Nancy Lamb’s The Writer’s Guide to Crafting Stories for Children provided me with some great insights and tips. She suggests writing in a journal–unrelated to your current project–to keep track of ideas and memories that might be useful for recreating authenticity later. I really like this idea and have taken to carrying a journal with me just to write down things as they come to me or to note something that has happened. Writing a full “dear diary” entry never works for me, but always having that paper and nice pen with me definitely helps.
Lamb also suggests (among other ideas) creating a charted horizontal diagram to visualize the structure, plots and characters in the story. As a notorious color-coder (you should see my Google Calendar), this idea is amazing to me. Color-coding characters, plots, and subplots and tracking them by chapter would not only be helpful in seeing inconsistencies and structural gaps, it would be such a project to create that the immersion would help editing, too!
Throughout the book, Lamb offers various rules and suggestions. I took away several rules that seemed most appropriate or brilliant to me. Lamb’s endings rule states “you must always play out your ending onstage” (86)—with which I completely agree. I know as a reader I feel cheated when in the last pages the story is advanced ten years and everything is tied up in a neat little bow (cough-Jenna Fox-cough). This is something that I am going to actively attempt to do in my own writing—whenever it is that I actually get to an ending.