It’s been said that everyone has a novel inside them, and for most people, it should stay there! I think that’s a bit harsh. My own opinion is that you should go for it, whatever ‘it’ is. If you firmly affirm to yourself ‘I want to write a novel’, where do you start?
Let me say, right from the beginning, that anyone can do anything they set their mind to, but it’s much more satisfying if you know how to go about it. When it’s a novel or any kind of book you’re considering writing, you should know that it’s a big undertaking and needs planning. More than planning, actually.
Jacqueline Eubanks was an award-winning when she was 12 years old, or thereabouts! In the video below, the first of a series, she describes the process she goes through when writing a novel. It’s interesting for one so young that said emphasises the need for careful research before putting pen to paper.
Want To Write A Novel? Don’t Know Where To Start? Read on …
Hey guys. My name is Jacqueline Eubanks and I am the award-winning, best-selling author of the Last Summer series, which became an award winner and bestseller when I was in high school. I wrote the very first graph of the first novel, I published when I was 12, so I am now documenting my whole step by step process from like my first idea, to plot diagram, to first draft, to publication and I’m just gonna document the whole thing in these like vlogs.
So I want to teach you how I’ve done it two times before and been really successful and if I can do this in middle school, in high school, honestly anybody can. So I’m gonna teach you my step by step way of doing this. To start off I just wanted to talk about the three things that you need to do before starting your novel.
Now really there’s four main ones that I’ve done that I think are really critical but we’re gonna start with just three for this video. So the first thing is, it’s time to go back to basics and hand write your first draft of your story.
Now here’s where I’m coming from – it’s way easier to write a first draft on the computer in the sense that it makes it a little more timely. You can get it down quicker and it’s easier because you could just backspace things, edit things, really quickly but hear me out on this.
When I went to first start writing the new novel that I’m working on now for this this vlog diary I got really scared and I kept going to the word document. It was blank. The cursor was blinking at me and I would get really scared, and just freeze up, and I feel like all this pressure on my shoulders.
Like I have to do really well. Like ‘oh my gosh, this is so hard’. Like I don’t even want to write and it just sucked all the energy out of it, but then I realized when I was in seventh grade and first wrote the first draft of my novel I use a notebook that I carried around with me everywhere.
And of course, a great pen, so I’m proposing that we all go back to basics. There’s actually a science behind how handwriting your story is better, which I’ll probably end up making a vlog about that too later. But right now I propose back to basics. Get your notebook out.
Get your favorite pen and it’s time to hand write the first draft of your storey. Second of all I want to talk about research. So I have a method for researching that I think is probably the best and I think it’s the reason why I was able to win awards for my novels, because I came up with a research method that just brings the setting to life.
So here’s my secret. I have a system where I specifically research slang of the time period or the place that my story takes place. I research fashion. I research technology. I research music, TV shows, movies and current events. So those are all the things I research for the the place, the time period, the age group of my characters of my story.
So this story that I’m working on now takes place in the 1990s, specifically 1998, so what I did to prepare, I got myself a specifically designed storybook folder for this project. And I went off, searched a whole list of slang words from the 1990s and printed them off to keep in a folder.
That way I can refer back to them while I’m writing. Then I went and researched a whole bunch of like fashion of the 90s, so that I could accurately portray how people would look and dress then. I made sure to find out all the different technologies that were really popular in the 90s.
That way, people, when they read the story, can tell based on even just mentioning like a Nintendo 64 or a Gameboy color, they’ll know exactly when I’m talking about. Also popular bands at the time. For examples, Nine Inch Nails, Smashing Pumpkins, Counting Crows, the Goo Goo Dolls.
Those are all really popular bands back when, I during the time period that I’m writing and their bands that my characters would be interested in. So I also ended up making a Spotify playlist of different songs that I think both fit the time period and match the characters and their age groups, and their personalities and moods.
So that is actually gonna put the link to my website to a blog post I wrote specifically that compliments this video and it also has a free worksheet, of research worksheet that you can download, print off and fill out, specifically for any of your writing projects.
Now the importance is then knowing where and when to use all this research that you accumulate. I found something that’s really key, is before hand planning. Okay, here’s my list of slang words. I’m gonna go through, highlight ones that I actually think my characters would use.
Like they’re not too outlandish or weird. You highlight those and then on the research worksheet that I will provide for you, you actually write ‘okay I can use this slang word when this character is talking’, with that character or this slang word can be that character’s catchphrase.
And you write that down. You actually plan out, ‘this word is gonna be used by this character probably in this context’. And then the same thing with like, we’ve had technology you actually set up beforehand, situations in which you can slide that in.
So for example, I was thinking of a situation where I could make the setting though the world more realistic by mentioning like a Nintendo 64. So I had to think of ‘okay what am I going to use? what situation, what character am I going to use?’ to insert that into the story.
And I thought of ‘okay, wouldnt it be perfect if maybe the little brother characters just in passing in the story, not a main plot event but just in passing’. Mention like that my main characters little brothers were playing a brand-new Nintendo 64, you know stuff like that.
Like thinking about where you’re gonna insert it in which context. Where it would make sense. And then the third thing is getting beta readers. So when I was in 7th grade, first writing my first draft at the last summer I kept it around in a notebook, would write in it at school.
And actually I had like a sign-up sheet of people who wanted to read the next chapter after I’d written it and like there would be a list like a line of people wanting to read it. And that was so important because that allowed me to get feedback and also be motivated to keep writing.
So I would say get beta readers. Find friends, family members or colleagues, or teachers who are excited about your project and want to read the next section of what you’ve written chapter by chapter.
So get those, get those friends, family members to basically sign up to read each chapter as you write it and then ask them questions. Like ‘was there anything that wasn’t clear? what was your favorite part? did you think I included enough character development? or was the dialogue, did it flow well or was it choppy?
You know, ask them real questions to get their feedback because those are gonna be invaluable when you’re making the second draft. And the fourth tip which I’m going to cover in a different video is plot diagramming, which is so crucial to the pre-writing process.
Thank you for listening to me speak on this. I’m really passionate about this topic especially because this is now my fifth novel since I was 12. Then I’m going to be going from beginning to end with and even though not all five have been published yet, this is just a really exciting process to share with you.
So be sure to go to Jacqueline Eubanks com the link below this video and read about this process and download the research worksheet and fill it out. I promise that’s gonna help you. Thank you so much for listening. Bye guys. For more tips on how to write publish and build an author platform for your novel, visit Jacqueline Eubanks com and don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel and like this video.
The famous Snowflake Method of writing a novel focuses on expansion of seed ideas and continuously writing more and more sentences around events that occur in a novel. Moving up from the well-crafted sentence and paragraph level, we have scenes or chapters.
Knowing how to write a scene in a novel is fundamental to the craft of fiction writing. Each scene represents a mini-story, intended to build the plot and create a coherent story. Scenes help to control the flow of a novel, sometimes fast and exciting, other times slower, which serves to balance the narrative.
Of course, the word ‘scene’ immediately brings to mind film or theatre plays, and you won’t be surprised to learn that exactly the same principles apply to both styles of writing. Scenes are very flexible – they can can contain dialogue or not, be of various lengths and serve many purposes.
How To Write A Scene In A Book – One Author’s Perspective
Scenes are the building blocks of stories. Every scene in a novel contributes to the story in some way, whether through characterization, atmosphere, or plot progression.
In examining the anatomy of a scene, we’re going to start with the big-picture skeleton, then dive into the essential organs, and end with the skin—the outward appearance of the writing itself. Although scenes can take an infinite number of forms, the underlying skeleton largely remains the same:
The character has a goal, but they encounter an obstacle, so they respond by formulating a new plan of action or experiencing a moment of change. This has been called the ABT formula—and, but, therefore. Trey Parker, co-creator of South Park, has explained this technique in detail: “Every story can be reduced to this single structure.
I can tell you the story of a little girl living on a farm in Kansas AND her life is boring, BUT one day a tornado sweeps her away to the land of Oz, THEREFORE she must undertake a journey to find her way home.”
That example describes the larger plot set-up, but this formula can be used on a micro scale as well, such as in the scene where Dorothy finally meets the Wizard. Dorothy’s goal at this point is to ask the Wizard to grant their wishes.
BUT the Wizard says that, in order to grant their wishes, they must bring him the Witch of the West’s broomstick, THEREFORE Dorothy & Co. go off to kill the witch. In the next scene, they travel through the Haunted Forest.
BUT the witch attacks them with winged monkeys and captures Dorothy, THEREFORE Dorothy’s friends must rescue her. This formula provides a series of actions and reactions—and that’s the very essence of story.
Think of your scenes as miniature narrative arcs. Sometimes the “THEREFORE” of a scene doesn’t involve the main character planning their next move, but rather it indicates a change in their mindset or relationships.
For instance, at the start of a scene, a character may be excited to start their new job, BUT then they hear that their boss is a jerk, THEREFORE the scene ends with them wondering if they’d made a mistake in changing careers. Another scene might involve the protagonist apologizing to their best friend.
BUT they accidentally insult their friend’s mom, THEREFORE the scene ends with the two of them on bad terms. Good scenes often end with the promise of future conflict, whether external or internal.
They leave the reader with a question, making them wonder what will happen next. The short chapters in Somerset Maugham’s 1925 novel The Painted Veil show how scenes can build upon each other.
Let’s take a brief look at the first three scenes using the formula; I’ll omit the “AND” component for simplicity’s sake. In scene one, the protagonist, Kitty, is in her bedroom, having an affair with her lover, BUT someone tries to open the door—and Kitty thinks it’s her husband, THEREFORE she fears her husband has caught her in the act.
