I finished the bios. I wrote them for my three main characters and a handful of my more important supporting characters. As I mentioned before, this was an incredibly useful exercise for really making sure I know my characters. It also forced me to flesh out their backstory. There will be a number of flashbacks in the book that play into the main plot, so it was important I had those worked out. I also completed a "glossary" about the world. When you deal with fantasy or sci-fi, it's important to have all the made-up stuff you've created for your world worked out. This is part of the ice berg system. Your readers don't need to know the intricacies of your sci-fi world's social welfare system, but you do if you're going to write about these characters' lives. My glossary covered the history of my futuristic country, its interactions with other countries, its upper and lower classes, and how it handles elections, military, and a whole lot more. Extensive, yes, but it's something I need if I'm writing in this setting.
Once these were done, I tackled the real beast: plotting out the book chapter by chapter. I don't know if I can fully convey how difficult this is in third person (the "he said" voice vs. "I said" voice). The chapters alternate between three characters. None of them are all-knowing. Each has limited experiences in the overall story, so I have to carefully plan who's telling each part so that the reader gets a sense of the big picture. Work in each character's individual subplots and flashbacks...and, ugh. It hurts my brain even trying to describe it to you here.
I started the process in a very simple way. I drew a grid on piece of paper and labeled each square with a chapter number and which character it was about. I then added what piece of the plot happened in each chapter. This took some juggling and rearranging, but it's a lot easier correcting a grid like this than a 9,000 word synopsis--which is what I ended up with when I finally sat down and wrote out the chapter-by-chapter description. But by that point, I had the book's structure and story worked out. Writing that 9,000 word synopsis was still a lengthy task and required me to fine tune some plotlines along the way, but having the simple outline first saved me some work.
And there we are. I have three documents: one about characters, one about the world/setting, and one about what actually happens in the book. That's over 15,000 words of information. Will anyone else see this? Probably not. It's my personal guidebook for when I actually write the novel. Is this something everyone needs to do before writing? Nope. This is just the way I work. Everyone has their own system. For those that are like, "Wow, Richelle planned a book in a month," I should point out two things. First, this idea's been stewing in my head for much longer than that. This was just me getting the premise on paper. Second, I've written nineteen books in my career. After a while, you get a feel for what a book needs. You can even get a feel for how an outline will translate into word count. Believe me, I couldn't have done this five years ago.
Now, I'm just sitting on this material for a while. The revision notes for Bloodlines #3 just came back from my editor, so I'm working on that right now. Once I turn in the second draft of that book, I'll switch back to Age of X and see if I can actually pull it off. Planning a book isn't the same as writing it! You can have the best idea in the world but not always be able to get what's in your head out on paper. Stay tuned. :)