YOU’VE GOT AN IDEA…NOW WHAT?
Let me paint a picture: You’re sitting at a cafe having a little lunch, maybe doing a little work, and sipping on a glass of iced tea. You look up and out the window, and you see a man passing by. Hat on his head, hand on the hat to hold it down against the wind, silver, hardshell briefcase in his hand.
And then your eyebrows lift.
You get an idea about the man with the hat, the man with the briefcase, the man in the wind.
You blink, then scramble to flip to a clean sheet of paper, where you quickly jot out a few sentences of story idea. Pen scribbling across the page, you look up a few minutes later to realize that you’ve written down a paragraph containing the single. Best. Plot. *Ever.*
Um, but now what? (And if you’re planning to write for this year’s NaNoWriMo, you need a fast “what”.) I thought I’d offer up some ways that you can think about turning that story idea (henceforth, the “Three Sentences”) into a full-fledged novel. Long story short, once you’ve encapsulated the story you’re going to tell into your Three Sentences (which, believe it or not, is quite a skill (check here), it’s time to think about expanding them into 60,000 to 100,000 (blog.nathanbrandsford.com) of gloriousness.
To prepare a synopsis, write a bigger encapsulation of your Three Sentences in paragraph form. Opinions about the best length of a synopsis vary (check out www.dailywritingtips.com), but the basic idea is that your expanding your Three Sentences to include more detail about the events and emotional development of your characters.
2. YE OLDE OUTLINE
Yes, it’s the dreaded thing you learned to do in high school English. Use the Outline function in Microsoft Word, a little Word Bullets and Numbering action (or your own method) to create an organized, step-by-step bullet-pointed list of the scenes in your novel. PBWriter has created a nice guide to outline development HERE, and she offers suggestions for outlining by chapter or by scene.
You can be as formal or informal as you want. You can organize your outline in perfect sentences or the exact dialogue you’d like to include later, or, instead, you can just write out key phrases to help you trigger your memory.
The benefit of this method is that it gets a lot of the heavy-duty plotting work out of the way; you’ll do the bulk of your plotting as you outline, so the only thing left is to actually do the writing. And, once your outline is complete, you can print it out and carry it in a folder or notebook to pencil-in ideas on the fly, or help guide your coffeehouse writing.
3. INDEX CARDS
If you like the idea of writing down each scene in a chapter, and/or each chapter in your novel, but you’re not sure you want to bother with formatting an outline, think about using index cards.
Write each scene, each witty bit of dialogue, or even a scene location, on an index card. As you build your plot, you build your stack of index cards. The biggest benefit of using the index cards method is that you have utter flexibility to move the scenes around in your novel/stack.
If you’re very fancy, you can buy personalized 3×5 cards (www.levenger.com) to give your stack a personal touch. And, of course, this method is very, very portable. You can slide a rubber-banded or ring-bound stack [http://www.myndology.com/ring.php#top] into your bag when you leave the house, and you’ll have your novel with you all day.
Storyboarding could be a subset of Index Carding (in that you could storyboard on index cards). With storyboarding, the idea is to visualize the major scenes in your novel, and actually sketch them out. This form of plotting is great for visual types, as you’re imagining a story in visual form–a building, a glance, a movement. It’s also geared toward big picture plotting, in that storyboarding focuses on major scenes, rather than on every bit of dialogue in the novel.
A Moleskine storybook notebook (www.moleskines.com) might be particularly handy for this one.
5. MY NEW METHOD–THE “DAY-BY-DAY”
It took four novels for me to realize that I can’t use any of the above methods. I’m a visual person, but in the sense that I need to have a sense of the ENTIRETY of novel in a glance (or at least a few glances). So I figured out a new method: First, I take a blank work document and write out the days of the week in sequence in a relatively smallish font. Then I go back and fill in the events of the novel in chronological order (single-spaced) under each date heading. These are only general references to scenes, not a lot of detail regarding the content. But the succinctness allows me to get a good, overall view of where the novel is going, and of the scenes I still need to fill in. I also use Word’s Highlighting feature to keep an eye on my progress; scenes to be written get highlighted in yellow, then turned back to white when the scene is complete.
I hope these suggestions give you some ideas for getting that novel underway. Thanks so much for reading, and thanks to BCC for hosting me!
Chloe has also been kind enough to answer a few questions for me too.
BCC: Hi Chloe! Can you tell us a bit about your latest book, Some Girls Bite?
CN: Sure! Some Girls Bite is the first book in my Chicagoland Vampires series, which tells the tale of Merit, a 28 year-old graduate student turned vampire in contemporary Chicago. She must learn to deal with the trials and tribulations of the fanged world, including a pretentious Master vampire and she-vamp who’s out to get her.
BCC: The next book in the series, Friday Night Bites, is released 6 Oct, can you tell us a little about it and how it has evolved from book 1?
CN: Friday Night Bites takes place about two weeks after Some Girls Bite ends. Merit is coming to grips with her role as Sentinel of Cadogan House, and the changes her Commendation into the House might have on her relationships with her friends and family.
BCC: What are you working on now – book 3 or something totally different?
CN: I just finished writing book 3, Twice Bitten, and I’m now moving on to the second book in my new young adult series, the Novels of the Dark Elite.
BCC: Have you always been interested in Vampires and the supernatural?
CN: Yes, although it’s taken different forms. I was a big Star Wars and Star Trek: The Next Generation fan. I think the evolution for me has been into urban fantasy and paranormal romance, where we have fabulous women leading the scifi/fantasy charge.
BCC: You have another book coming out Jan 2010, Firespell, which is separate from the Chicagoland series. Can you give us some details?
CN: Absolutely. Firespell is the first book in my new young adult series, the Novels of the Dark Elite. In this series, we meet Lily Parker, a 16 year-old high school junior who’s sent to Chicago for school when her parents take an academic sabbatical. Lily makes fast friends with Scout Green, a fellow boarding schooler, but when Scout starts disappearing at night, Lily realizes that there are strange things afoot at St. Sophia’s.
BCC: If you wasn’t a writer what job would you be doing now?
CN: I have a full-time dayjob; so, probably that. In the evenings, though, I was always pretty crafty. When I had time, I scrapbooked, knitted, and did lots of different hands-on crafts that I don’t have much time for now.
BCC: What is your writing process?
CN: I sit down with my laptop–usually at home, but sometimes at a coffeehouse for a change of scenery–and I go for it.
BCC: Do you plot and plan your novels or do you just write and see where they take you?
CN: About half of each. I know where I want a book to go, generally, so I try to block out the events that will take place each day of the book. The dialogue and content of each individual scene is a spur of the moment decision.
BCC: What is the best aspect about being a writer?
CN: Definitely being able to talk to fans about the books. It’s so rewarding when people have enjoyed something I’ve written, or when they have questions about where things are going to go.
BCC: Would you want eternal life?
CN: Hmm. Interesting question. Probably not. I hope that at the end of my life I feel like I’ve lived it well, and that I’m ready for a nap. I think eternal life would be exhausting.
Okay, on to the CONTEST!
Thanks to Chloe, you can win a SIGNED copy of Some Girls Bite and a Cadogan House gift pack! All you have to do to enter is:
• Follow this blog
• Follow me on Twitter (use link on sidebar)
• Leave your email address with your answer so I can contact you.
Open to UK and US residents only. Contest ends 31st Oct. Winners will be announced 1st Nov.