Because of this fear, in scene two, Kitty asks her lover what they should do if her husband confronts them, BUT her lover keeps telling her not to worry and he leaves, THEREFORE Kitty is left alone to self-reflect. Scene three has Kitty reflecting on her desire to be free of her husband.
BUT she knows that her lover is also married, and to a woman of high status at that, THEREFORE Kitty gets to thinking about her own social position and how she came to marry her husband, which is what the next scenes are about.
There’s not much outward plot progression happening, but rather Kitty’s emotions and thoughts are what have shifted from scene to scene. You can create these mini outlines for every scene or chapter of your novel.
In each scene, your character needs a goal, an obstacle, and a source of conflict for the next scene. So that’s the skeleton of a scene, the bone structure you can use as a base. But now let’s look at the delicious insides, how different parts work together to create a functioning system.
Like the various organs of the body, scenes can and should accomplish multiple objectives. Author Michael Hauge said it best: “In each successive scene, something must happen that has never happened before: a new situation for the hero; a new secret to reveal; a new ally to join; a new enemy to confront; a new lover to pursue; a new (even bigger) problem to solve; a new tool for solving it.
If scenes are interchangeable, or if nothing of significance changes from one scene to the next, you’re treading water.” Let’s take a look at a scene from Matthew Fitzsimmons best-selling thriller novel The Short Drop.
The protagonist, legendary hacker Gibson Vaughn, is hired to investigate a missing persons case. In Chapter 15, George Abe, the leader of the investigation, makes a surprise visit to Gibson.
Here’s how it opens: George was waiting for him in a black M-Class Mercedes. A long rectangular box wrapped in bright-red paper with little white unicorns on it lay in the passenger seat. “What’s with the box?” Gibson asked. “It’s not for you.”
“Well, now you’re just hurting my feelings.” George chuckled and put the gift in the backseat and handed Gibson a sports jacket. “Put that on. We’ve got an appointment.” Immediately in this scene, there’s a sense of anticipation.
The unicorn wrapping paper and the promise of an “appointment” create questions in the reader’s mind, just as they do for the main character. The answers to those questions are slightly delayed in order to create suspense.
We soon discover that in order for Gibson to officially join the team, he first needs to meet and prove himself to the investigation’s benefactor, Calista. The unicorn present is for the birthday party of Calista’s niece, a character who becomes significant to the plot later on.
As the chapter continues, a number of objectives are accomplished: In terms of plot, Abe updates Gibson on the status of the investigation. In terms of character, Calista and her niece are introduced. In terms of reveals, Gibson learns what really happened to his father.
In terms of foreshadowing, details that become important for the story’s grand reveal at the end are provided in this scene. The chapter ends with Calista saying this: “It was nice to see you again, Mr. Vaughn.
Good luck in Pennsylvania.” The next step for Gibson is clearly laid out for the reader—he’s going to Pennsylvania to continue the investigation. To reiterate: scenes can and should accomplish multiple objectives.
When planning out a scene or chapter, you need to determine what you as a writer want to convey to your readers. What vital organs will give life and purpose to this scene? How are you moving the story forward in terms of character and plot?
Then we need to go a step further. We need to explore the “but” of a scene. The last thing you want readers to think while they’re reading is that a scene is slow, or boring, or pointless. You can avoid predictability by adding obstacles.
Don’t let your character get comfortable. To create more tension, you could add:
• A ticking time bomb
• A threat of violence
• An uncomfortable setting or situation
• Disagreement between characters
• Clashing goals
• Unexpected arrival of another character
• Heightened stakes
• Any kind of surprise
I’ll discuss each of these in more detail in a separate video. You don’t want to add all of these obstacles into a single scene, of course—just one additional element will do wonders.
Now we arrive at the actual construction of words on the page—the appetizing flesh that covers your skeleton and organs. How should a scene look, style-wise? You can manage the pace of a scene by blending dialogue with description, action, and the protagonist’s thoughts.
Crack open a novel, any novel, and examine two random pages. I picked The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, and here’s how I dissected it: At the beginning of this scene, we have a summary of what’s happened since the previous scene.
Then we’re back in the present moment, with some character movement. Then there’s dialogue, and in the middle of the conversation, we have the character doing some internal reflection, then back to dialogue, interwoven with more visuals.
Some writers use dense paragraphs of description; some writers rely heavily on dialogue. It usually depends on what the scene requires and what the writer is trying to accomplish. When reading, stop to think about the reasoning behind the writer’s choices, and pay attention to how the writer transitions from internal thoughts to outward action.
Once you have your scenes in mind, you may want to turn them into chapters. Authors have wildly different styles when it comes to chapter length. In The Painted Veil, for example, the chapters are often less than 1,000 words and seem to be divided based on the small moments of conflict—the mysterious visitor, a discussion between lovers, Kitty’s reflection on her lover’s wife, and so on.
The average chapter length of a high fantasy novel, on the other hand, is 5,000 words or more. In longer chapters, there may be several scene breaks, so a single chapter may contain three separate scenes. A scene can be as long as a single sentence or fifty pages, but 750 to 2,500 words is a good range.
Most writers use chapters to mark a setting change or time jump, even if it’s only a small one (for example, in Chapter 1, the character plans to go to the bank, so Chapter 2 opens with them already at the bank, skipping over the whole “getting there” process).
Of course, another reason for chapter breaks is to shift to a different character’s perspective, if you’re writing a novel with multiple points of view. Some writers don’t use chapter breaks at all; some writers don’t even use scene breaks.
It’s all a matter of preference, but personally, I think that chapter breaks give the reader a mental rest and help to better organize the story. With all these body parts in mind, you can see the steps it takes to create a scene: + Open with a status update.
What progress (or lack thereof) has your protagonist made since the previous scene? Where are your characters and who are they with? + Heighten the tension and the stakes. (That’s the “But” in the formula.) How can you make your character’s life harder? + End with a promise about the future. (That’s the “Therefore” component.)
What conflicts will the character be facing in the next scene? So, for a writing prompt, here’s what I’d like you to do: Think of a scene from the middle of your story that you haven’t yet put to paper. Write a one-paragraph summary of what you want to happen, including how the scenes ends.
Write the scene. Don’t worry about making it publisher-ready; just write. Wait a week. One whole week. Then go back and revise the scene. Consider adding another source of tension. What questions does this scene answer and what new ones does it create?
What else could this scene accomplish that it’s not already doing in terms of introducing important people, places, things, backstory, or other plot elements? In the comments, tell me what scene you’re most looking forward to creating. Whatever you do, keep writing.
Hi everyone – Alexa Donne here and today I am talking all about starting your novel in the right place.
Now this is kind of a buzzy phrase that you may have heard, especially if anyone has ever told you, if you’ve heard people tell other writers ‘hmm I think you’re starting your book in the wrong place’.
You hear this because it’s really critical to start your book in the right place. Ideally you want to start with a scene that illustrates character, conflict, world and ideally also stakes. Now this is a tall order. There’s a lot to accomplish in whatever your opening scene or chapter is.
Essentially, what people mean when they say that you’re starting in the wrong place is your pacing is off. If you start too early, you’re pacing is going to drag. It’s going to feel slow, and if you start too late, your pacing is going to feel too fast.
You’re throwing people into a situation, usually an action scene, where they don’t know what’s going on. They don’t know who people are and they don’t have a reason to care, so you kind of have to strike that balance between boring people to tears and confusing the heck out of them.
How To Start Writing A Novel Beginners – A Few Tips
There’s that kind of middle ground. My best advice is to think about starting your novel the day that it all changes, or alternately 15 minutes before it all changes. Not necessarily literally by the way, you want to think of it kind of abstractly, as what is the thing that happens right before the big change happens?
The big change being your inciting incident. Very often the answer to this question will tell you where you might want to start your novel. In many cases this is going to be a slice of life of kind of, who your characters are and kind of what their life is about before everything changes.
But that said, you want to be careful not to make it boring a play-by-play of everything that your character does in there life. Their normal life is going to be frankly boring. You have to think more dynamic than that.
Whatever scene you choose, as I mentioned, is gonna have to perform all of those functions – introducing character, the world, the conflict and the stakes. Often, part of this is introducing multiple characters, how they relate to each other and and how they tie into the conflict end of the stakes.
You want this scene to be interesting and specific. Whatever you choose should say something about your character and your world. That said, this shouldn’t be like a massive info-dump. Now I’ve said it before and I will say it again – don’t all start your books this way but one of my favorite ways to accomplish this is through party scenes.
Party scenes tell you a lot about the character, the world they live in, how they interact with people and you can throw a lot of conflict into a party scene. This by the way, it might not be the literal start to your book but a party scene or something similar to it.
You want to think of other dynamic, social situations that are kind of similar to what a party is. Having that kind of in that first part of your book before the inciting incident can be really really useful. I have indeed started two books like right in the middle of a party scene and I rather like them. It can work really really well.
You also want to remember the adage of entering late and leaving early. You don’t need to have a prolonged set-up of, whatever it is, of like again, the play-by-play of everything that a character is doing. You want to throw people into the scene when things are basically kind of already happening.
Then you want to leave before they peter out and get boring. I mean this is the rule of thumb for any scene but especially your opening scene. if you don’t start, if you start too early essentially and it’s not dynamic, and it’s boring people won’t read past the first page.
Now I want to talk a bit about prologues. You’ve also probably heard that you shouldn’t start your book with a prologue and I’m gonna reinforce that advice. I say 98% of the time do not have a prologue. The reason for this is is that very, very typically especially in things like fantasy and sci-fi the prologue is from a different point of view or a different perspective or takes place in a different time.
