Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Writing a novel: Part 1

With 2010 winding to a close and 2011 on the horizon, it’s time to set a few goals for the next year. The Next Progression, first volume in the Consecution Books series is almost done, and 2011 seems like the right year for the second book to be written. So, as I write it over the course of the next 13 months, I will also be taking you through my process, so you can get a look inside what I do.

Now, every writer has their own process, I am by no means suggesting you use mine. It took me about 5 novels to perfect this method, but the fact is, it makes everything go quite smoothly.

The first step is what I like to call “pre production”. You may have heard that term used in Hollywood, which is where I stole it from(I did study cinematography, after all). Basically, this is the initial planning stage of the novel, where I get everything organized so I can start to lay the tracks. I’ll also be using a lot of train analogies here, get used to it.

My first step in pre-production is to chose a working title. This is different from an actual title in that it’s only purpose is to give me personally a title for the project. There is no reason to obsess about a book title when you haven’t even decided on the basic plot. A lot of people get married to titles too soon, and it’s important to keep your options open.

As an example, I’d like to point to Author of the Gust, which was written under the working title “ninjas vs. pirates”. Literally, with no capitalization or anything, that’s what I called it for roughly the first 4 years of working on it. As I finished the first rough draft I began my search for the real title, and eventually settled on Galloping Antelope. Those of you who were paying attention to the first sentence of this paragraph may notice that that is not, in fact, the books current title. By the time I had finished Author of the Gust(at this point still called Galloping Antelope), I was already working on the sequal, Scion of the Storm. This was when I came up with the title for the third volume, Herald of the Calm.

So I now had a neat, three-volume trilogy entitled “Galloping Antelope”, “Scion of the Storm”, and finally “Herald of the Calm”. One of these things is not like the other. Galloping Antelope had by now been through about 4 complete edits, but all the same I renamed it to Author of the Gust in order to make the title fit with the rest of the series.

The working title for the second Consecution Book would be “The Aftermath”. Now, having already planned out all 8 titles for series, I’m not entirely sure I’m going to stick with that title, since it doesn’t quiiiiiiite fit the bill with the others. The Abutting Aftermath is a more likely candidate, but for now, I’m simply calling the story The Aftermath.

The next stage is to assemble the cast. I already have a nice group of characters left over from the first book, but this part of the process is not just about names and descriptions. I’m going to make a word document, and start by listing all the main characters from the first book; I already have descriptions and motivations for them, so all I have to do is write some notes about what’s going to happen to them in the story. What are they going to accomplish, what are they going to loose, are any of them going to die?

Now for new characters, as I am already planning to introduce two new people in this novel. I already have information about them from the series notes, but some more specifics are in order. We all love character development, so its good to map out some starting and ending points for the newcomers. A good example is the character Jan, who is introduced in this novel and begins life as a laid-back, suave, self-centered lady’s man. He can hold his own in a fight, but all he’s really interested in at the beginning of the story is picking up chicks and hanging out. By the end of the novel, he is going to have transformed into a dedicated, capable warrior, willing to fight by Jason’s side and join his quest.

Just like with outlining, I may not stick to any of this. I have actually already gone through this complete process once for this novel, which I then threw out and am starting over, since a great deal has changed over the course of writing the first book.

It’s important to understand that nothing is set in stone until it reaches print. I’ll be making changed all throughout the process, but for now I’m just grading the terrain and surveying the route.

This entry is the first in a series that will cover the entire novel-writing process from beginning to end, but will not be updated daily. Tomorrow I plan to talk about something else, and will only return to this “writing a novel” series each time I have a milestone to update you on.

I would also like to mention that the Course Books, being a very different type of literature, were written in a very different manner. All of the things like outlining and world-building are yet to come in this series, so stay tuned!

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