Today I’m going to talk about how I begin a new book.
It’s a messy process. Normally I start with a character list. This changes a lot from first concept to final version. I usually come up with the name first, something that produces a strong image in my mind for the sort of character I want, or need to make the story work. From there I decide what part they’ll play.
Bear in mind all of this is very loose. For an important secondary character my only notes are: Mr. Berry Sherman – Owner of Berry’s Textiles.
After the character list I take my most outliner/plotter step. I make an outline of my major plot points.
Yes, you read that right, I write a mini, very, loose outline. Bear in mind this is only for MAJOR events, events that change the course of the story and that give me a build up point for tension. I have an event to build toward and because of this my story does not suffer, as my early discovery writing did, from lack of tension, or uneven tension.
Now, this plan is not fool proof, or free from alteration. In fact after beginning Runaway I realized I had written plot points that did not fit the character development. So seven thousand words into my draft I altered the major events outline to suit the deviations my writing had produced. My altered plan includes some details that I realized were important for the plot. These allow me to build toward special moments that will change a character’s perspective or opinion. I fill some of these details in as I go, fleshing out some of the events that will happen around each major event as I discover what the build up should be.
This is how I planned for my project and so far, it is working brilliantly. I am eager to sit down at every session to “discover” the characters and I am also excited to move the characters toward events that will transform and challenge them. By utilizing both Discovery and Outline methods for their strong points I am harnessing my own desire to tell (and read!) an interesting story. I know the destination, but I’m taking the backroads with all the potential for detours, bears, monkey wrenches, and fields of sunflowers. (Believe it or not, this isn’t even the best part!)
Next Tuesday I’ll have a post up on drafting and what I do when something isn’t working deep into the draft.
A word about my tech:
I use Scrivener to organize my notes. I have a folder for my “Outline” ie character chart and plot points. Then I have my manuscript area where I break down by character and chapter. This helps if I need to re-organize because unlike a word document I don’t have to copy and paste to move, remove, or change scene orders. I can just grab and shift a single file. This REALLY helps me since I’m a big paper person and I need the flexibility of just “shuffling the paper.”
I would recommend at least trying Scrivener’s 30 day trial but if you cannot afford it, I believe there is a free alternative (sort of like OpenOffice is to Office), I’m trying to find out the name, it’s escaped me at present.