It’s often not the main thrust of your story and your main character, and so prologues can be really off-putting. They can be confusing and they don’t accurately give the reader an idea of what your book is actually about.
This is especially prudent for querying because you really only get that one chance for agents to read your first page but even when it comes to readers picking up your book in a bookstore, a prologue could potentially put them off the story.
Of course, there are always exceptions to the rules. There are prologues that definitely work. If you have a favorite book and it has a really effective prologue, take a look at it. I will say typically they’re pretty short. They are in line with the tone and the themes of the book, and they typically aren’t from a completely different perspective or point of view from the main character.
How To Begin Writing A Novel – It’s The Beginning That Counts!
Prologues just kind of slow down the pacing cuz beginnings really are all about pacing. Now I want to give you some concrete examples of openings to great books that I think work really really well. It’s tricky to kind of talk in the abstract about, well, how you should start your novel.
I mean, I just did it – I gave you some of these parameters for what you should and shouldn’t do but I find most useful is looking at novels that start really really well. You can like start to pick them apart and see why they work. So I’m gonna start with my perennial and favorite example which is the Hunger Games.
We open with Katniss and it’s actually fairly domestic. It’s essentially that slice of life, that day in the life. It is also the day that everything changes for her, so by showing us Katniss interacting with and taking care of family The Hunger Games tells you a lot about the character of Katniss and the characters that she interacts with, and a lot about the world it gradually starts to reveal.
Kind of who this character is, the world that they live in. From home she goes hunting and hunting and interacting with Gale. The conversation that they have about the reaping and taking care of their families and your name goes in the bowl more than once if you break the rules, etc.
It tells you a lot about the oppressive world that they’re living in, and also literally you know, is barreling you towards that inciting incident. It’s dynamic, it’s interesting. As you’re reading you’re like ‘oh well this is weird. what’s going on?’
I think it’s incredibly effective, so obviously this isn’t a single scene. This is a series of dynamic character and world specific scenes that drive you neatly to the reaping. By the time you get there, you know who Katniss is, you know where she lives you know who she cares about, most importantly.
So when everything happens with the reaping and prim you have an emotional reaction. You are furiously turning the pages to find out what happens next. Another favorite of mine is actually a bit prologue too, but it works really really well and that is Across the Universe by Beth Revis.
The first chapter of Across the Universe takes place hundreds of years before the main thrust of the action of Across the Universe but it is an essential glimpse into the past and setup because it sets up the entire novel.
You’re with Amy or in her perspective. She’s with her parents. She’s made the decision to be cryogenically frozen and go on the speech. You’re with her as she’s going through this process and she’s giving you the context of where she is, which fills in the back story and also sets up again the conflict and the stakes.
We get the chance to meet her parents and get a a sense of who Amy is and what she cares about, where she’s going and so following chapters, when it’s a couple hundred years later, she wakes up and you know the plot kicks off.
It’s a very tightly paced novel and you’re already emotionally invested in a very very good opening. A good specific choice for where we start with our character leading up to the inciting incident. I don’t think it would have been quite as effective if it had started on the spaceship with Amy waking up.
I think having that glimpse into the past is really essential in the case of this novel for setting up the plot and the characters. Then there is Frost Blood, which is actually another good example of a prologue that is not a prologue. See if you know how these things work. You can cheat and basically do the same function because the first chapter of Frost blood is essentially kind of like a flashback.
It isn’t but it is. It takes place a year before everything else in the novel, like the main plot, takes place. It is the set up of who Ruby is, the world that she lives in. We become familiar with the characters that she cares about and then it nails you right at the end of the first chapter with the conflict and stakes.
Her mother is murdered in front of her, because of her, so you get her guilt and her feelings and of course why she would have a drive for revenge, which is what fuels the rest of the plot. Now wasn’t a spoiler because it is basically on the jacket flap that Ruby’s mom dies but that is it’s a very exciting setup, because it starts showing her secretly using her powers.
You know immediately that they’re forbidden, that she shouldn’t be doing this, that she lives with her mother and her mother is all she has. Then the soldiers come to town and you know immediately it’s like ‘oh god’ – conflict, stakes – what’s gonna happen?
So that’s another example that I really really like. Talking a bit about some of the choices I have made in my books and how I have started off my novels. I actually tend to favor that slice of life day-in-the-life approach. I like to settle into the characters in their world and who they are before ice them in the face with the inciting incident, so in brightly burning.
It’s really mundane, relatively speaking, the way that I start the book. I hope it’s not boring – it’s mundane in the sense that it is kind of normal everyday life stuff but in the case of you know Where Stella Lives normal everyday life stuff is a bit chaotic.
The book starts with a gravity failure and she has to go to engineering to basically fix the ship. So you know that Stella lives on a ship that has problems. She is an engineer so she’s responsible for fixing those problems. I clue you in really quick to the fact that she hates her job and is trying to escape.
She wants to become a governess, a teacher on another ship and you know in that you know first couple of chapters leading up to the inciting incident, which happens inchapter three or four, which is later than a lot of inciting incidents.
You don’t always have to stick to chapter one or chapter two. Your inciting incident, it’s all a buildup of where she lives, the things that she’s facing, the things that she wants and we know why she can’t have them.
Then Oh inciting incident – she gets what she wants and she goes off on her adventure. Then in my new book So Space Sucks (this would be my NaNoWriMo project) I start with a party. I really love parties so I just go right into it um you know, there’s a party.
I introduce the whole cast of characters and kind of how they interact with their world. This start is very very different to Brightly Burning. Brightly Burning starts immediately, telegraphing to you this is a ship that is falling apart. Things are not going great.
Whereas in my new book in space, it’s set on a very different ship and in a different time in the fleet for my world build and so I’ll just tell you like from a class perspective it’s a very different experience.
It’s a fancy party. I talk about the food and the drinks and the way people are dressed. There’s less dress porn and kind of who is interacting with whom and why it matters. In this case I did stick that inciting incident right at the end of the first chapter, so you have to kind of go with your gut for what beginning and what pacing is going to work for your novel projects.
Also in the case of Space Dunks I do the case of enter late and leave early. I start kind of smack-dab in the middle of the party. It’s almost reached its peak. My character is kind of totally over it. I have her interact with a bunch of people and then she leaves before the party ends, to go deal with stuff.
It would have been boring if I’d started it ‘oh well she’s at her closet and she’s picking out a dress and she puts on her shoes’. What’s the party sound like and what does the party look like. It would have dragged, whereas I started right in the like the the meat of it. so that I could move the plot along.
So those are my main tips first starting your novel in the right place. Think about slice-of-life, think about right before the inciting incident. Think dynamic scenes that show off character, world, conflict and stakes. Who is in your character’s life? Why are they important to them?
What’s in their way? Think about scenes that are gonna illustrate this without having massive info dumps, you know people just talking at each other. These need to be scenes where things happen and people interact with each other and there are micro conflicts within the scene.
Katniss interacting with her mom and her sister – in very different ways those are micro conflicts. Katniss hunting and running into Gale. There are micro conflicts in those scenes and there are conversations that people have but they’re not info dumping.
They’re having these conversations for an organic reason, so think about some of those examples in terms of how you are starting your novel. I hope this helped, though definitely drop some comments down below. This is how I approach starting novels but I’m sure there are things that I haven’t thought of. If you have specific questions hit me up with them – I will answer them in the comments.
If they spark a new idea I will make another video. Thank you so much for watching everyone. If you liked this one I’d love thumbs up. It lets me know that you like the video so I can make more of them. Good luck starting those novels or revising those novels. if you think you’re starting in the wrong place, and as always everyone ‘happy writing’.
I’ve always wanted to be a writer but when I was younger I thought that a true genius didn’t need to study how to write.
In fact, I had this crazy idea that that would be cheating and it didn’t seem like I needed it because I always had ideas for stories. When I was at the university during finals week, when I was supposed to be taking my final, instead I was inspired with this awesome idea for a novel.
I wrote it in this white-hot passion of inspiration. It was so awesome. I finished the entire book you know, almost flunked my class, but I finished the entire book and it was so cool. But there was only one problem and that was that the book sucked.
I was just too in love with it to be able to tell that it sucked and my friends were way too nice to tell me that it sucked. The only way I found out was the hard way, the embarrassing way and that was painful.
Meanwhile I thought after this happened, you know, I wrote this book, I wrote it so fast I was inspired. I thought ‘hey I’ve got it made. I clearly have the makings of a writer of a pure genius. I don’t need to study. this it’s just gonna come to me now. I can do this anytime I want’.
How To Start Writing a Book Outline – Plotter or Pantser?
Instead, I started suffering writer’s block and I had all these ideas for stories and I would start them and then they’d peter out. I didn’t get it. I knew that professional writers could write a book, after book after book, year after year after year. Why couldn’t I do it.
So frustrating, what had gone wrong? Then it finally hit me. An aspiring brain surgeon may love to help people but this doesn’t mean he’s ready to perform surgery without first going to medical school. Writing is the same way.
It’s funny, because we tend to denigrate the arts. Even as artists we do this. We imagine that you don’t have to study your craft to become a master craftsman, whether it’s writing, or painting, or acting. We have this illusion that those people never study to become great at what they do, but they do they have to.
Everyone has to. To become a master at your craft you have to hone your art and study the secrets of the other masters in your field. After I overcame my foolish pride, I made up for it by studying writing of all the best writers and teachers of writing out there.
Like Scott Bell, Nancy Kress, Donald Mass, Holly Liezel, David Farland, Kevin J Anderson, Blake Snyder, Robert McKee and many many others. I read every book on novel writing, on screenplay writing, on story writing, even on grammar and sentence structure out there.
