Welcome back to the next edition on my series Let’s Write A Novel. In my previous posts, I introduced myself and what I intended to talk about in the series. Basically, I want to go through what I do when I start writing a book. I must warn you, there will be times when it is not pretty. I apologize in advance, because sometimes I get sidetracked, go down rabbit holes, or see a Squirrel!
The first thing you must have when beginning a novel, of course, is an idea. Now, I have been asked a million times (okay, maybe not a million, but slightly less, like nine hundred thousand give or take a few hundred thousand), where do I get my ideas? That’s complicated.
Most writers often get this question. Some can answer with a rational thought that might sound like they intentionally planned what their story was going to be. Me? Not so much. Mine actually come from dreams. Most of them I can remember, especially the cool ones, others I’ll forget as soon as I wake up. Believe me, I have had some doosies! And yes, I have an iPad and my iPhone next to me so that when I feel it could be something important, I write it down.
Any idea worth exploring is worth writing down. Do it first, before any other thoughts can jump into your brain. Get all the details. Write in a stream of consciousness. Don’t worry about punctuation, grammar, or spelling. Just do it. You want to get everything down as fast as your fingers get the signals from your brain. The more the better; you can always edit later.
Fortunately, I have very vivid dreams. To this day, I can remember the dream that started me writing what ended up being Copper Rain almost twenty years ago. Now, granted, almost none of it went into the story except the core idea that will be part of the series…and some of the character names, particularly the antagonist Amad-Dûr. Since then, I have certainly had other vivid dreams and actually incorporated them into the story and the world. Most of those dreams are going to be the subjects of subsequent stories in the world and not necessarily in the series.
Ideas are fluid and malleable. Meaning they can be molded and changed to suit your needs. They often morph in their own right into something better than you originally anticipated. This is usually a good thing. What you still have to do is make sure that it’s the right idea. A little more about that later on.
When I get the idea for a novel, I like to explore what makes it fascinating to me. The more fascinating I find it, the more excited I become about writing it. Unfortunately, there is much more that needs to be done before that idea can be translated into a full length novel. Luckily, though, there is a way to get there from here.
Enter the Snowflake method. I have another post that describes it here https://tleemessick.com/articles/the-snowflake-method-and-everything-else/. From here, I can flesh the idea, starting with a single sentence that eventually becomes the premise. Doing the snowflake method is what worked for me. There were years when writer’s block stopped my forward progress. Much of it was that I had no idea about structure (something I will definitely address in later posts) or the little nuances of writing or anything of the sort. I thought, if Stephen King could write a novel without seemingly exploring the ideas first, then so could I. And I did, for the most part.
I wrote the first draft in a year. At the time, I think I had over one hundred one thousand words. Really, that’s way too many for a first novel (something I learned many years later, by the way). Most publishers are looking for sixty to eighty thousand for a first time author.
The point to all this is, I discovered structure. And it was this discovery that led me down the path to the Snowflake Method. This is where I learned that I can take my big idea, express it into a single, twenty-five word (or fewer) sentence. When that happened, I knew this was something I could finish. It was now tangible. I could actually see the end and knew what was going to happen–though it could have been that I already wrote the first draft years before, who knows.
Everything begins, though, with an idea. No matter how small or insignificant it may seem, it can be molded into something powerfully entertaining. The possibilities are endless and all you have to do to take the first step is write it down.
If you have any questions or concerns, want a specific topic covered, just leave a comment below or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org (I know, hard to remember, right?) I’ll do my best to answer your questions (as long as they’re writing related). As always, Happy Writing!
Categories: Let's Write A Novel