Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Infancy of a Novel

William's tootsies at 3 months old.
Christy here.

As I prepare to mail one novel off, I begin to think of something new to write.

I had ideas invading my thoughts as I pressed to finish the book I'd worked on for so long, but I refused to allow myself any time to work on the new novel until the existing one was complete.

I love beginning a new novel. In the past, I experimented with different ways of writing a book. I've written the rough draft completely, without an outline, and simply followed my heart. In the past, that rough draft has been completed in just a few short weeks.

I've attended many workshops and read many books and blogs on the craft of writing. I've interviewed authors and learned what works for authors that are published. I've thought a lot about my situation and am trying to find ways and times for writing that works for me.

Right now, I'm in the brainstorming phase of this new story. Dianna, my critique partner, and I have begun to talk over the story and I've shared with her my initial thoughts to get her feedback. We aren't writing the story together, but brainstorming my early ideas helps me talk them out. It seems once I speak the idea aloud, I can understand if it will work or not. In talking out the idea, I can "hear" if the idea is far-fetched or understand that I'm on the right track. My critique partner confirms this for me or adds suggestions.

The next step for me will be writing my character's backstory. In early books I tried to write, I didn't do this. The result was my characters were one-sided. I didn't know where they'd been or what their goals were. Things that motivated them were unclear to me. My books were flat, with a lot of kissing, running from one adventure to the next and little else.

I learned with the book I recently completed that I needed to know my characters inside and out. After writing them for six years, I learned a lot about them and wrote the story a dozen different ways. I don't want to spend six years writing this next book. Six months, maybe.

If I know where my characters have been, analyze the supporting characters, I'll be closer to finding the nugget of the story. That's key. I didn't understand that until recently. After digging and digging and writing aimlessly, I finally hammered on what the key of my story was. That key unlocked the hero and heroine's central goal, their motivation for moving forward and it made the embedded conflict for the heroine even stronger. When I discovered all of these points, it was like someone had set my story on fire, on fire inside of me, and I had no choice but to write it until it was completed.

In beginning this new story, I'm looking at it through fresh lenses. There are many possibilities. How can I make the characters and the situation unique, even if the core of the story has been told before?

I don't know. The uniqueness of the story will come. The voice of the novel contributes to its individuality. The path the story takes is important. With this novel, I plan to write a synopsis and outline the story first. I'll accept the fact that the story may change as I write it, but when I begin, I already know where I want the characters to end up. I want them to end up together, because I write happily-ever-after romance, but the journey getting to the end must be interesting and I must make the reader wonder if there will be a happily ever after.

Oh, I love the birth of a novel! All of this, the planning, the brainstorming, the possibilities are so exciting! Writing the first draft can be so freeing, to let the words flow. Love it!

What's your favorite part of writing? Do you like to plan or, are you the writer that loves revisions?


  1. I thrill whenthe story seems to write itself, following a twist that I had not previously imagined. I try to develop the characters and let them tell the story.

  2. Thanks for stopping by John.

    I'm wondering if you do a lot of character development before starting the story? I'm finding knowing my characters helps me follow their journey - and the twists and surprises they give us are so fun!

  3. I love just digging in and writing. I really like starting a new story-but I've found that I also like finishing then rereading--then starting the revision process...sometimes that's almost like starting over!! (But at least I know my characters.)

  4. I'm a planner and am realizing that I write character-driven stories. One of the most helpful forms I've found in developing my characters is Ane Mulligan's Character Worksheet. I think it must ask everything but briefs or boxers!! Seriously, it is a great way to get to know your characters, their goals, motivations and conflicts.

    On the other hand - I do not like editing - but realize it is a most necessary evil!

  5. Hm...Christy, you should know the answer to this one without me having to say it. Okay, I'll say it for everyone else.

    I really like getting into the end edits of a story. Digging in to find and fix grammatical errors, tighten wording, and add in literary devices. Sometimes I like drafting and revising, especially when God gives me that ah-ha moment for my characters and their stories. And, creating a story and brainstorming ideas are always fun with my crit partner. But, there's nothing like digging into a story and making it better than it was before. Smoother. More refined.

    Know what I mean?

  6. Edwina, I've often wondered if those detailed character questionaires help. In the past, I've not been disciplined enough to do them. May try them with the next book.

  7. Lindi, have you changed how you write over the years - do you think that will change or stay the same as you work for your new book coming out?

  8. LOL, Dianna,

    What I like is when you get an ah-ha moment for my next book as you are proofing this current one! And I like the idea, btw!

  9. I love the planning stage! And also the first draft. Those are my favorite parts. But I'm also starting to enjoy revising more and more because I'm working with input from my editor and see how I can make the story better.

    LOL, Edwina! You mean you don't know if your hero is in boxers or briefs??! ;)

  10. There's nothing quite like new story love. Except maybe when one is actually falling in love. But since we're all married...
    Like you, Christy, I've learned that you can't necessarily wing it the entire way. Not if you want to be prolific in this business. That doesn't mean there aren't things we can't discover about our characters as we go. But, like you, getting a better handle on the backstory. What made these characters the way they are at the first line of the book.
    It's definitely a learning process. For the writer as well as the reader :-)

  11. Glad to hear that your baby is off to its publisher and you're starting a new one. Six years is an incredible time to work on a novel.

    Years ago I started a novel without any knowledge of my characters or plot and just winged it. Needless to say I never finished that novel and probably never will because I was using it to find my voice. Now I have a rough sketch of my plot, characters, back story, and so much else while still leaving lots of room to learn new things about my characters and let the plot go where it must as long as it gets where it was supposed to go. I love it when my characters surprise me and there's nothing I can do but listen to them.

    Good luck creating your new masterpiece!

  12. Thanks, Eva Maria!
    I think "winging it" when I didn't know what I was doing was so fun. Now, I look at writing differently, still love it, but my approach is more guided now. Still, within the story, I find places were I'm letting the character's lead and it's need to see the twists that take place in the plot. Good luck with yours!