I dissected my favorite novels and even novels and genres that I would have normally never read so that I could backwards engineer what they had done successfully, so I could apply that to my own stories.
I had to give up a lot of illusions on the way. I had to give up this idea that a true genius never has to work hard, never has to study their craft. I needed to study in order to become a better writer. I had to give up the illusion that I was already a born genius writer, to actually become a better writer.
There’s another illusion that I had to give up that was really holding me back – and that was outlining. I never wanted to outline. I thought an outline was like a straightjacket on my creativity. I just wanted to discover the story as I plunged through it.
I was definitely a Pantser, which means write by the seat of your pants but you know what?Actually just the opposite was true. What was strangling my creativity and what was killing my stories before I could even finish them, was this inability to plan ahead and outline my novels.
A good outline is not a straightjacket, it’s a backbone. It holds up the entire story. Now, you may already know the value of a good outline or you may genuinely be one of those rare people who doesn’t need to outline. I guess they do exist but you might be in the same situation as I was.
You need an outline. You just don’t know you need an outline or mayb you’re more clever than I was and you do know you need an outline, but you’re still struggling with it. So if you’re one of those people, if you’re like me, or you’re just a little smarter than me and you know you need this I’m gonna give you a great outlining method today.
It’s so fun, so easy to use and works so well, that it’s like magic and I want to tell you a little secret too. If you want to pre-adapt your novel for a Hollywood movie, this is a terrific outlining method to use because it’s the same one used by Hollywood screenplay writers.
This outline is so effective it’s like pouring magic onto that seed of your novel and watching it grow into a beanstalk that reaches a castle on the clouds. I just need to remind you once again that these videos won’t be up for long, just a week or so longer, so if you haven’t watched the first video yet watch that one too.
Grab the outline that’s there with that video because we’re going to be going over that here too. I may have told you last time, then it was a word doc and I was trying really hard to bring that to you, but I did have to make it a PDF but you can still use it.
You can still follow along as you go through this, so please grab that and do this. I’m sorry about the confusion. It’s a technical thing, not my specialty to understand why you need an outline. Let’s take a look at some typical problems that you encounter without an outline.
First, you’ll often begin in the wrong place. There’s a perfect place to start your novel. You don’t want to start too early and you don’t want to start too late. One of the things that an outline helps you do is nail that perfect place to start. This outline I’m going to show you is designed to answer that exact question, that every writer has, especially newbie writers – ‘where should I start my story.’
Second – without an outline, your novel will often end up with a case of the saggy middles. That’s where the outline slows down to a crawl or wanders around aimlessly in the middle of the novel. It’s boring. Your readers hate it. They lose interest.
They close your book and never open it again, and that is a shame because the middle of the book does not have to be boring. In fact it can be the most exciting and the most fun part of the whole book.
Third – without the right kind of outline your ending might suck. I’m sorry but it had to be said. Endings are really important and they’re also really hard to do well. But if you don’t deliver a good ending, you don’t deliver a good book.
You can have a terrific story and then lose your reader on the last page because you haven’t delivered the ending that you promised at the beginning. There is so much we could get into with outlining. I actually have several stages of outlines and several kinds of outlines I usually go through when I’m writing a novel.
But I wanted to start out at least with the basics, the core, the backbone of your novel. That core in Hollywood is called the beat sheet, and the beat means the plot points in your story. The master of this was Blake Snyder and he created this really a famous beat sheet and mine is adapted from that specifically for novelists.
I’m going to show you why and how in a minute but right now I want you to go ahead and download the free workbook, if you haven’t already, that goes with this video. All you need to do is one little thing – put in your email and if you’ve already done it before you won’t get twice as many emails, don’t worry.
You’re going to see the section, the workbook that applies to this video with some blanks and you can fill in those blanks and then also figure out how this is going to apply for your specific project, your specific novel. You’ll get so much more out of this if you do the workbook along with the video.
OK, so Blake Snyder is the master of the screenplay and this beat sheet that I’m going to go over with you is adapted from his. I’ve made some changes so that you can clearly see how it relates to the three-act structure and to your novel.
My version is going to flow very easily into a novelist outline rather than for a screenplay, which is a little bit of a different media, a little bit of a different format. Alright, so let’s go over this. On the screen you can see this is act 1.
We’re going to use the traditional three act structure. It’s a classic and it always works. You can of course use a different kind of five act, a seven act structure, or whatever is going to work best with your novel, but this is the basics.
Let’s use it for right now. As our example, within each act you’re going to have five beats or five major plot points. The first is the opening conflict. You never want to start your novel out in a boring way. You always want to start BAM.
Conflict is already going on – you’re going to show your protagonist in daily life, not in a boring way but before the transformation that is going to take place over your story. Three is when the opportunity for change comes. Sometimes this is called the inciting incident.
Four is the resistance to the opportunity. It’s not realistic for everything to just fall into place and goes from happy ending to happy ending. No, no – of course there’s no story in that. Your protagonist is going to resist the opportunity, sometimes for a good reason, sometimes just out of their own foolish reason.
Five is the point of no return. For whatever reason, something changes and the opportunity is finally accepted that’s going to bring us to act two. Six is entering the new situation. A terrific example of this is Dorothy walking into Oz. The color literally changes and saturates the screen, it is such a new situation.
That’s the impact you want your reader to feel when they’re reading your novel at this point in the story. Seven is going to be meeting friends, enemies, romance and having opportunities for change. These are the experiences that are going to start changing your protagonist.
Now eight and nine this is where you can have fun and games. This is where you’re going to have some of your media scenes and the novel, like I promised, the middle can be so fun. One of the little rubrics that I like to use to remind me to do some of these great juicy scenes is number eight.
Some kind of problem forces your protagonist and his or her new friends to work together and then some other kind of problem drives them apart again. If you keep this up you’re always going to have really exciting scenes and then 10 – crisis hits and that’s what’s going to bring us into act 3.
So 11 – if somebody has been keeping a secret throughout this period, this is when the terrible secret is revealed or it could be when the attack starts.
12 is all seems lost.
13 is self-sacrifice or symbolic death. Sometimes this is where the real death takes place – there might be a character who dies, this is where it might happen.
Finally we get to the conclusion and you get 14, the final showdown, and
15 the conclusion.
Writing a Novel Outline Means Writing a Plot Outline
This is where you’re going to hear wedding bells or have that great award ceremony like they do at the end of the first Star Wars, or you have a pile of bodies if it’s a tragedy or ride off into the sunset. This is where you’re going to tie up all the strings and deliver that really satisfying ending.
This may seem really simple and you know what? It is simple but it’s really powerful. Now, I went through that really quickly but, if you haven’t yet, download the worksheet right now and go through this and try to figure it out. Enter into the worksheet how each of these beat points would apply for your novel.
You can pause this video if you need to. Alright, aim for the best of your ability – I want you to write a line or two under each of the 15 beats how it applies for your novel. Okay, it’s not quite as easy as it seems is it?
If you can’t fill out those whole thing right now, that’s okay. Between the last video and this video I actually skipped a few steps that will help generate these ideas in these scenes for your story. I just skipped them because I just wanted to get to the very meatiest parts in these free videos.
There is so much more that goes into this and sometimes those extra steps are necessary to help you flush out an outline like this but I think from this you can get the main idea and see how the structure of your novel is there. There’s no room for sloppy beginnings, saggy middles or sloppy endings.
You start with conflict, you end with sacrifice and confrontation. There’s a lot more detail we could get into and fleshing out this outline, but I do just want to point out. One thing about this and show you how this is pre-adapted for novelists.
If you open any random genre novel on your shelf and count the chapters, especially across hundreds of books (and I’ve done this) you’re going to find that a really really common number of chapters is thirty. Now why is that? Well, thirty is a good number for a novelist. It divides really easily into three acts. 30 chapters of 3,000 words each multiplies out to 90,000 words and 90,000 words is a really good length across a lot of genres.
Since 15 times 2 is 30, all you have to do to turn this beat sheet into your list of chapters is divide all of them into action and reaction scenes, and your novel is practically writing itself. Do you see how easy that is? Now of course you don’t need to have 30 chapters for this to work. That’s just a neat trick to get you started, for your novel to fall into place.
Then as you start to fill it in, start to flush out those scenes add meat to the bones of this outline. You’re going to build on what’s working for you and you’re going to just leave anything that’s not working for you aside. Your novel is going to take on its own unique structure but this is just a really easy way to get started and have a novel already taking form right there before your eyes.
I’d like to hear from you now. Do you have your novel idea yet? If so, what’s the premise?How is the beat sheet working for you? What other problems are you still having? What are your biggest challenges and is there anything else that you’d really like help with?
Ask me the questions that are the most difficult for you. I want to help you I want to do this for you right now. We’re going to have a Facebook, page go ahead and put those comments and questions in the Facebook page. Tell me all about your novel and tell me all about the questions you’d like me to address.
The only thing is, that it’s almost time to start writing and I so I don’t have much time for this so. Go ahead and quickly write those comments and questions, because you’re more likely to be able to get an answer from me if you do that right away.
I’m so eager to get started on my book and to be honest, I’m a little bit scared, because this book means so much to me, the one I’m going to be working on. But of course you know you should never be working on a novel that isn’t worth it, right? This should always be the book that is important to you, that you’re working on right?
Pretty soon I’m going to be starting the workshop the Miss Writer 30-day Novel Workshop with my partner Ryan Hall and it’s going to be so much fun. I’m really looking forward to teaching it and to doing my own novel alongside all the students who are doing the course. I think it’s going to be great.
