I heard that everyone has a book in them — at least one. I’m not sure if that’s true or not, but if you’re thinking about writing, then preparing to write a book is the first step in writing it.
Preparing to write
Some writers have a process as they prepare to write a book — whether it’s a novel or piece of non-fiction. I actually use different processes when I write fiction versus non-fiction. Today, I’d like to focus on processes in preparing to write a novel.
I found a site (and you can Google to find MANY more) that offers templates for plots, characters, etc to use in preparing to write a novel.
Many authors use an outline to set scenes and keep track of plot lines. Some use an Excel spreadsheet or Evernote to outline and keep track of characters. Scrivener has an inexpensive tool designed to help keep outlines, characters, and research together in one place. You can even go old school and use index cards to outline your novel.
My own process is a little fluid, as you can see from my whiteboard. I finished the first book, ‘Buried Ladies’, without an outline — just a timeline of action. ‘Buried Ladies’ is my first attempt at novel writing and I wasn’t sure what I was doing so I just went with it. It came together pretty easily and I’m very happy with the results. I’m still looking for feedback, so if you’re interested in getting a free exam copy, use the link at the bottom of this post.
For the second book, ‘Scars of the Past’, which follows our characters on a new adventure, I felt like I needed to be more organized. Since I was serious now, I figured I should learn something about writing from the experts. I did a trial of Scrivener, tried out Evernote, and tried to be more conscious of my writing the second time around. I found all these efforts stifled my ability to write.
So, now I’m back where I started — winging it. I hope it works. A little aside here, I write every day — or almost every day. That helps. I think if I were like many writers who take years to finish a book, I’d need more structure to my writing process.
Again, you can find any number of character templates. I didn’t do any of that with ‘Buried Ladies’, I just kept a notebook of characters, their relationship, and physical features. It worked for me.
With ‘Scars of the Past’ I did use a character template for a couple of the characters. I did find this exercise useful, although I feel it’s too time consuming for any but your most important characters.
The next step in preparing to write your novel is setting up each scene, which may be a chapter to there might be a couple of scenes within a chapter.
I still struggle with this aspect of writing, as my scenes don’t want to stay bounded in chapters. One of the things I did with ‘Buried Ladies’ is go back and condense the plots so I didn’t have more than 2 scenes in a chapter. I wasn’t totally successful because I struggles to balance the action (keep it moving at a fast pace) and having a number of short scenes.
As you write and after you finish
I know this post is about preparing to write, but you still have to get down to the writing part.
I agree with many other successful writers that it’s important to write every day or almost every day. Otherwise your characters lose their liveliness and your plots start looking contrived.
Once you finish, edit, edit, edit.
For many writers that means cutting — their first draft is much too long. I’ve researched and it seems the rule of thumb (especially for new writers) is between 80,000-90,000 words. I find my first drafts tend to be too short, rather than too long. So my editing process involved adding more rich description to my scenes and characters. So, maybe my first draft is more like a long outline LOL.
I also solicit feedback from readers about the story before sending the manuscript to a professional editor to polish up the writing — grammar, punctuation, etc. Then, it goes on Amazon.
Learn more about my writing
Some folks seek out readers with specific characteristics, some pay for expert readers, some join writing groups where they exchange reading for getting critiques. I use Beta readers who get a free review copy.
Join my Beta reader list and get your FREE copy of ‘Buried Ladies‘ here or follow me on Goodreads.