The beginning stages of creating a novel are very frustrating for me. These stages can last anywhere from a few days to a few months. What are the steps to start writing? If I’m writing a simple novel, about an average woman with an average life then it doesn’t require a lot of prep time to get started on my piece. But if I were to write about a woman with a complicated life as I did in my first novel, Curse Under The Moon, then it might require a bit of prep work to get started on the piece. Addressing a few simple questions will let me know if there is going to be a lot of prep work before I write or if I can dive right into starting the story.
- Who is/are the main character(s) of the novel?
When a story idea pops into my head I almost instantly picture a woman featured in the novel. I think my default is to write from a woman’s point of view because I am a woman myself. But as I delve into the other questions I want to address about my novel, the character may change from a woman to a man. Or they might change from a human into a dog. Who knows? It’s safe to say as my novel idea starts to come to life so do the fine details to my character. I don’t go into my novel with a solid build of my main character, but I have a general idea of where I want to take them. As I dream up more details to my stories I can also take note if I need to research facts about my character I may not know. I mean, I have no idea what it’s like to be an electrician so if I know I want my character to take on the job I better get my research done. As I sit back and continue to build up the details to the story inside my mind, I begin to learn the best way to make my more important characters become real.
- When & where will the novel take place?
If I don’t know at least a general timeline then I wouldn’t have the details about the story correct. Before I write, I make sure I know if the novel will be placed in the past, present, or future. If the novel is farther into the past then I should research details about whatever time in history I’m addressing because one wrong detail could instantly throw my novel into a world of make believe. Going into the future would allow a bit more freedom because who knows what’s going to happen? Writing stories in the present day is my favorite way to address the when detail. Present day is a lot easier to write about since I’m living in that time. Creating a realistic timeline makes the story better for my readers.
I also keep my novels featured in the United States because I don’t know a lot about other countries. Although, I don’t know everything about every state so there is no true escape from at least a little bit of research. If I did want to write a novel somewhere I wasn’t familiar with then I would have to research the area. I wouldn’t want to skip over an exciting detail about a famous city or leave out a beautiful image from an unknown country. It’s my job to make sure the details are correct. This may be one of the more time consuming stages of the prep work. As an author, I want my story to seem as real as possible so I must complete research occasionally to make sure the facts are right. I can’t send my main character to Japan and expect everything to be just like any other day in his home state of Tennessee. The where details can really be exciting to research, but it can take up a lot of time to make sure the finer details are correct.
- How do I want my readers to feel?
I start writing my novels with a basic thought in my mind. I want my readers to love my words. Okay, that point is true for all authors. I need to think about the larger feelings I want to drill into a reader’s heart. Let’s say I want my readers to feel just as lost as my character then I need to set my mind into that feeling before I write. In a way, I allow myself to become my character so I can easily tell my story. This is especially a great trick to take on if I write in the first person point of view. I try to become emotionally connected to my novels so I can appropriately express the feelings I want readers to feel.
- What are the great scenes I’ve thought up?
Sometimes, a novel is created simply because an author thought up one scene. I am a visual type of person so ideas are always jumping into my head. Images my sister sent me of the first snowfall in Ohio had me picturing families outside building snowmen, some were outside shoveling snow from their driveways, and others were wrapped in a blanket next to a fireplace. Those are simple scenes and I can write up the finer details to those moments at any time. The other scenes I imagine might be too grand to not address right away.
Knowing a very important scene for my novel is a great thing. I may have thought up the cutest way for my main characters to finally meet. This meeting must occur in a certain way because it will hold a key factor to solving the mystery. I could start writing my novel from page one and hope I remember to include the great scene I’ve created. Sadly, memory is not always a perfect thing so it would be risky to hope I remember it all. I think there is nothing wrong for me to write the scene I thought up for chapter five before I start writing chapter one. Then I know what the minor details or hints are I need to have occur prior to the scene I’ve created. Writing a scene early doesn’t mean it can’t be adjusted as needed, but it does mean I have a lower chance of ruining the journey to reach the moment.
- Are there going to be details of my novel I need to research?
This is a general rule which covers each topic I’ve already discussed. A character I create may take on a job I know nothing about so I have to dig up some information to know how their job is completed. If I want to write about a lawyer solving a big case to help his client I would need to learn more about a lawyer’s job. I know almost nothing about their work except what I’ve seen on television or read in another fictional book. My research into the unknown job would help me figure out if my storyline seems believable or if I need to correct some of the details. I also mentioned earlier about learning details about a novel’s location. I know very little about other countries so I don’t feel as if I could write a novel with a setting in another location without further research completed. The details of my novel need to be as realistic as possible and I must complete the work prior to writing so I don’t have to erase everything after it’s been written.
How do you prepare yourself for what you want to write?