So you want to write a novel? This is the question I keep asking myself. The writer, Philip Pullman, took seven years writing three pages a day to write “His Dark Materials” trilogy: The Golden Compass, The Subtle knife, and The Amber Spyglass. And he was an Oxford professor! I could get discouraged very, very fast if I focus on other people’s successes. Why do I want to take this path?
Truth is, I have several book ideas ruminating in my head and in boxes. Of course, life would be easier if I just throw all those boxes and ideas away. BUT, something deep inside is telling me to give it a try. So, I have begun working on a plan of action for organizing and building a novel. I love the analogy of building something. I will imagine this as the building of a cathedral: how to build a tall cathedral so that it won’t fall, and the stained glass windows won’t break, a cathedral supported by flying buttresses, a cathedral to inspire. Here’s the overview outline for building a novel.
BUILDING A NOVEL FROM THE GROUND UP
V. More Layers
Starting with this very simplified version, I will share my process for expanding this outline and for building a sketchy story into a book manuscript. At the present moment, I have a story idea, adult characters who are giving me their dialogue, an overview of the setting, some research, and about forty pages written. However, the main characters are a sister and brother, ages 11 and 12. These two are not clear in my mind and the story’s been blocked for a few years. I’m picking up where I left off with a new, more organized approach.
Outline: I. Groundwork (brainstorm)
A. Story Idea
C. Audience, age
1. How to bring the main characters into focus
As part of the groundwork stage, I am going back in time and writing down everything I remember about my younger years. All the who, what, when, where, why and how of my life as a kid. Before the age of thirteen I’d lived in three different states , went to five different schools and lived in six different cities. Writers have heard it before, “Write What You Know.” Starting with a chronological timeline, I am filling in the memories of schools I attended, events, adventures, people, friends, family, pets, best and worse memories, books I’ve read, embarrassing moments, vacations, illnesses, situations that gave me joy or pain or fear. I am writing down everything I remember,and noting holes in my memories.
This groundwork is stimulating What If? ideas, chapter headings, plot twists, and main characters. Other elements of the groundwork phase include: coming up with a story idea, picking a genre (mystery, adventure, children’s literature, family saga etc.), deciding on the main characters. This groundwork phase is about brainstorming and getting an overview, before the writing of the novel begins. More posts to follow.
LR Study of Vermeer’s “Lady Writing a Letter”.