejudice. The book has been on my TBR list for ages, and I couldn't resist picking it up, despite knowing two or three friends that could've lent it to me. Some books deserve to be bought.

It should be said I'd never read anything from Jane Austen before, and though I'd seen movies based on her novels, I hadn't seen the one from Pride and Prejudice. Yes, it's a classic, but it's an English litterature one, and though we hear much about it, I haven't had to read it at school.

Anyway. I bought it this Friday. I had an incredibly busy weekend, and little time to read. I made time.

I was never a romance girl, but I was addicted to Mr. Darcy faster than I thought possible. It has been a long time since a book put a spell on me the way this one did. I finished it today, and I can't remember when was the last time I read something in four days.

There's a reason this is a classic. It's a delightful read, which you can get enough of even when you know the ending long before it happens.

As to what I learned and what made me squee, I'm afraid I read through far too fast to let my writerly mind seek a lesson. This unfortunately means I will have to pick it up again later on. I bet you can all hear me crying from over the internet!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Dying For an E-Reader

I'm not sure I can wait for another month before I get my e-reader. As much as I love the feel of paper in my hand, and the shiny cover of awesome writers, I have two very practical reasons to get one of these baby (I mean, besides the whole "I'm dying for the shiny gadget").

1. I travel a lot by night. I'm not the one driving. Often it's late, and rather than write, I'd love to be reading. I can't do that with paper books, though, not unless I buy a light.

2. My access to english books is limited. Don't get me wrong, there's a lot of great libraries around Quebec, and there's even one which sells solely english books. Often, I still have trouble finding what I'm looking for.

An exemple? I checked three different places so far for Leviathan. No luck. I've had to order every book on writing I have, too.

I know some of you have tried e-readers or own one. It's a big chunk of my tiny student budget, so any tips you have would be welcomed!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

I Don't Like Set Up

I'm finally off with White Echoes! It took two full weeks before I fell into a good writing rhythm, but it's here at last. And I think I found why it was so difficult.

I don't like set up.   (of course if you read the post's title, you guessed that one)

All this time spent introducing characters, hinting at the world, foreshadowing the main character... It's like that part in chess when you plan six moves ahead. The ability to do so is important. It's capital.

The same goes for a novelist's ability to set up the plot.

I understand all that. I really do. I still don't like set up. 

But I'm nearly done with it in White Echoes. I'm reaching my First Plot Point! I'm writing it! I'll sail right past it, and into the story proper.

One word: WHEEEE!  (yeah, not a real word. HUSH)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Stephen King and First Lines

I'm not quite done with The Gunslinger, but I've read enough to know that this first contact with King will keep me coming for more. I know the title has been on the blog as 'currently reading' for a month, but I only started last Friday. I may or may not have felt guilty about not reading after the guest post on TBR pile.

There's a lot still to be explained about what goes on in this novel (it doesn't hinder the story any, though), and I wouldn't be surprised if, after a few more novels from the pile and indulging in another of Kay's, I came back for the second in the Dark Tower series. I like having my questions answered!

And now...

The Quirky Thing that Makes Me Squee
The crow that says "Screw you and the horse you rode on." For some reason I thought this was hilarious. I still do. Plus I'm usually irritated by talking animals, but this crow? I love this crow.

What I Learned From King
We've all heard of the importance of first lines. This novel is filled with brilliant first-lines hook. Twice, I've glanced at the line before closing the novel, only to bite my lips at what I'd read, check the time, and decide I should go on a little more. Here, I'll throw in two examples.

Novel's first line:
The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.

 Chapter start:
The boy found the oracle, and it almost destroyed him.

These are just two, and I found them flipping around randomly. The novel is ripe with them, and though I have not read anything else by Stephen King, I'd be surprised if this wasn't true for his other novels.

First lines hook your readers and draw them in. Make them count, and you'll have someone up at 4 am because he can't put your book down.

Monday, February 14, 2011

LOVE in Writing

I learned something else from J.S. Bell: acronyms are fun!

