How Do I Prepare to Write a Novel?
As ideas for a story pop into my head, I write them down. Depending on where I’m at, I might use scratch paper or a notebook. All the preliminary thoughts and brainstorming are written on paper, not typed in the computer. In fact, the entire outline is normally scribbled into a notebook, tending to look like a pen exploded on every page from my constant revisions. I’ve described my outlines as looking like chicken scratch or a jigsaw puzzle.
I did type one outline into the computer but will not do it that way again. I seemed to elaborate too much and it was (oddly) more difficult for me to follow along. The “flow” of how an outline should look just wasn’t there for me. Hard to explain.
I try to figure out the number of chapters I want the book to end up with and the approximate number of pages for the “book” which then helps me calculate the number of words and about how many pages per chapter. In my eyes, this gives me goals to shoot for as a write and creates a balance to the way the novel appears.
As I create the outline, a timeline is marked next to each chapter. It tells me when the scene took place, if it was over one or more days, morning or afternoon or night, etc.
Before I start writing the story, I have most of my characters figured out – names, physical attributes, mental quirks, what part they play. With the Unknown Touch-Werewolf Series, I thoroughly mapped on paper a family tree and friendship connection with the werewolves.
Lots and lots of research is completed before any major writing begins, too. Of course there is always more research needing done as the plot thickens and background info needs explained or details on people, locations or anything I don’t have in depth knowledge on enters the picture.
I’ve heavily researched specific locations and printed maps, for example using Google to zoom in on a forest to better “see” where an action scene takes place. I’ve used the Driving Directions to discover the distances between two locations and the time it estimates it takes to drive from one spot to another.
I’ve researched popular names during certain times in history so my characters would have appropriate names for when they were born and not something that conflicts. I’ve also searched combinations of first and last names in search engines if I’m trying to come up with a name no one currently has or at least very few people have.
Since my stories involve supernatural goodies, I’ve done much research on werewolves, vampires and witches. That was (and is) incredibly fun! I have to choose my “rules” on how my different beings live and survive in the world I write about. For example: my werewolves can transform whenever they want to. No full moon or any moon required. They have three forms: human, beast and wolf. The mythology rules can become quite involved and complicated. These are written or printed out and kept handy for reference.
I’ve used separate index cards for each of the main characters. On the cards, I write their names and anything specific about their personality or their special abilities or physical features. If I think of something awesome, but don’t want it to enter the storyline until later, and in the meantime I don’t want to forget the idea, I jot it on the card, too!
I’m an author that cannot write by the seat of her pants, as the expression goes. I’m in awe of those that do or can function and create that way. I must have an outline to follow. And my outline is usually lengthy-many pages (up to 20). Before I begin writing, I already know how the story will end. I do change some details or even add new characters as the story unfolds, but still need an outline to go by.
One mistake I made recently was creating an outline that was too long. Too much story already figured out. You’re probably thinking, “But that would be wonderful having all that extra plot and details done in advance!” Yeah…but when I started to actually write the novel, it felt like I was writing it for the SECOND time – as if I’d already completed it and was writing it all over again. Very weird.
Every writer has their own preferred methods to prep for a book and how they go about the actual writing. No one way is right or wrong. Authors must use whatever style works best for them in order to be able to complete a fabulous story. Be creative, polish the content, clean up errors but the most important thing is to give the reader what they want – to be entertained!
Top priority when preparing for a book: How can I emotionally engage and provide maximum entertainment to my readers?
Till next time…Blissful Reading (to Readers) and Dynamic Writing (to Writers)!