So once again, don’t forget to download the workbook while you still can. Click the button, sign in get your copy. Remember it’s not going to be there very long. Do this while you can. Do your homework while you can, and if you remember – if you don’t like it and you think it was a waste of time, I would get you a $5 Amazon gift card.
I still stand by that. You absolutely have nothing to lose, so grab your workbook, do the work, start thinking about your novel and get ready to write. Please go ahead and tell me about your book. I would love to hear from you.
Today we’re going to be talking about creating your very first fictional book. We’re not going to be talking about nonfiction as much as fiction today but you can still use some of the key plot points and some of the key ideas in a non-fiction writing. Let’s hop straight into it with step number one.
Step number one it’s simply having an idea. If you don’t have an idea, you don’t have a story. An idea can be as simple as a little boy trying to make ends meet by getting money and having to live in this house where all these terrible and crazy things happen to him.
Anyways, as long as you have an idea you kind of have a base to go off of. Make sure this idea is completely original and completely yours. It can take inspiration and some ideas from other books or other movies that have inspired you.
But if it’s about a teenage girl who shoots the bow and has to compete in games to live for her life or win to save her life, it’s not going to sell, because it’s already been done. It was a fantastic book that everybody already knows about.
Your characters are the heart and soul of your book. If you don’t have characters that people know about, or characters that people can’t relate to and you don’t expand on them, people aren’t going to know what you’re talking about.
You have to have rather a much likeable character and somebody who actually can experience human emotions, or you have to have something that’s devious and evil. Somebody that you can get to know really well and you just want them to fight. It just has to be somebody who is believable and can actually make a good story great.
Your character is very important to your story. If don’t have one, you don’t have a story. He can be extremely simple or you can make it the most complex person ever. Make sure that they are unique though. If they’re just an average day boy who just walked home and plays video games every single day after school and nothing exciting happens in his life, I don’t want to read about him.
But if it’s this kid who was the world champion video games lord, master of all, I might want to know about that. I might want to know about his rise to a success in the gaming industry. His rises and his Falls and his terrible home life, or his great success and his rich parents. It could be whatever, as long as he’s an interesting and unique individual, I want to know about him
Step number three – your world. It can be set in just a normal modern day society like we live in today, or it could be a world where people have to fight for their lives with swords and crossbows.
Oh my gosh! Why am I talking so much about the Hunger Games? It wasn’t even supposed to be about the Hunger Games, or there can be a Gers that roam the streets at night and destroy homes and are terrible and drooling at the mouth.
You can have all these different aspects about this cute world that you create. It can be just a normal world or it can be a completely unique one. This is where you kind of have a little bit of creativity.
Step four – you have your character, you have an idea and you have your world. Now what you’re thinking to yourself is ‘what comes next?’ , or you know exactly what comes next. Your plotline – take away a little section of your day or just set aside some time some other day to create your plotline.
If you don’t know to plot, I’ll show you just a second but I’m going to explain it to you. A plotline is what’s going to happen in your book. It’s the events that are going to occur and it’s just a very loose outline of all the stuff that you want to happen from chapter 1 to chapter 999.
But you need to have some section in between there if, you know how your story is going to start and you know how it’s going to end. what’s going to happen in the middle. Take some time to sit down and think ‘oh yeah, my main character is going to go on a quest somewhere around here.
He’s going to meet some other character somewhere around here, gonna do all these other things from here to here, and you’ve got a story, you have your outline. You know what your story is going to be about. You know how it’s going to end and you know some of the characters that you’re going to introduce.
Once you have an outline you can expand on it and you can actually start to explore different areas and different aspects of each one of your characters. Each one of the events, their past stories and all these little things that make it more believable, and much more enjoyable to read, so this is what a basic story plotline looks like.
You have your exposition, which is to start and introduction to most of your characters, and if it’s not most of your characters it’s usually your main character introduced at this point. The main dilemma is resist rising action is when he goes out and he goes and does something and you starts to experience some of these little events.
The climax is the most exciting part of your book. It’s the real go-getter. It draws people in. It’s the most action that happens. Following action is when stuff starts to cool down. Just opposite of rising action, stuff starting to get revealed.
Everybody’s just kind of winding down end of the story. In The Hunger Games after Katniss Way and you know, falling action, conclusion, how the story will end it, depends on kind of your outlook on your book.
If you’re planning on going into another sequel, if it can set up another question which will go straight into another exposition and another plotline, that would be drawn in right around there. Like over to the site of the conclusion but it can set up for another book or to resolve everything in this little area or can leave your readers to wonder what happens next.
I think that I’m just going to say it really quick because I talked about a lot in this video already. Originality – just like The Hunger Games thing you want it to be completely original. Don’t try and steal from other people. Plagiarism isn’t good. Just make it yours. Everybody’s creative in one way or the other. Find your own specific way that you like to write your books.
You like to draw your pictures. Find your own different way that sets you apart from everybody else and people will rather love you for it or hate you for it. but guess what? If it’s yours, it’s yours and you should be proud of it.
Step 6. Remember the sets aren’t in any really particular order, but it is really nice to follow them in order because it has a very nice flow to them, but step 6 can go anywhere in here. Once you have your plot lines kind of drawn out you want to have some sort of mystery or suspense element in it to keep your readers interested.
Because if you have the greatest first chapter ever, and then all your answers are figured out in your first first couple paragraphs, people aren’t going to want to know about what happened to your character’s father after his mysterious disappearance, because it’s explained in the first chapter.
You don’t exactly have a hook. You don’t have something to draw people in and make them want to continue reading. It’s not saying that has to be a huge reveal at the end but something to keep your readers intrigued with your ideas.
Step 7 is your hook. This goes at the very beginning of your book. You can have a prologue in there if you want, if you want to explain some stuff. It’s completely up to you. Prologue or optional bio, you’ll find them extremely helpful. If you have a hook it will draw readers in. It will get them stuck on your book.
It’ll make them want to finish your book. It will make them want to read more and more and more. It can set up a mystery or consent of a terrible chain of events that are about to occur. A hook is something that when your readers open up your book and it’s the first couple of sentences, that they read and they know right off the bat that they want to finish your book because they need to know the answers.
It makes your readers care about your book. It makes them want to know what happens. It makes them feel for each one of your characters and it makes them just anticipate and needing to know what’s going to happen in the next couple of chapters.
Step 8 one of the most important steps of all, and this isn’t really set at all, it goes throughout every single one of the prior steps. But it’s everything that you are about to make is completely yours and even if it’s bad and even if people don’t want to read it, it should be proud that it’s yours. You should be extremely happy that you were able to accomplish something like this.
My first ever book that I wrote and got it in like a nice little cover and stuff like that. What’s more, in five years when I went back and I and I reread it, I laughed so hard and it was such a good memory.
It was me going back and exploring my terribly put together characters in my loosely written plotline but it was it was so much fun. No matter what you write today, you’re gonna like it for the rest of your life.
You will look back on it and you will say ‘wow, I did something that a lot of people don’t ever accomplish’ because what you write is yours and you should be proud of that, no matter what. Step eight is just you are completely original and you should be proud of that.
Okay some bonus advice that you should probably take – don’t over populate your town or your city or just your main character pool. If you have 999 characters it will be extremely difficult to emotionally connect to each one of those characters. If you want to have some background characters, that is completely fine.
I need to know some characteristics about him as well but if it’s 50 different people and I need to know a little bit about each one of them, so I know how they contribute to the story it’s going to take up a lot of space and I don’t have the mental capacity to keep up with all of those new characters that you bring in.
Background characters are fine and if you want to introduce nine characters, and then have those nine characters extremely important, and you can capitalize on each one their emotion, a little bit of each chapter until the end of your book, that is fine … another bonus little thing for you guys to hold on to is you don’t need to write every single day of your life, but it is important that you get a little bit done at a time at least.
If you can only spare the time to write 100 words per day then that’s completely fine. If you can only spare the time to write a thousand words a week and that’s fine. But if a person sayts you have to write five trillion words a minute if you ever want to become successful, don’t listen to them!
If you have the original idea and you have the go-get-’em attitude and you can get a little bit done at a time whenever you have a spare second, then you’re going to be completely fine. As long as you’re thinking about ideas and writing them down in the notebook, or just taking mental snapshots of all things you want to happen in your book, and how you want to expand on it the next time you have a free second to write.
So that’s perfectly fine as long as you get your book done. It’s a huge accomplishment and stay motivated to get it done, no matter what. Well that wraps up my little segment about how to get your book kind of outlined and started to write and how to stay motivated kind of throughout.
And if you liked it, please leave a like. If you have any questions about me, or about anything that I’ve written or any questions about your future writing that I hope to hear about someday, please leave them in the comment section below.
Hi everyone, I’m Stephanie London. Welcome back to my channel. Today’s video is going to be a look at the process that I use when planning to write a book.
Now I feel like there’s going to be a lot of information, so I’m probably going to switch this up into two videos. One is going to be looking at the difference between plotting and pantsing, or writing by the seat of your pants, and kind of where I fall between those two things.
Also, how that has changed as I’ve written more and more books, and also how plotting and pantsing kind of fits in with me working with a publisher, and what I actually have to kind of give them upfront in order to contract a book.
Then in the second video I’m actually gonna go through the document that I use to plan out a story and to tell you what I do plan, what I don’t plan and what level of detail I kind of go into through that process, and how I use that document.
I think that’s how this is gonna go. When I wrote my first book, I wrote it or started writing it during NaNoWriMo, which is National Novel Writing Month. I’m sure I’ve mentioned that on this channel before but I didn’t decide that I was going to write that book until like day one of NaNoWriMo.