L = Live
Don't be afraid to try new things. Jump into life with your two feet and no parachutes. Enjoy the rush, cry when you crash, meet new friends and ignore the enemies. Life isn't meant to be lived hidden in a tiny bedroom. Go out, see the world and learn to love it, with all its imperfections.

O = Optimism
Believe in yourself. Keep a bright outlook on your career and don't give up at the slightest hump in the road. This isn't about believe you're the one exception. This is about believe that with time, hard work and perseverance, you can do it. Don't complain all the time. Life isn't bleak; it's fun. Smile and keep working!

V = Veracity
Be yourself. Whether in your writing or on the internet, don't try to be someone else. You're unique. That's what makes you interesting. Be true to what you believe in. Don't lie or hide. But remember to respect others who do the same. There's a little spot of the internet for everyone.

E = Experience
Draw from your past experiences and those of others. Observe the world. Observe people. Remember how it feels to be jealous. To be in love. To be terrified. To be happy. Expand on these emotions. Seek the universal in them. Admire the particular. Share what you learn in your writing.

More importantly, however, learn to LOVE what you write. Your story and characters are beautiful. They deserve your love and attention.

Keep writing. Keep living. Keep loving.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

What The --


I want to apologise to anyone who's been on here since the last post went up. I had no idea this would happen, and in fact when I wrote the post's draft, it was something entirely different.

So so so sorry about this. I'll come back around tonight, fix the post and put it up again.

Me Plus You -- Smitten BlogFest Entry

This post brought to you in line with Sommer Leigh's Smitten! Blogfest. The idea is simple. As writers, we spend a lot of time telling others' stories. Today, however, you get mine.

I hesitated before entering this blogfest because while I often talk about what I do and work on as I writer, I try not to get my personal life on the blog. This is a special occasion. I hope you enjoy it.

Oh and before I start, Sommer Leigh will be holding a College of Blogging series of posts from February 15th and onward. Check it out.


Last December I asked someone out. I did it on a Saturday, and I'd known for a week I would be doing it. Longest week ever (it doesn't help that I had finals).

I didn't just 'ask', however. Oh no. I'm a writer. I needed something special. Something dramatic. 

So I prepared something simple and direct. Last month he had shown me black and white pictures from a site,, one of which is "Me Plus You".

On that faithful day we had planned to watch movies with common friends. We also had tickets for my sister's play. We took a spontaneous walk around Old Quebec. We spent the entire day together, but there was always either someone around, or I'd left the picture home. Longest day ever.

But when we finally got home, I gave him a printed version of this picture, on which I'd written "Even a writer knows a picture is worth a thousand words."

It worked. I will always remember his small squeeing sound. I will always remember our first kiss. It worked and we are still together now.  

Best day ever.


For the record, I find it ironic that the porn picture that snuck unto my blog did it on the post about love. It's a good thing ridicule doesn't kill.  (and apologies again)

Friday, February 11, 2011

Before You Start A Scene...

At the end of January I made a quick list of the weapons I gather prior to starting a first draft. Today the focus is on scenes, because the plotter on me could not dive in without some preparation, at least.

Before I start that blog post (ah!), however, I'd like to point out that I am guest-posting on Tahereh Mafi's most awesome blog today. It's an incredible honour, and you should check it out! Especially since I rarely do 'funny' posts around here.

Now, to business! What do I need to know before I start a scene?

1) What is the conflict here?
Conflict is the driving strength behind a scene. Don't start before you know what your POV wants in this scene, and what stops him from getting it.

2) Who is your POV? Why?
I've blogged about the difficulties of choosing POVs in the past. Look for characters with high stakes, whether physical or emotional. Know your POV and know why he is the one narrating (even with a single POV story, you want to examine what your character brings to a scene that is unique).

3) How does this scene reflect the world?
I might care for this one a lot because I love worldbuilding, and enjoy watching details translate the world I created. Nevertheless, this is a worthwhile considerations even if your setting's a midwest town in the US. Every setting is unique. Not every scene will show it, but the more, the better!

