Thursday, December 20, 2012

How To Write A Novel: Part 1: The Preliminaries

Okay this is how I write a novel....

First, I spend a lot of time procrastinating 'thinking'.

I find Lolcats...

and Lexxie Couper's Geek Randomness Pinterest page help here.

Then, when I get bored / hubs cuts me off the internet I make a plan.

During all this 'thinking' time I have actually been 'thinking.'  So I've got some idea of what I'm going to write about.

  • Bra boys surfie type meets uptight journalist type (Dark Island Paradise - coming soon), 
  • Rich heiress gets knocked up by Special forces dude (The Grey Man - Mammoth Book of Special Ops Romance) that kind of thing.

Where do I get my ideas from?

  • Sometimes there's an issue I want to write about - female working in a male dominated environment (Drive Me To Distraction). Hackers (The Bunker). Asylum seekers. Ancient Tibetan artefacts. Obesity. I'll research whatever has piqued my interest and characters and plots will flow from that.
  • Sometimes I'm just pottering about on the internet 'thinking' and come across something that sets off an idea, like the Wired article about cyber-war programs that inspired The Danger Game.
  • I don't like admitting to having a muse, but sometimes ideas appear from nowhere and beg to be turned into a story - interestingly these ones are often the least formed and the hardest to write

So, at this point I've also got the internal and external conflict between the couple sketched out, and, because I write romantic suspense, the adventure plot line thought through as well.

For example, in the Danger Game, (there's a great review HERE, which also outlines the plot) I started with this...
Heroine: Flick -  a very smart computer programmer, introvert, not a people person, lives at home due to serious family problems
Hero: Ben - an ex-army spy, loner but good with people, fractured family background he has escaped
Plotline - Flick's deadly cyber-war program is stolen, she has to get it back. Ben can help.

I use two structures to map out my novel depending on the length.

For short 50K or less stories I use a simple eleven chapter structure.  I'll talk about this structure as I go along as Jewels of Deception is 50K.

For longer 50 - 100K novels I use a more complex structure.  If you get hold of a copy of The Writer's Journey by Christopher Vogler it outlines the structure I use beautifully.   Here's an online summary of it.

In this early stage I use a lot of mind mapping and scribbling down of ideas which I then link together using my structural plan.

It ends up looking like this...
The Final Draft Plan
The first ones are never this neat
I then sit down and write something that bears some resemblance to this plan.

If I don't have the plan then I go off track, panic, write long irrelevant stories about sub characters which I then have to delete, and just get in a horrible mess.

But, I don't stick to the plan either.  Ideas pop up, characters change, I (in horrible moments of clarity) suddenly see plot holes so huge they would make any reader or reviewer throw my book at the wall, I realise my original story doesn't have the momentum or depth to get to 50K etc...

But I have to start with a plan.

Next up (on Saturday): Actual writing and why I use both Word and Scrivner

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