You’ve got an idea stuck in your head – a sure-fire best-seller, or at least a seller.
But it’s a long process from idea to finished novel – one best served with a healthy dose of front-end planning to research, develop and manage content and information.
Decisions, Decisions, Decisions
Before turning on the computer and firing up a blank page, a lot of tough decisions to be made about the the who, what, when, where and why of your story:
- Who is telling the story (point of view)
- What is the story about (plot)
- When does the story occur (time-period)
- Where (setting)
- Why (why is the story being told)
These decisions drive story development and determine worlds to be built and characters to develop – whole mess of information to wrangle over months, perhaps even years.
Characters must be fully fleshed out, and not just hair color or favorite food. Character’s mental, economic, and social states, as well as fears and motivations are what propel plot and should be explored in the preliminary planning phase.
The Best Laid Plans
As with writing, there’s no one way to go about planning your book. Some people write ideas down on index cards; many write a high-level outline or even a plot formula. There are numerous ways to get your thoughts out of your head and into some organized, usable system or structure to work from.
Too, the Internet is full of useful planning resources for beginning writers including tutorials, planning templates and even personal mentoring.
The important thing is to find what works for you and start.
Creating a high-level outline is an excellent way to flesh out plot points and develop scene structure. Scenes listed in your outline should have a purpose that propels the plot. As a rule, if a scene or a sentence or a word or even a LOOK does not serve a purpose and propel plot, remove it.
While it’s never to early too plan, keep in mind that a manuscript in development is a living, breathing beast. Plot points, scenes, characters – basically anything and everything will change as you write and the story takes on a life of its own. So don’t feel you have to hold to the outline or scene structure fleshed out in the planning phase – go where the story takes you.
Walk the Walk and Talk the Talk
Often the planning phase involves research. World and character building requires a great deal of detail and knowledge. Characters come from places, have traditions and values and religious beliefs. Time-periods and settings have historic events, natural disasters, moral values, dress codes, specific medical knowledge, musical styles, folklore and much more.
While the Internet is often easily accessible, it is not the only place to perform research. Books from and of a period or place are invaluable in understanding literature and language and speech patterns.
Talking to people and listening to oral histories and stories is a great way to get not only intimate details, but a sense of what a place or event or person meant to others. Often, how something makes you feel is as important as the meaning of something. Just as how a story makes a reader feel is as important as what the story says.
Time to Act
Once you’ve fleshed out – characters, scenes, plot points and completed your front-end research, it is time to start writing your novel. Part two of this blog post will cover writing, editing and ever-present threat of rejection.
Until then keep planning for success!