Creating a novel is an overwhelming experience. The various parts need to fit together like a giant puzzle so in the end a clear pleasing picture appears.
I’ve known some writers that must plan every scene, every chapter, and every character to such a degree that their outline takes months to create. By the time they write the story most of it is already planned and plotted to a fine degree.
Others write with a crazy lack of any structure, fitting words here and there hoping to keep a coherent train of thought going till the end.
I fall somewhere in the middle.
When planning a novel I make a rough (and I mean rough!) outline that serves as guard rails as I write. I research certain topics ahead of time. I read stories or news articles to gain insights into those topics. I go for an immersion experience through research. I want to feel comfortable with the subject so when I write it comes across as true and believable.
No matter if I write about medieval fantasy, science fiction, or something in the horror genre I want my readers to connect to the story in some way.
My latest novel called “The Selection,” the one I wrote for NaNoWriMo was written this way. I researched some key points though there are others I feel weren’t quite up to the standards they need to be, but that’s what revision is for right? I studied and immersed myself in information about Kepler 186f, the inspiration for the planet Anastasia in my story.
Then I take all that research and write.
When I write I follow a fluid outline that sometimes is written, sometimes not. This past novel I didn’t use a written outline but I had a plan in mind and followed it to the end. For me that type of “structure” is perfect. I get the guard rails I need to keep me in check but it allows me the flexibility to change big things as I go along. For instance I had a couple big twists at the end of the novel that weren’t planned but as I wrote the characters and story they revealed themselves to me. That kind of organic flow as I write feels right.
It’s not the style for everyone. I realize that and I would never recommend to write like I do. Every writer has their own unique style based on teaching, failure, and comfort with the material.
As I wrote my most recent novel, I also let the characters dictate who they are. I had a vague feeling about them and as I wrote, that was fleshed out and hopefully they became real. In my mind they kinda are. I see them clearly and they are distinct individuals with their own agendas and aspirations.
I suck at naming characters. Three in my latest novel are named after someone I know though the characters are not based on those people. For everyone else I used a random name generator. I hate naming people. I also had to name animals since my setting was an alien planet. That was tough! I think if I were to venture into another novel like that I would spend more time creating that world ahead of writing insisted of making it up on the fly.
Not that I would spend too much time world building. I want the basics laid out ahead of time and the rest to reveal itself as I write.
When I write longer pieces like a novel, I don’t like to write it everyday. I like to get a few days at a time. Then I take a day off so I can think about the project and when I return to it I approach it with new eyes and fresh ideas.
Finishing my latest work, I realize there is much that needs correcting. There are several plot points I need to make stronger. I need to make some background information more detailed. Overall it needs a bit of heavy lifting to read better and more coherent.
But I have the first draft written. I can’t revise what I haven’t written. And that’s what NaNo is all about.
If you’d like to check out the novel in it’s first draft , crazy raw form, you can read it here: “The Selection.”