Tips on Writing: Prepping For the Novel, Part Two--The Idea and the Process

 

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On Monday, I began this series on prepping to write a novel.  In the first post, I talked about the tools you'll need to get going, and if you head on over to that post you can get caught up.  In today's post, I'm going to talk about the idea and the process--what to expect and how to schedule it.

It is important, when writing a novel, to consider that you're going to be with this baby for quite a long while.  Not quite as long as it takes to read a human child from birth to maturity, though it may seem like that.  But still, you're going to be working with this material for a long time  So make sure you like it.  I wrote a whole long post on this very topic last week, and its probably a good idea if you take a minute and go read it.

 

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So now that you've committed to an idea that you love (or even just like), what next?  Well, that's the topic of this series, what you do to get ready to write a novel (or a book).  But before we get to character, setting, plot and writing the rough draft, I want to talk briefly about process and scheduling.

 

The Writing Process

It's really very simple.  Your first draft is for you to figure out the story, okay?  It is not for you to make things perfect.  It is for you to get a rough semblance of the plot and characters down on paper.  Don't worry yet about how best to present it to the reader, or how to dramatize it  How can you do that when you're still figuring out the story?

Whether or not you want to write up an outline is your choice.  I recommend it because it keeps you on track.  Doesn't have to be a fancy outline, even a rough list will do.  This way you save room for serendipity and the stray walk-on character.  You may also want to write a synopsis, which is like a fleshed-out, grown-up outline.  I don't.  But some people do.  Once you've got your outline written and done all the prep work it takes to get going on a novel, that's exactly what you do.  Get going on it.

I've written about the writing process here before, and even recently.  Here's some of those posts:

The Writing Process According to Novelist Gabrielle Kraft

The Writing Process: Letting Go

The Writing Process

The Writing Process Redux

The Writing Process Again

The Writing Process: The Three P's of Glumping

That ought to keep you going for awhile.  And so now we turn to scheduling. Or, what to expect when you're trying to write a novel and life gets it the way.

Scheduling/What to Expect

My best advice for scheduling a long writing project is to be as regular as you can, and stay flexible.  In a perfect world, which none of us live in, it is best to write every day.  If you can't, at least glance at your work, read it, or take some notes on it.  If you can't do that, think about it.  Direct your mind to it while you're walking or cleaning the house.  (Or in a boring meeting, but don't blame it on me if you get caught.)  You will be interuppted just when you're getting to the apex of a scene.  This will happen more times than you can count.  You will have to skip a writing session when your child or spouse gets sick.  This will also happen more times than you can count. 

Here's what else you can expect:

Joy

Frustration

Anger

Despair

Hope

Obsession

And probably a few more I've not thought of.  Notice, however, I did not mention the word boredom.  Because when you're writing a novel, you'll never be bored.  I think that's true of being a writer, period, as well.

You can also expect to be damn proud of yourself when you're finished with this project.  And to have a healthy respect for even the crappiest of books you might see in the bookstore or library.  Because now you know what it takes to write a book.

But that moment is still far in the future.  We've still got some prepping to do.  And I shall move onto that in the next post.

Please comment on all this.  What do you do to prepare? What have you learned from writing a novel or book-length process?

Create a successful, inspired writing life: Make certain you've got an idea that intrigues and delights you and write a loose outline.  Okay, okay you can do a synopsis, too. 

I'm putting together either a one-on-one coaching package or a group program around this novel prep, so stay tuned!

Photos by Mai05 and Creactions, both from Everystockphoto.

PS.  Sorry for the weird type font changes.  No matter what I do, I can't get them back to normal.  Typepad is a bit wonky these days.


 


Tips on Writing: Prepping For the Novel, Part One--Tools

So, I've written three novels now.  The first was a crappy mystery that never went anywhere (though

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recently when I found a copy of it, I realized it was better than I remembered.) The second was my MFA novel and its not half bad, it's just got a plot that doesn't quite work.  I promised my daughter and daughter-in-law that I'd publish copies for them, so stay tuned, it may just appear here soon.  And the third novel is the first one I've finished that not only hangs together, I think its pretty damn good.  It is currently making the rounds in New York.

In all that novel writing, I've learned a thing or two.  And that is this: a bit of prepping goes a long way.  So that's what this post is about.  But first, a thing or two about the novel I'm currently writing.  I've been in a bit of a dry spell when it comes to fiction.  I kept coming up with ideas and working on them for a few chapters and then realizing they weren't going to pan out, for whatever reason.  Finally, this new novel, which I'm temporarily calling Jemima B, popped into my head (actually, when I was doing some free writing, proof that it works).

Good Enough?

But, here's the deal--with all my wandering through novels that didn't work, I had lost my ability to discern.  And I wasn't sure if this new novel was "good" enough to keep going with.  So I just wrote, didn't do any prepping or anything.  Finally, last week I mustered up my courage and took the three chapters into my writing group.  And, while I got specific comments about things that need to change, I also got that people liked it a lot.  So now, finally, I feel well and truly started on a project.  And I can go back and do the prep work for it. 

The Commitment

This is a statement of sorts.  It is saying, yes I commit to this novel.  Yes, I'm going to do what it takes to carry through to the end.  Yes, I'm ready to do it.

Are you?  This post is the first in a series.  I'm also thinking about putting this together as either a program or a one-on-one coaching product.  (If you're interested, email me and I'll put you on a list for the announcement.)  But you can easily follow along with the action ideas listed at the end of each post and get yourself ready to write a novel.  So, today, let's start with tools.

Tools

Here's what I consider essential, beyond a computer and pens:

1. A small spiral notebook, in which to collect all your notes.  Even if you originally note them on a scrap of paper, try to transfer them to this journal so they will all stay together. 

2.  A bigger spiral notebook, like 8 1/2 by 11 size, in which to do free writes, which are a great way to learn more about your characters and story.

3.  A binder in which to keep research and images related to the story.  This may also hold a completed draft if you so desire.

4.  A vision board.  You can make this so that it hangs on the wall near your desk, or you can put it into your binder.  But either way, do work with images for your book, it is amazing how helpful it is.  (You can download my free Ebook on how to create a vision board for your book by signing up to the right.)

5.  A stack of 3 by 5 cards.  These come in handy for all kinds of things, like to note scenes or character traits on, to name two.

Okay, that's it for now.  We're starting slow and easy.

Create a successful, inspired writing life: Gather your tools.  Make it fun.  Go to the office supply store and prowl the alley.  Buy spirals and binders that you love, or take them home and decorate them. 

And, please comment: what do you consider the essential tools for writing a novel (or a book)?

Photograph by Hey Paul.