It was at my office on the 1st of November and I was having work eating, my lunch at my desk, answering emails, which I used to do a lot and I decided. I had this idea for awhile. I already joined a writers group but kind of scribbled a few things here and there.
But I was like, ‘no, this is like the perfect opportunity. I just need to to go for it’ and I had an idea which was kind of a paragraph long. Just a bit of a concept, and literally, I went home that night, I sat down, I typed chapter one and I started writing.
There was no planning, there was no kind of figuring anything out. I just sat down and I wrote that book until it was finished and there are a lot of writers who write like that. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that at all. Sometimes that’s just how the creativity comes.
I definitely don’t think that writing a book like that is a bad thing to do. However, I did have to rewrite a lot of elements within that book because I was a very new. It was my first story and so I found myself the feeling like I was getting a bit frustrated with writing books like that, after I had done the next couple of books in much the same manner.
That’s when I started to do a little bit of planning beforehand. So I like to think of plotting and pantsing as kind of a spectrum. Like you don’t necessarily just have to be one or the other. People kind of, you know, might be extreme at one end or extreme at the other end or you might fall somewhere in the middle like I do.
I definitely wouldn’t put myself staunchly in either plotting or pantsing camps because I really do a bit of both. I sit down to write a story and I plan a little bit but then often when I write, sometimes I deviate from the plan. Sometimes I don’t and that’s fine.
I take a very relaxed approach to the whole planning pace. One of the things that made me plan my books out more was working with a publisher. With the publishers that I’m already involved with, so that will be Entangled and Harlequin, when I go to give them a new book I have to submit what’s called a proposal.
That is generally speaking a synopsis and three chapters. Now it’s very hard to write a synopsis if you don’t have any idea of what the story is about, so just by having to do that I was kind of forced to bring more planning into my life.
I found that in some elements of that I really enjoyed it and it definitely helped me from avoiding that kind of getting stuck in the middle feeling with the book. It has definitely been a good thing for me to incorporate a little bit more planning into my process.
Now having said, that my planning is quite a high level. I don’t go down into the details and you know have every single little thing worked out in the book like some authors do. It’s definite that planning is not the same thing for every writer.
Now when you’re writing a synopsis, you’re writing a summary of the book. That means you have to know what happens at the end, so the difference between the synopsis and a blurb is that a blurb is kind of a teaser. You wanting to pique the readers interest.
Often in a query you’ll be using a blurb type thing, to kind of get all of your hooks in there, to get all of your themes and to really make it sound as interesting and enticing as possible. However, when you’re writing a synopsis, you have to write the whole story.
You can’t just say ‘and then you have to read on to find out what happens’. No, there’s none of that. You have to have the ending planned out and I’m very lucky in that my editors will know that sometimes things change when I write the book.
I’m writing and the plan doesn’t feel right anymore, that something happens in the story and I kind of deviate and I go with it. That definitely does happen and it doesn’t mean that I’m a bad writer, or it doesn’t mean that the editors are gonna get angry with me, if what I’m writing deviates significantly from what I’d planned initially.
Then often I will just go to my editor and and let them know and say ‘hey, this has happened. The story’s going in a bit of a different direction now’ and so we can we can talk about that. At that point say I’m wanting to start a new series, or I’m wanting to picture-book to one of my publishers, I start with the crux of the idea.
I think about what it is that has sparked my interest to start writing this particular book. Now as I’ve mentioned in one of my previous videos that could be anything. It could be an idea about a character. It could be about how two characters meet.
It could be a sort of set up of the conflict. It could be a location, it could be anything. So often when I’m starting out, particularly if it’s for a new series and I don’t kind of have anything sort of tucked away in mind for that story, I will start with that initial idea.
Then I will kind of scribble down a bit of a blurb for myself, just to think about what are the key elements of the story. How am I going to go about like fleshing that tiny idea out into enough that it’s a story, and I just kind of free write at that point to get everything out of my mind.
Sometimes that process can go on for a while, of just me thinking about the idea I’ve got, something for a project that I want to pitch to a publisher at the moment. The idea is not fully formed yet and so I’m like laying in bed at night ready to go to sleep, that will be churning and I’ll be thinking about how I can flush that idea out.
That’s kind of at the very, very first level how I go about starting the process. Then the next thing that I do is I start work on the document, which I’m going to show you in the next part of this video series. I go through to really kind of flesh out the characters first and then to start looking at the plot and the story.
At that point, that’s when I start thinking about the synopsis, so generally speaking it comes with the idea first. I do a bit of a blurb, I have a bit of a think about it, I then go through my document to help me try and flesh out the idea. Then I start writing the three chapters and do the synopsis at the same time.
That might be different for other people but sometimes I find that I can’t. I feel very blocked and I can’t even think about writing a synopsis until I’ve written a chapter, or the opening scene or whatever that might be.
For me, that’s what helps the characters to come alive and so as I’m writing I’m doing the synopsis and refining my planning document kind of all in the same period.
What generally happens next is once I have my three chapters and my synopsis, I will send it to my agent and she’ll have a read and come back to me and give me her feedback. That could be, you know, that she likes the story or there’s ‘but’, there’s an element of the conflict that she thinks needs to be kind of fleshed out a little bit more.
Or the story’s great but she thinks the synopsis isn’t kind of capturing the romance enough, which tends to happen with me a lot. I think because I know as a romance writer that the romance is going to be in the book, this is kind of ‘why do I need to put it in the synopsis’ because I know it’s gonna be there.
Obviously she’s right, I need to put that innocent OPS’s, particularly if you are approaching a publisher for the first time. That’s the kind of stuff that needs to be fleshed out, so really that step is about getting some secondary feedback.
Sometimes I go to a critique partners at this point as well and get them to read the proposal, or I might sort of share a little bit of the opening scene with some people that I feel comfortable with to get some feedback there. That’s just kind of the initial stage of getting other people to look at it.
Then I consolidate that feedback. I will kind of rework over the proposal and then send it to my editor at that point. Now even with books that are going to be self-published, a lot of these steps will still happen. In my case not the synopsis because, I’ll be honest, I really hate writing those.
They’re not fun to read, they’re not fun to write and I only do them because that’s part of the process when working with a publisher. When it comes to doing books for self-publishing, I will do the document that I’m going to show you in the next video.
I will get other people to have a look at the first couple of chapters and to maybe have a look at a blurb or some initial planning that I’ve done, which can be a lot rougher than what a synopsis has to be.
That just makes it easier for me to get on with the story and just kind of get into the world but I still like to have some of that initial feedback. I still do my planning document, even for books that I’m planning to self publish because I need to know all of that information in order to really kind of immerse myself in the story when I’m starting to write.
Now if the book that I’m going to be planning out happens to be part of a series, some of this activity may have already happened at this point. So generally speaking, when I’m writing a series I might be writing the first or the second book and I already kind of have my thoughts on the other secondary characters that I’m planning to write stories for.
Some of that thinking is kind of bubbling away in the background while I’m working on a different book and so I may already have some notes or I may already have some blurbs written. Just some ideas jotted down, things like that.
When I put a proposal forward to my publisher for multiple books, generally speaking, I’ll have to give them blurbs for the subsequent books in the series and so I already have that and some initial feedback ready to go when I sit down to start planning the book that I’m up to in that series.
Other than having some of that initial planning and thinking done, the process is pretty much the same. I go through the document, I go through having a bit of a brainstorming period, go through getting some feedback and then ultimately, when I’m ready to really get into working on that book I will still do the synopsis and the first three chapters.
I’ll send that to the publisher even if the book has already been contracted. That’s the first video in this series. In the second video I’m gonna actually take you through the document that I use and show you exactly what sort of stuff I’m not out to do with planning a particular story. Then how I keep track of details when I’m looking at the series.
I hope you found this initial video helpful. It was kind of glossing over the whole process a little bit, just because I wanted to give you guys a bit of a background on how I’ve kind of changed as a writer, and what influenced working with a publisher has actually had on that process.
If you do have any questions that you’d like me to cover in future videos, by all means please leave them below. Let me know if you enjoyed this video by giving it a thumbs up and thank you so much for spending time with me today. I’ll see you guys in my next video. Bye.
To outline or not outline, that is the question! We hear arguments for and against, and I’m assured that many prominent authors have had great success writing as a ‘Pantser’, that is, writing by the seat of their pants.
It could be exciting, I suppose, writing as a stream of conscience, but from my own experience it’s quite easy to write yourself into a corner with no escape in sight. It would seem, for most people, a plan is a definite advantage to their writing. Knowing how to write a novel outline is the first step in creating a story.
Did Shakespeare plan? Was Dickens a Pantser or a Plotter? Even if Charles Dickens didn’t plan as we do, he surely knew all about plot structure and how to keep a reader turning the pages, as he had his first successes writing ‘penny dreadfuls’ for the masses.
It may be reasonable to assume that most new writers would benefit from some kind of novel structure planning, so the only question is – which method should you use? The following video explains how chapters can not only be used to plan a novel, but also used as a submission tool to agents and editors.
Media bistro on-demand presents: ‘How to outline your novel’ will show you how to structure, outline and begin writing your novel.
So you have a great idea for a novel. You know basically what it will be about and who the characters will be. You’re ready to sit down and begin but where do you start? If you’re anything like me or most of my friends who have published books, you’ll start with an outline.
You wouldn’t leave home for a cross-country drive without a map or at least a functioning GPS would you? It would be just as unwise to dive into a novel without having an idea of where you’re going, and how you plan to get there. Some writers write without outlines but even they generally have a basic idea of where they’re going.
