I plan out all my work in notebooks. At the last count, I have about 14 currently in use, stacked up on my desk.
The notebook in this picture was bought for me in about 1993 by my Aunt while we were all on holiday in France. For a long time, this notebook remained empty because I thought it was too special to use. Eventually I decided I would allow myself to write in it. The first few pages are full of notes on songs I was planning to write - some of which I did write at some point down the line.
Then I started using this notebook to plan out stories, instead of songs. I'm still using it for that, but it's nearly full now. In fact, this is the notebook I used to plan out the first two Jimmy Coates books - and some elements of the third book as well.
Would you like to see some of the pages inside?
If so, read on...
This is what you see when you open the inside cover of the notebook. I put the green stripe in there after I'd finished writing the first Jimmy Coates book, because I felt like this notebook had become my 'Jimmy Coates' notebook.
Actually, there are plans for several other stories in there as well, so I can't show you all of the pages. There are also some ideas that I made note on in this book that are going to feature in the Jimmy Coates story in later books in the series, so I'll have to keep them hidden as well.
But there are a few things that I think I'm happy to share with you. I hope it gives you a little bit of insight into how I work on my novels, and if you've read my books, it might be interesting to know what I'm staring at all day while I'm writing, and what form some of my ideas originally took.
This is one of the first pages where I was working on the Jimmy Coates idea. So I must have been writing this sometime in February or March 2003.
On the right hand side you can see that I do a lot of my planning with charts and diagrams. There'll be a few more of those coming up. This one is fairly basic. It helps me get my head around who the key characters are, and what the important relationships are going to be in the book.
Look all the way down in the bottom right hand corner - that's where I came up with a name for Dr. Higgins. You'll notice that further up the page I've written 'school teacher' - that's because Miss Bennett didn't have a name yet.
Also, can you see in the middle of the right hand page where I've got an arrow pointing from Jimmy to the words 'a girl'?
Well, if you've read my first two books, you'll notice that this character hasn't appeared yet. It's NOT Eva - it's someone who doesn't come into the story until the third book - Jimmy Coates: Revenge.
Here's a close-up of one of my early sketches of the plot of the second book. Does it make any sense to you? Probably not - but for me, all of the arrows and lines have a particular meaning, and the character's position on the page is important - for example, I like to put three characters in a triangle. Whenever I spot a triangle, I build on it. So in this picture I spotted two potentially good triangles - Viggo/Helen/Saffron and Eva/MItchell/Georgie. In my later diagrams, they're a lot more obvious. Unfortunately, those diagrams are also top secret because they'd give away too much of the plot to anybody that hasn't read the book!
Here's some more planning out of JC:T -
That's a little sketch of Estafette, by the way - he's Jimmy's truck driver.
What do you think of my plane?
My early planning for the third book was done in this notebook - because I had come up with most of the ideas for it while I was planning out the first two books. I find I have to know what's going to happen a long way in advance so that I can plan the story and make sure it all fits together.
So here are some pages with my early planning for Jimmy Coates: Revenge.
I don't want to tell you too much about these pages, because I don't want to give anything away about the story in case you haven't read it yet! One thing I'll point out is that in the picture below, you can see that on the left hand page I've been making notes on what I need to change or improve about Jimmy Coates: Target, while on the right hand page I'm plotting out Jimmy Coates: Revenge.
After this, I needed more space. That meant a bigger notebook, and one that didn't have lined or squared paper. So I got one...
Here's a little snapshot of my view at my old house. This is what I saw while I was writing my second and third books. You know that bigger notebook I was talking about? You can see it on the far right hand side - that tall brown one. I'll post some pages from that notebook below - just scroll down!
But first, here's a picture of my view in my new home. Same desk, obviously, but a slightly different outlook. I've blanked out my computer screen this time to protect the Jimmy Coates secrets I was working on when I took the pictures.
So what are the features of my working environment? Hmm... when I look at it now I can see how many frogs I've got in my view. I think I can spot 5 in the picture on the left (and that's if you don't include Billy Joel).
The books on the middle shelf are there for reference, motivation or inspiration - or all three! From the left, you've got 'Designs and Doodles' by Jim Henson, 'The Letters of F Scott Fitzgerald', 'Dictionary of Classical Mythology', 'Lempriere's Classical Dictionary', 'On Writing' by Stephen King and 'Story' by Robert McKee.
To the right of that is a whole line of my own books!
So here it is - the brown notebook I've used to plan out the last four Jimmy Coates books. I still go back to the old blue notebook as well, and I have a pile of other notebooks that are used for particular parts of the planning, but this is the one that I go to for the bulk of the work. The basics. The spine of the story is bashed into shape in this book.
I've deliberately reproduced them fairly small to protect the secrets from those of you who haven't read the books yet! But if you have read the books already you can peer closely and hopefully make out most of what I've scribbled. The first picture (above) has a rough diagram in the bottom left corner of where the main climaxes are going to come in the story. There's also a scary sheep watching over that bit. Don't know why.
Things get a bit more complicated in picture 2 (above). This is where some of the ideas get fleshed out. Can you see that on the left hand page there's a box round some of the text and it's marked 'Bit A'? That's so that I can slot in that part of the plot in a later diagram without having to write it all out again. Eventually I like to condense the plan for an entire plot to a single page. That's why I need a large notebook and a shorthand system like 'Bit A'!
This (above) is more planning for Jimmy Coates: Revenge and Jimmy Coates: Sabotage. I have to plan more than one book at a time so that the whole series makes sense. In fact, almost all of the story for the whole series was basically planned out together, instead of splitting it up into individual books. That means I know the ending of book 8, for example, while I'm writing, say, book 2. It helps plot things out if you know where you're going.
This is the notebook in which I planned (and wrote large chunks of) Jimmy Coates: Blackout.
Take a look at some of the pages inside...
My favourite part of that last picture is where I've written, 'he carefully produced a screwdriver' but then crossed it out and replaced it with, 'instead of producing a screwdriver, he pulled out a gun.'