How can an X-ray help a writer?
I ask you, how can an X-ray help a writer? No, this is not the start of a really bad joke, although I could probably spend (waste?) an hour or two thinking up possible punchlines.
An X-ray charts what’s going on in the structure of a body. Is this particular disc compressed? Is that particular vertebra out of alignment?
In much the same way, a flow-chart or outline or genealogical table or storyboard or story web delineates what’s going on in the structure (the spine) of a novel. Each writer finds what works best — but sometimes what works for one book won’t quite work for the next book in that same series, so a writer goes with the flow, just the way a chiropractor may use various methods of treatment depending on how the spine is (or isn’t) responding.
For my upcoming final four Biscuit McKee mysteries, which span a timeline from 1692 to the 21st century, what started as a simple chart listing the six major founding families of Martinsville eventually turned into a separate page for each family with notes that told who in which family married into which other family. As I went along, I added birth, marriage, and death dates, notes about which attic "treasure" went with which person, who in the current-day attic descended from which founder, as well as any other pertinent info I needed quick access to.
Just to give you an idea, here’s a picture of half of one page showing part of the Hastings family.
Believe me, the completed books will be much easier to understand than my chart!