Yesterday we began exploring how to write your novel, and discussed the first four steps on the path to producing the best work you can. Having spent a day blossoming your plans from those very first ideas of the story you want to write, you’ll already have a better idea of how you’re going to start and the journey your characters will take. Before you start that first chapter, though, there’s a little more fleshing out needed.
Now it’s time to build on from the first day of your novel writing adventure.
Step 5: Expand your summary paragraph to a fuller picture
You’ll now have a pretty good idea of the overall structure of your novel, as well as the main theme. Now you need to begin adding a little more detail, and the best way to do this is to take your summary paragraph you wrote in step 3 and expand it.
To do this, work on each sentence singularly. Expand these to a paragraph each. You should find that each one ends in ends in a tragedy or disaster of some kind, except the last paragraph which will describe the ending of your novel.
Have a bit of fun with this step, enjoy yourself. You’re beginning to explore your story more fully, and you may even find yourself coming up with more ideas for sub plots and the conflicts throughout your novel. At the end of this process, you’ll have built your novel summary to one page your so.
Step 6: Expand your character descriptions
The last step we tackle yesterday was to write a one page summary of your characters. But tell me, is one page really enough to ‘know’ your main players? Work on a further page for each character to round your knowledge of them. You’re going to learn more about them, and so you might find you need to revise what you’ve done before: better now than trying to change the first draft as you work through it.
On the first half page of this extra content, add the finer details of their lives:
- Date of birth
- Work experience
- Hobbies/ Pastimes
The final half-page should be devoted to you putting yourself in the character’s shoes. What is the story from their point of view? By the end of this process you’ll understand more fully how each character interacts with not just the thrust of the story, but also with each other.
You’ll also have great character synopsis to refer back to, and know everything about everyone in your novel: even details that your readers may never find out (nor need to).
Step 7: Time to work on your novel summery again
Now it’s time to build your story outline even further. Those one paragraph descriptions of the opening, main disastrous events, and the finale of your novel, need building out to a page each. You will now be planning the strategy of your novel and padding out the overarching themes. You’ll find that you are actually discovering more about your story as you work through this. You may even find a few ideas that stand up and demand to be counted
Step 8: Write a timeline
Now write a time line that details each step of your story, and the characters movements throughout it. This is one of the most important ways in which you will be able to control the continuity of your work. I recently worked on a novel with a client who had completed almost every other step in this process – though not in the same order. By working through a timeline, it became evident to him that the story simply could not evolve in the way he wanted: two of his characters had somehow mysteriously ‘lost’ five years and more from their age for all the other pieces of his jigsaw to fit together! By working the timeline he was able to adjust his plot and subplots before realising his mistake after hundreds of hours of writing and costly editing.
Step 9: Write a chapter-by-chapter outline
Now you know your characters, your plot and sub plots, and the timeline of your novel. Now is time to plan out your chapters. I use a sprea- sheet for this (shock horror!).
You will weave your story in and out of sub-plots as you work through your main plot. Think about openings and hooks to each chapter, and make sure your characters are where you want them to be. Each chapter outline need only be a paragraph or two, but should include all relevant details, including time of day and location, which characters are involved.
Now you know exactly what happens, when and where, and who takes part, throughout your novel. You know how each character reacts, and how they change through the course of the story. Each chapter effectively becomes a scene, and as you read back through, you’ll be able to better picture in your mind, which will help during the next step.
Step 10: Write your novel!
You will probably have spent a good few days, perhaps even a couple of weeks, getting to the business end of the process, but you are now here.
It is time to sit down and type away. You will be amazed how fast your words flow right now. Perhaps even two or three times the pace that you would otherwise have achieved. But more importantly, your first draft will be of a far higher quality.
The actual writing is where you will be figuring out how the finer detail works out – for example, how does the hero, his hands bound tight behind his back, escape from the back of a speeding car? This is going to be fun to explore and write, because you know all the big things already.
Writing your first draft is going to be enjoyable stuff. But even now, you may still find that there are a few leaks in your overall planning to fix: but that’s the great thing about this process. Because you’ve broken everything down into easily manageable chunks, they are more easily fixed.
So, no excuses now. You’ve got a great idea for a novel. You now know how to go about planning and writing it. Get on and do it. Then get it published!