FIRST. Well. Several things first. Most important and recent is this:

THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA HAS ADVANCED FROM GROUP STAGE. Not only did we advance, we beat the entire group. We beat  England and Slovenia and Algeria. I am sending HUGE AMOUNTS OF LOVE to the United States team, especially Donovan who managed that kick in the last TWO MINUTES OF THE GAME. We here in the states (especially the nation's capital) are very excited to see how you do in the round of 16 and are praying, most fervently, that you continue to advance. 

Secondly. I want to thank you guys for all the fabulous and supportive comments I got for my last blog post. I also got one very amazing email that nearly had me in tears and I just want to send out millions of hugs and kisses to you guys. I couldn't do any of this without you. In fact, I don't know how I did it so long with out you guys. 

So yes. That. Now. Onto the blog post. Just a heads up that another kind of op-ed-ish article is in the works, but like always, got to work the kinks out and make it intelligible before I post it. In the mean time. We have this. -points to rest of post-

I never really blogged about what the beginning processes of starting a novel are like for me. I think you guys know that it's very, very structured and there's a lot of outlining involved, but beyond that, maybe nothing? I'm posting this in the hopes that maybe my way will help you on your way somewhere down the road. 

My beginning is very scattered. I usually take a blank sheet of printer paper and just start writing random stuff.   Random ideas that have been percolating and swimming around my head, scenes that have birthed other scenes that have birthed movie trailers in my head. All of this goes on a few sheets of white paper. The end result is a bunch of incoherent, often unconnected sentences. 

From there, I pick out the stuff that not only stands out, but has a chance of being connected. If a character is screaming that's mine, I take it and match it with her/him. Eventually, I have a fully grown character, and a setting. Sometimes I get a whiff of plot. Once that happens, I make a list (I really love lists, guys. Lots of them are involved in the making of a novel a la Sumayyah) of ALL THE TERRIBLE/BAD/AWFUL THINGS THAT COULD HAPPEN.

Sometime one jumps off the page and attaches to my character. Sometimes I have to go back to the stage one and start scribbling again. Once I have an terrible/bad/awful thing, a character and a setting, things get much more organized. I make myself fit what I think I want to happen into a one sentence format, like this:

When ______ happens, X must _____ or _______ will happen.

X must ________ before ________ happens.

It's kind of Mad Libs-y, but it gets the character, conflict and stakes down in around twenty words. Which is important. While all this is happening, I'm scribbling down possible scenes, subplot points, character history. Sometimes the one sentence will show up immediately. Sometimes I've got to work to get it out. If I can't get the one sentence down, it means I don't have a plot because I don't have conflict or stakes. This is another place where I can go back to the drawing board.

Once the one-sentence is done to my liking and I don't feel like I'm trying to stretch just to get writing and this is something that I really want to run with, I get to the dreaded query. Really, it's just fleshing out the one sentence and adding set up, setting, and pertinent information that couldn't fit in the one sentence. For me, once the sentence is written and I have a real grasp of where I want to go with something, I write the query. 

Once I get the query done, I get to outlining. This is where I have to take all the randomness that I've been scribbling and try to  streamline it into a timeline that works. I have to pick out character arcs, story arcs, action arcs - anything that needs to move forward, backwards or sideways has to be pinned down and stuffed into this outline (or its margins). 

The last bit of this is the worst part. Synopsis writing. When I've got everything down I actually have to connect it with coherent sentences. This is the worst and best part. Characters come alive, subplots really start to shine, and I figure out - really figure out - how it ends, emotionally and physically. At the same time, this is when plot holes show up. This is when I have to pull out my outline and scratch things out, write things in, change things around. It painful, but at the end, I know pretty much everything. Or I hope I know. 

Yeah. So I know this post was really dry. But did it help? Even a little? Also - how do you start off a novel? Do you dive in or do you have a routine? Tell all! 

(that picture of mountains with the farming village is exactly what I've been seeing in my head for weeks now. how amazing is it that I found something that's nearly identical to what's in my head!?)
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