I've been thinking about Victorian novelists lately. The Russians too. Those lengthy, juicy stories full of diverse characters. Dickens, Eliot, Tolstoy and scores of others. They produced their massive books without computers or even typewriters. How, oh how, in the world did they do it?
This tricky tricky business of writing fiction is treacherous. Details escape the writer as she barrels through her story. Was that character 36 or 37 years old? Does my timeline match with her age? Oh shit, this timeline makes her 39 years old. Is that too old? Should I go back and change the timing? Is her mom's name Harriet or Henrietta? Where did I write that? What page? And what was that attorney's car? Was it a Jag or Alph Romero?
And then there's the issue of character creation. How to make the character realistic. In the current tarot novel I'm working on, my secondary characters were far more interesting that my lead. That's dismaying. I've re-written her 4 times...and now I have her nailed....but my computer was all-important. I'm learning to write the bios of my characters before I start. A basic technique, I know, but in my arrogance, I felt I could forego. And I store the bios on my computer.
Which takes me back to my original question. With all those setting details, plot consistencies, character traits to organize, how did Dickens, Eliot, Tolstoy, et.al. do it? I've always loved the old novels, the ones most people won't read today, but my deep respect for those writers has only grown as I venture down this pothole riddled road of fiction writing.
Maybe I should just stick to tenure reports and master course outlines.