I just find it easier and much more efficient to have those ideas down on paper. The thing about an outline is that it’s not set in stone. Just like when you’re taking that cross-country drive, you’re free to detour from your planned route but you always know where the road is and you can see the way forward and the way back.
How do I know? I’ve successfully written six novels published by Random House Warner Books in Grand Central using outlines and I’m in the midst of writing my seventh. I sold all but my first novel using only an outline in sample chapters.
Here’s what we’ll cover. First we’ll talk about how to learn by example and how to teach yourself to be a master of outlining. Then we’ll discuss how to analyze, how things work in the books you love and how you can emulate these patterns and devices to create your own successful novel.
We’ll cover the rules of writing an outline, all the basic tools you’ll need to begin and finally I’ll show you how to write your own outline. Even if you don’t think you’re the type of writer who will need an outline, what can it hurt to sketch out a plot before you begin writing?
A first novel is tremendously hard and I think that every single advantage you can give yourself along the way helps. Having an outline is one such advantage. It’s a road map, a safety blanket and a safeguard against writer’s block.
First, it gives you the ability to plan how you’ll get from point A to point B and eventually all the way to the other side of the map. Second, it’s a psychological security blanket. Even when you’re stuck, you have something to cling to that will lift you out of the mess.
Finally, with an outline writer’s block is impossible. Sure you may have an off day or you may be uncertain about how to get from one scene to the next but you can always jump ahead because you know where you’re going and how to get there.
One more argument in favor of outlining – if you get 2/3 of the way into your outline and realize the story’s not working, you’ve only lost 10 to 20 pages of work or you’ll only have to go back a few pages to make substantial changes.
But what if you’re working without an outline? You’ll be 250 pages into your novel before you realize your plot is going nowhere. Outlining is therefore a valuable tool to save you time later. It’s a way to test drive all the intricacies of your plots before you begin writing chapters in-depth.
They say the best way to learn is by doing, so why not outline someone else’s book, book you’ve liked that is already done well in the market? In fact, choose two or three of your favorite books, books you’ve read before and that you think are somewhat similar structurally to the one you hope to write.
They should be standard books, in other words, not a book that’s written in Diary style or told in a complex series of flashbacks, unless that’s the kind of book you plan to write. These are the books you’re going to pick apart.
Starting from the beginning of the first book read each chapter carefully. Underline important lines and make notes in the margins. Then after you’ve read each chapter, write a one to two page summary of that chapter in a single text document on your computer.
At the end of the book you should have a chapter by chapter summary of the entire book. This is ultimately what your own outline will look like. The more you look at these complete outlines, the more patterns you’ll see.
You’ll see how the books progress from start to finish. You’ll see when characters and conflicts are introduced. In fact, you’ll want to mark those in pen. You’ll see when various plot points occur and the way the books are paced. Why is this so important?
Unlike screenwriting, there’s no hard and fast formula to novel writing. You have to learn to do it by feel. Picking apart a few books you like and respect will help you to develop your own feel for building a plot. It will also help you to develop your own intrinsic understanding of pacing.
This is something that I can’t teach you, it’s something you can only teach yourself. It’s why any writing instructor worth his or her salt will tell you that the most important preparation for writing your own book is to read often.
Understanding what works in others we’ll help you to understand how to successfully structure yours, once you’ve outlined a few books. Buy yourself a pack of colored pencils or gather pens in four different colors. Print out each chapter by chapter outline and go through each one with your colored pens and pencils.
Look for four specific things :
the introduction of new characters
the introduction of conflict
examples of foreshadowing
and physical descriptions
Each time a new character is introduced underline it in red and then jot down in the margin what role they play – main character, best friend, coworker, love interest, nemesis, family member.
Keep an eye on when various characters appear and look for patterns between the books you’ve outlined. Each time a new conflict is introduced, big or small, underline it in blue and jot down a few words in the margin about what the conflict is. Also note whether it’s a large conflict a small one or something in between.
In addition to characters and conflicts you should also make note of foreshadowing. Each time an event in the outline foreshadow is something that will happen, later mark it in purple. For instance, if a main character will discover halfway through the book that her husband is having an affair but in Chapter three we see him call to tell her that he won’t be home from work until after midnight.
Underline this in purple because it foreshadows is something that will happen in the future. Finally, every time something is described physically in a notable way – a new person, a new setting, something like, that mark this too.
Of course, you don’t have to use the colors I’ve suggested. Those were just examples. Use your own rainbow if you like. Right now you’re writing the outline for yourself to guide your own novel writing process but eventually you’ll revise it and use it as one of your tools to help get agents interested in your completed book and eventually to sell your book to publishers.
Novel Outline Template vs Detailed Novel Outline
So there’s no time like the present to learn the correct submission format for outlines. Outlines first of all are written in the third person present tense. In other words, you write ‘Jane Smith is the 36 year old mother of 13 year old Madeleine’ instead of ‘I was the 36 year old mother of 13 year old Madeleine’.
That stays true no matter what tense and from what viewpoint you’re writing the actual book in. Outlines are always third person present tense. Second, your book should be written in 12-point standard font. The most common is Times New Roman. Arial is another acceptable choice.
Third – your outline and your entire manuscript, once you’ve written it, should be double-spaced. I prefer to outline in single space because I can see more on the page as I’m writing but before I submit it to anyone I always double space it.
Fourth – you should spend no more than a single double-spaced page on what you envision is a chapter. In other words, if you think your book will be about 25 chapters your outline should not be any longer than 25 double-spaced pages at the very most.
Finally, you don’t need to note chapter numbers or chapter divisions in the outline. Most outlines simply tell a story from beginning to end. Chapter breaks happen naturally later when you’re doing the actual writing. Here’s an example. This is how the top of your page one should look.
Note that it has my name, address, phone number and email address, as well as the title of the book. The estimated word count and the genre. Then I begin with the stage setting summary. Now it’s your turn. First of all come up with the title, if you haven’t already.
Stuck for title ideas? I’d recommend walking into a bookstore and spending 15 minutes jotting down the new release titles that grab your attention. What do they have in common? How many words do they have? Are they action-oriented titles like ‘How to sleep with a movie star’ or ‘Whistling Dixie in a nor’easter’ or are they description heavy titles?
Take that list home. Think about what your book is about and then try brainstorming your own ideas. Next, estimate your final word count. You’re not bound to this but it helps to have an idea of the typical length of books in your genre. I write women’s fiction and I tend to shoot for 90 thousand to 95 thousand words.
Come up with the word counts of several novels in your genre by multiplying the page count by 250, that should get you in the ballpark. Finally, start with a paragraph or two describing your main character in your book, similar to what you’d find on the back of a book or a book flap.
Do you dream of writing a novel but don’t know where to start because you believe you don’t have any great ideas? If so, then this video is for you. The truth is you do actually have great ideas, but you need to learn how to how to listen to them.
It’s important to point out that it’s unrealistic for you to expect these first few ideas to be award-winning. The chances are they probably won’t be and this is perfectly okay. These no so great ideas are something that what happens to everyone and the interesting thing about the creative process is ideas tend to lead to better ideas.
And those better ideas lead to these great ideas that you can create a story around. In this video, I’m going to share with you the exact steps you need to take to come up with a great idea for your story.
Tip number one. Understand the truth behind writer’s block. Writer’s block is often painted as this epic battle between the writer and the blank page and it’s something that the writer has to jump over every time they write.
And, you know what? It doesn’t have to be this way. A lot of people do struggle with writer’s block and they don’t understand why they get it. And, once you understand what triggers writers block then you’ll have a different problem.
What To Write A Story About – The Idea Is The Book
Video transcript (cont’d)
And that different problem which is what I consider the biggest problem most writers have is, you know, that problem, the epic battle we have with procrastination, where you know you should be writing, there’s a part of you that wants to write, but you don’t sort of feel inspired, you don’t want to.
And its about creating a habit around writing. But that’s a completely different video for another day and it’s certainly something I’ve had learnt over the years. Back to writers block. What writer’s block is, it’s a symptom often of something much… of a bigger problem.
And that bigger problem is an empty creative well and what a lot of writers do with their creative well is they let their well run dry, and then they’ll try and draw… and they’ll try and draw ideas from it. I personally like to refer to this as you know the consume versus create ratio.
But I love the analogy that I a um… that the creative well idea sort of pictures in your mind. I think it helps you to grasp the concept just a little bit better. As you consume various different forms of content like, film, TV, all of that, like books, anything that sort of creative, that sort of, that sort of story based, even the news sometimes can give you ideas but you sort of consume those ideas and sometimes when you’re consuming this content you sort of… think “oh, that’s interesting.
But, what if blah blah blah?” And that is essentially a seed of an idea. Yeah. So, This is what… This is what writer’s block is. It’s an a symptom of an empty creative well, where you have nothing left to sort of create ideas from. There’s no… There’s no seeds left you sort of grow an idea from.
Tip number two is, to change your perception on originality. One of the reasons most first-time writers fail to fill they’re creative well is because they’re chasing this notion of creating something truly original. So in pursuit of this sort of “this truly original idea” people stop reading.
These people stop reading books, they stop consuming movies, TV, all of that stuff, and they focus on sort of creating an idea that’s truly original. It’s like, this is the holy grail for writers, a truly original idea. The interesting thing is a lot of story experts actually say there’s, I think it’s, seven types of stories.
So, if there are seven types of stories you can sort of almost assume that most stories have been told. And if most stories have been told then what you really need to focus on is creating a unique… a story that’s, you know, unique. What do I mean by an unique story?