4) Do you have HIP?
HIP in your scene is a concept taken from J.S. Bell's Plot and Structure book. In short: hook-intensity-prompt. Intensity is harder to think of in advance (it goes with conflict), but I like to have an idea of Hook and Prompt before I start.

5) What is the mission of this scene?
This one is from Larry Brooks, at storyfix. In a recent post he gave a small but solid advice: every scene should have a succint mission. (his words, not mine). What is the point of your scene? How does it move the novel forward? This is a great post to read, by the way.

So these are my basics. Also, wow, so many links!

If you are a Super-Plotter, I recommend you check out Margo's (from Urban Psychopomp) scene-building template. Tons of possible questions to ask yourself there!

Is there anything you think I missed? What do you always have at the ready before you start?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Writing and Roleplaying

When I mentionned that my main character was born from a roleplaying game in my last post, a surprising number of you commented that it happened to them on a frequent basis. I used to have trouble accepting the strong influence of the games on some of my work, and the lesser but-no-less-important presence in the others. I came to the craft of writing through roleplaying, but today I can tell what works, and what doesn't.

This is what I transfer the most from my RPGs. I have created characters I love through the years, with a well-developped and often under-exploited background. It's a truth of gaming (especially online) that half the hooks you build into your backstory will never surface again. I love to explore those subplots. Sometimes they even become the main intrigue.

I find that character personalities translate well from RP to writing. Sometimes, however, changing their abilities and races might serve your story. There is a lot of 'epic' with RP, and I find not all of it fits with my style.

Perhaps this is only me, but the only plot I have kept from a RP was one that focused on a family's internal relationships. I find that most plot require heavy work to fit the narrative structure. Pluck elements and premises if you like them, but I don't recommend clinging to all scenes or to the way the story evolved.

EDIT: It just occured to me that a lot of the plots I've reused are Character Arcs. It makes sense, considering I mostly import characters.

While I have changed settings between a story from a RP and the novel form, I think this element can be transfered easily. You need to think about what you want (high or low magic, for example) and what serves the story best. DnD is a mash-up of many mythologies. Take the time to decide what you need, and take the time to check on the original myths, too.

By the way, this is not to say you should dump all orcs and trolls and elves and dwarves. When you write a novel, however, you need to think them through, explain them, and know what makes your setting unique.

I'm sure there is a lot more to be said, and this is a topic I'm likely to revisit. Roleplaying games are an incredible source of inspiration for me, but adapting them comes with a lot of problems. The potential is there, however, and a good writer knows how to tap it.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Epiphany

I know I had a more serious post planned for today. Something about the nuts and bolts of writing. For the life of me, though, I can't remember what the topic was. It'll come back when my brain settles.

But what puts you in such a state, you ask?  (well, maybe not, and besides it's in the title, but I'll act as though I hadn't noticed).

Yesterday as I walked to class, I had a writing epiphany.

Not on WHITE ECHOES. It's another story, one I have carried with me for longer than I even write novels. All I had was a character, born from a short-lived game of roleplaying. I created tons of RP characters in my years, and they all tend to vanish.

Not this one.

For six years he waited in my head. Once, I tried writing his story. I blocked after 4000 words. I had no idea where this was going. I did not like what he was becoming. Every few hundred words, he also said or thought something horrible. Fezim is as twisted, disgusting and complex a character as I've ever done, but he happens to be charming and funny. It is so hard to balance the two. Especially when you have no idea where this is all going. In a way, I didn't feel safe with him 'in control' of the storyline.

But it's over now! With a 30-minute walk under big snowflakes, chatting up with friends, I somehow saw the ending. Within two hours I had drafted three scenes, including the last one and now my mind is bubbling with subplots and main characters.

This is going to be fun.

I do need to remember, however, to finish WHITE ECHOES' draft before I give in entirely to the Shiny New (well, somewhat new) Idea.

