I’ve been cleaning out a lot of old files lately, and the results have been surprisingly therapeutic. Few things connect you with your former self like seeing your old handwritten notes. In the case of my old files for The Morgue and Me, there were quite a bunch of those handwritten notes. Gobs of them.
A couple of pages are worth sharing here. They were written early in the process — probably before I wrote the first word of the draft — and they’ll give you a sense of how I begin plotting a novel. At the point that I made these notes, I knew how the novel was going to begin and end, but the route I would take from one point to the other was very much to be determined.
To find that route in The Morgue and Me (and future books), I focused on the characters and their connections with each other. Having those character relationships firmly in mind helps me to think of plot points that can drive the story forward and, eventually, reveal the truth about all of those character relationships.
I suppose I’m visually inclined, because with every book I like to make a big map of those character relationships. Here’s what an early one looked like for The Morgue and Me (SPOILER ALERT: Don’t look at these toooo closely if you haven’t read the book):
There’s a lot of stuff here that never made it into the book, but it was a start. Eventually, I honed it into something a little cleaner:
Much tidier, yes? Sort of like my files, now that I’ve been through them all. Still, I thought the two little glimpses of my outline process above worth saving for posterity.