Sunday, June 16, 2013

How to Start Writing a Novel

You might be wondering, how does someone write a novel? Not everyone does it the same way, of course. There are plotters and pantsers. I am a plotter. (Pantsers fly by the seat of their pants and just let it flow). I do a little of that too as I am actually creating. Sometimes things happen or characters arrive that I had no idea were coming. But, I thought it might be interesting to share the process I am about to embark upon, as I gear up to write book #2. Whether you are a writer or a reader, either way, I think it is interesting know how a particular writer does the deed.

Step 1 - read what I have.

I have already written a beginning, but I wrote it a year ago and I will most likely change elements, as the story has evolved in my head over time. So, first I will read what I have and see what I still like.

Step 2 - go over notes.

I also have written pages of notes already – again over the last year. I have a character list, and a rough plot outline, at least where I thought it was going then. So again, I will read them and see what I still like and refresh my memory.

Step 3 – write more notes.

I will revision my plan and come up with a working outline. I write my outline in the computer, so I can change it as I go. But I write notes and ideas and diagrams and mini outlines in a large artist’s sketchbook. By the end, I have lots of notes and outlines. My outlines are living. They change and evolve. As I write, I go back to the outline and flesh out ideas in a list. Events, emotions, and purpose. For me, every chapter has to have a goal of what I want to get across. I remember the first draft of DISTILLATION, before I had learned this, had whole chapters of description and what I thought was character development, but no action, nothing to move the plot foreword. Now, I consider the purpose of every chapter. Often, when I finish writing for the day, I will cut and paste the next part of the outline below my stopping point, so I know where I am going the next day.

Step 4 – write chapters.

This is of course the longest process. At somewhere around 100 pages I will go back and read through, and usually edit and revise that, as well as my outline, before I move on. For COLD SPRING FIRE, I have a past and a present to deal with. Two separate arcs of intertwined plot. This is the challenge for me this time around. Weaving those two sets of events will be the primary focus of my work. Depending on how caught up in the story I get, I can write a hundred pages in about a week. Or, a hundred pages can take me a month. We will see...

So, that is how I write a novel. Or at least how I get started. There are twists and turns and music and pictures and a lot of pacing along the way too.

How do you do it?

As a reader, do you like books that have past and present?

What kind of plot structures turn you off or on?

1 comment:

  1. Novels, or stories, spend their infancy rattling around in my head. As a hardcore pantser, the closest I get to notes, is a bullet point list of thoughts as I begin. The muse takes over from there. Like you, I will start each new writing day with a review of the last written chapters, sort of like the pull-cord of a lawnmower.


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