Isn't it fun when this happens? How do you guys deal with the new ideas? I normally just jot them down and move on. Any other tricks?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Three One-Paragraph Pitches

Last Friday I remembered how much I hated the little blurb on WHITE ECHOES' page. I'd put a warning promising a better one once the synopsis was complete, and I decided it was time to live up to it. Besides, these are like (super) early practices for query letters, aren't they?

I decided to put a spin on it, however, and do one pitch for each of my POV character. It's amazing how hard Henry's paragraph was, compared to the two other characters. And Henry is the MC... I wish he was the one I found easy.

This is what I have at the moment. It needs tweaking, but reflects the project better than what was there before. 

Henry Schmitt lives on little more than dried noodles and dreams of flying his father's hot air balloon once more. He is forced to abandon the salty comfort of his routine meal when rebel leader Seraphin Holt crashes into his life. Henry discovers his father, gone missing a decade ago, was friends with a member of Seraphin's squad.

Solving the mystery behind his father's disappearance unravels the scheme behind the plague that killed thousands of citizens. In order to honour the collective memory of those who died, Henry must follow in his father's footsteps, expose the conspiracy and bring the culprits to justice.

 This is an exercise I recommend. Stripping a story to its barest bones is a great way to keep sight of what truly matters, and what is subplots and complementary. Yes, I'm irritated that two major characters are missing from these two paragraphs, but they had to go (well, okay, I still want to find a way to work Vermen, the third POV, in the final "query pitch" but I'll see about it later).

I discovered something else interesting doing this: when I was doing Seraphin's and Vermen's, I had to reach further back into the timeline for the incidents that dragged them into the story. This is one more proof that while the two are important characters, this novel is Henry's story. He is the one driving it.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Charismatic Character

I have a weak spot for charismatic leaders. Often they are passionate, stubborn, witty and hopeful. They create a dynamic story. They might try to move mountains, and that makes one hell of a story.

Charisma, however, isn't easy to define. We feel it when we meet someone charismatic. We know. There's one thing harder than defining charisma, though: rendering it with words.

When you ask others what Charisma is, they'll say it's a presence. It's harder to convey charisma than it is physical strength.

So what's today about? First, a definition of charisma and second how I've seen it done.

The definition
This is a tough one, but there are a few characteristics common to charismatic communicators.

Passion. The charismatic is passionate about his topic. He knows it from top to bottom, and is animated with a visceral passion to share it. He loves this topic and he must get others to love it too.

Assurance. The charismatic does not doubt. He is convinced of his message and speaks with the assurance of one who knows he'll achieve his ends.

Dynamic. This one goes with passion. Passion will push emotion in the charismatic's tone and movements. Someone who stays put isn't interesting.

Empathy. The charismatic can read someone else's reaction. He picks up hints of tiredness. He can tell when he's losing his audience, and he knows how to react to it. He's in a dialogue with the others.

Good politicians are charismatic. They win crowds with their words. It can be both a good and a bad thing. Think Hitler and Obama. They're both charismatics, but what they attempt to achieve is hardly in the same spectrum of morality.

How do you do this?

I'm afraid I don't know a hard and fast trick to building a convincing charismatic character. Those I recall from novels, however, share a few recurring traits.

Wits.They are good with words. Wit is hard to do because everyone has his brand of humour, but a few well-placed answer can convince your reader this guy knows how to talk.

Passion. A character reacting strongly to an issue early on shows passion about it. Charismatic characters are convinced of their shit and need to communicate it. They won't let one slide.

The eyes. Oh boy, the eyes. This is a tough call because characters with intense eyes can be quite cliché. But the charismatic needs to catch attention and hold it. Someone who'll look straight at you when he talks and hold your gaze is far more convincing. Don't abuse the eyes. But don't ignore them either.

And if you're writing fantasy and tempted to have a charismatic leader, do something for me. Don't put him at the head of an army. Not that it's a bad thing, but I'm craving for novels that dodge bloodsheds (or mostly dodge, anyway) in favour of other solutions. Charismatic leaders are perfect tools for swaying crowds in other directions. Try them!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Lonely Act of Writing

I miss NaNoWriMo. I miss the tingling of excitement and the wild rush of words on a page. I miss the pep talks, the forums and my fellow MLs. I miss knowing 200,000 folks around the world are writing with me.

More importantly, however, I miss sitting with writer-friend and supporting them.

I still see these people, every day. But we're not all writing together. We're not laughing at our typos, mocking our characters or retelling our latest bright idea.

Writing is lonely. I forget that in November.

These last three days were a sudden, harsh reminder, but they good for me. I need to be able to write consistently year-round.

So February? Stop trying to discourage me. I will get to the end of this first draft, whether you like it or not!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

HIP In Your Scenes

The HIP system is something we all know about, on a different level, but it bears repeating because in my opinion, writing a good scene is hard. We know what we must strive for, but nailing it isn't so easy. It takes practice.

Again, all credit for this goes to James Scott Bell. If you want more, you'll have to pick up Plot and Structure.

What is HIP? An acronym (I think Bell loves acronyms, he has quite a few of them) of what you need in any scene: hook, intensity and prompt.

H for Hook. Start with something that raises questions. You need to grab your reader right off the bat and make him want to read on. All those tips for first sentences in a novel? Apply them to first sentences in a scene. Most of the time, location isn't your best bet. Be daring. Tease your readers before you describe the setting.

I for Intensity. Scenes need to be intense, or your reader will get bored. Pack them with tension and increase the intensity as the novel advances. This doesn't mean action; emotional turmoil can be just as intense. What you need is a simple thing: conflict. 

There should be conflict even in scenes between friends or allies. Play with their opposing agendas. Pit their opposing personalities against one-another. Make sure there are sparks flying. Turn every dialogue into a sparring contest. Make your scenes so tense the actual page is shaking. Or, well, maybe not, but you get the point.

P for Prompt. Don't end with something boring. Give your readers a reason to keep going, even if it's 4 am and they work early. Prompts can be impeding danger, mysterious dialogue lines, important announcement or vows... anything major, really. Just don't end with "Good-bye" or "He left the office."  End with something interesting.

Or, as Hitchcock used to say... "Cut out the dull parts."

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Plotter's Weapons

I never thought it'd take two months before I finally felt ready to redraft this story. I've learned a lot about plot and scenes and characters. I'm sure there's still a lot more out there to learn, but there's no point in reading all these books on craft without practice.

February is knocking at my door, however, and I can't wait to jump back into the writing fray. This time, however, I have a few weapons at my disposal. Here's a list of what my compulsive plotter self prepared:

  1. Complete Scene-by-Scene Outline. This outline is full of details, highlighting the conflict in every scene along with the narrator. Scenes are separated by chapters and the whole outline is in four parts. there are descriptions of characters at the start. This little baby is 7245 words long, spans 23 pages and is the most complete guide I have to the novel.
  2. One-Liner Outline. The above isn't handy for a quick "Where next?" check, so I pared it down to one line by scene. I used colours to indicate chapter change and a paragraph jump for every new page. It gives a great overview of the novel's beats.
  3. Tension Graph. At some point in Plot and Structure, J.S. Bell talked about rating the tension level in your scenes. I did it for all 46 of them and then used Excel to graph it. This let me detect instantly one weak scene that jarred the rhythm. It also made me squee, because I have a nice progressive climb in intensity.
  4. POV Tension Graph. Because I have three POV and I wanted to make sure each of them has its share of tension-riddled scene, I added a tension curve for each of them on my graph. It's full of colours now!
  5. Final Scene Table. Click the link for the post in which I detailed this one. It's the most comprehensive, easy-to-check way I found to detailing my climax.
  6. Four timelines. On different scales, about the world's backstory, important characters' pasts, the full storyline and the last half of the novel. I love my timelines.
  7. Pages and pages of brainstorming.
  8. Full folder of research-related links.
With all of these to rely on, I feel confident I won't err too far as I jump back into my usual full-speed writing. I know I can give myself fully to the frenzy of the first draft, and not lose sight of the plot.

Is there anything you can't do without before you start writing?