What makes your story unique compared to say if you wrote a story about Red Riding Hood because that’s… that story is now public domain. So say if your story was a Red Riding Hood re-telling. If you go on Amazon there are I’m huge number of Red Riding Hood re-tellings. So, obviously your story isn’t going to be original.
That idea has already been put out there. But, that what will make your story unique is the way that you protray the character, the way that… that your point of view of the story, what you choose to put in the story, and what you choose to leave out of the story.
I guess those twists that you put on the story, and the things that you… if you sort of give it your own personal stamp if you sort of incorporate things that as a as a writer that you’re really interested in and passionate about it’s going to make the story seem different to all those other red riding-hood retellings.
Even though, technically there the same story. If you sort of focus on telling a story that’s unique and has a different message as opposed to originality, you’ll actually find that creating great ideas will become a little bit easier. Tip number three. Fill your creative well. Consider the different types of content that you like to consume.
Like reading, listening to audiobooks, watching TV, watching movies (if you’re a huge movie fan), and going to art galleries, museums that’s that you like. Sometimes watching the news and current affairs can actually help you sort of come up with great ideas.
And the whole point of sort of filling your creative well is you simply follow your curiosity. There’s a lot of writing… advice out there that says “write what you know” and that can be really boring. If you just write out of your personal experience it means you have to go and do a lot of things so then you can write about it in your book.
Not everyone, like if you’re writing, like an espionage thriller is this sort of concept… this notion of…. writing what you know is a little bit redundant. So, follow your curiosity. Pay attention to… write what you’re interested in…. interested in and write with your passionate about because when you create ideas and from the things that you’re interested in.
You’re more likely to follow it through and to be super excited about starting writing and it’s important to write stories that you love and that your passion about so it doesn’t sort of feel like a job, which leads me to the fourth and final tip.
Write down your ideas. I’m often surprised by the number of people who fail to document their ideas. The only way that you actually notice great ideas that you take the time to document them and then look back and review them and flag the ideas that really excite you, the ideas that you keep coming back to, that you can’t seem to get out of your mind.
This is how great ideas are discovered is that you write them down and you do a review. What I will sort of point out just like a mini tip with a tip is that you choose a method of recording your ideas and keep it consistent so that you’re only going to the one place to um to look over your ideas instead of having to go, “oh I have that great idea where was it? Where did I documented again?”
So I choose… I just have like a tiny moleskin journal that I use. I got a um like a special edition journal, I think it’s called ‘la petit…’ it’s the petite prince version of this and that’s what it looks like it’s got little starts. It’s upside down. and back to front. That’s what it looks like. It’s got little like a little moon and stars and cute things on there and I write all my ideas to down for my story in there.
You could use other things like Evernote or even just on the note section of your iPhone if that’s what your into. And just, sort of create a separate notebook for just ideas. So be consistent with whatever method you choose for documenting your umm ideas down, make sure you go back and review, and then flesh out those ideas that really excite you and sort of add in sort of obstacles, new twists and turns.
And this is the really the start of creating a great idea, a great story idea for your book. So those are the exact steps you need to take to come up with great ideas for your book. And I don’t want to just leave you with a whole bunch of random tips and not something point you towards the next available step, no matter how clear it may seem to things for me, I always want to leave you with an actionable steps section of the video.
So over the next week, I want you to purely focus on filling your creative well and documenting the ideas that you come up with and make sure you sort of choose one method of documentation, just make it easier for you. If you love this videos and give it a thumbs up and hit the subscribe button to receive more videos like this. Thank you for watching and I’ll see you next time.
If you have a million different ideas and are struggling to choose the right one, or if you have a pile of manuscripts that you can’t seem to finish than this video is to you. This indecisiveness is the writer equivalent of shiny object syndrome, where you jump from idea to idea and can’t seem to choose the right idea for you book.
Essentially you’re stuck in the land of indecision. I understand exactly how this feels. As a writer, I too have suffered from shiny object syndrome. Especially when it comes to choosing an idea for a book, or the classic thing that I used to do was I used to abandon writing projects in favour of bigger, better, shinier, newer things.
And over the years, in my writing journey I’ve managed to go from shiny object syndrome to reaching a place where I finished two manuscripts that I’m excited to publish and they’re in a genre that I adore. So I want to keep writing other books in that genre, in that series.
So in this video, I wanted to share with you my number one tip to choosing the right idea for your book. This is the part of the publication process, that I’ve seen many writers overthink.
Many aspiring authors fall into the trap of writing the story they think they should write or writing a story that their family and friends seem to like the most, instead of choosing… Instead of choosing one of these two options, I recommend that you choose the idea that you can’t stop thinking about.
It’s not enough for you to like a story. You really do need to love it. It’s like falling in love. You know what it’s like. I’ve been guilty of this, when you fall in love, you can’t seem to stop talking about someone and you find yourself steering everyday conversation so you can talk about your new love interest.
And because you’re so sort of in love you’re quite passionate about that person you don’t notice your family and friends rolling their eyes thinking, “oh not again.” And this is how you need to feel about your story. So right now you’re probably thinking, “why do I need to love a story idea of this much bore for I start writing it?”
The path the publishing your first book will be long and difficult. There will always be obstacles that sort of pop up along the way and other things that sort of happen that you don’t expect and that.. and these things will make your…the publication process a little longer.
So in light of this, you need to choose the idea that your ahh... that you’re so passionate about, that interests you the most that will take you through these… these difficult moments. Those moments even when you start doubting yourself you start feeling like you’re the worst writer on earth. Trust me those days will come.
One moment you’ll be thinking your story’s great and the next you’ll be crying over how bad your prose sound or the fact that your… your story is full of plot holes. If you choose a story that you’re passionate about and that you can’t stop thinking about it, then this will make the publication process a little easier, then if you where to simply write to market.
On a side note, there’s nothing wrong with writing to market, but if you’re writing in this way then you are simply treating writing a job, but this isn’t really what I’m about. In saying this, it is important for you to have an audience and for you to be writing in a genre that has demand (ie. you know there are a lot of people who want to read more of the that content.) that’s always a good sign that your book might be profitable, but for me… it’s more important to me to love what I’m writing, that’s why I left my day job.
It’s to pursue something I love and this is why it’s so important to me to write what I love. So choose that…that writing idea that you can’t seem to get out of your head, that writing idea that when you sort of think about you can’t stop yourself from writing.
When I first started writing the first draft of my James Lalonde novel, Immunity, I went from sort of writing a brief synopsis and then I dove into creating character profiles, and then from there, I started getting ideas for scenes and then I just did a complete scene outline. I ended up with about 90 scenes…and this is all in the one evening and then it was sort of around 11:00 pm and I started writing the first draft.
I literally couldn’t stop myself from writing those first few words and at the end of that week I wrote my first eleven thousand words. And I’m not saying that choosing an idea I was passion about made it, you know, super easy and I finished my first draft in a matter of weeks.
That did not happen. Just like everyone else, I made, you know, first time writing mistakes, like it took me forever to develop the habit of writing daily and that’s just, that’s key. The other thing I did was I made the mistake of distracting myself with research.
I would reach a point in my novel, instead of writing X, or just sort of putting some type of note to go back and sort of do that later, I would distract myself with research. And the other thing is I obsessed over writing the first draft which is ridiculous because we all know that’s what editing is for.
Editing is for perfecting what you’ve already written that the point of writing the first draft. And so yeah, it wasn’t all smooth sailing. Choosing an idea I was passion about is what made me keep coming back to writing Immunity, even when it was difficult, even when I was really slacking off and I wasn’t developing here the habit of writing.
Because I really loved the characters and I was passionate about the message behind my story. This is what made the difference. So, this is why I’m saying to you to choose an idea that you’re passionate about, that you can’t stop talking about, because that’s what’s going to get you get you through the tough times.
It’s going to make a difference between you know, just another manuscripts that you haven’t finished and finally finishing that first draft. Trust me, when you get to that place where you’ve finish a first draft it’s such a good feeling. It’s almost hard to describe.
It’s like you’ve fi-nal-ly finished! And, that’s exactly how I felt when I was… when I wrote those final words of Immunity. I was like, “I’m done.” I was so excited, a little over excited. So this is the reason why I sort of say to choose the idea you’re passion about…because really, it’s the only reason why I finished Immunity and Silence, because I was so…I really loved the characters and the storylines that I’ve.. that I’d chosen.
In the comments section below, let me know what actionable step you’re going to take this week to help you choose the right ideas for your book. If you loved this video’s then give it a thumbs up. And if you’re new here remember remember to subscribe to get notified for more videos just like this. Thank you for watching and I’ll see you next time.
Most everyone writes according to a process, even if we sometimes don’t realise it! There are a few who seem to write by the seats of their pants (Pantsers), but most of us need a novel writing process to guide us long the way to a successful novel.
Probably one of the most valuable novel writing tips for beginners is to follow a structure for outlining and writing. There are many out there, such as the Snowflake Method, and others that have been adapted by writers of all levels to suit their own particular needs and writing style.
The first video presents a quite detailed plan for writing a structured novel or book, with useful tips for much-needed discipline. The second addresses the problem of motivation – something which affects us all. The presentation is refreshing because it offers various ideas for overcoming writer’s block and the dreaded feeling of ‘I am not a writer!’
A Working Novel Writing Process – Advice For Beginners
Heya, book nerds! I’m Meg LaTorre, and on this episode of iWriterly, I thought we’d do something a little different. A lot of you have been asking about the adult fantasy manuscript I’m currently querying and my writing process. So I thought I’d give you a glimpse into my brain’s hard-wiring.
It’s also rather timely, as I’m about to launch into a new project. Keep in mind, every writer has their own unique process. This is just what I’ve found works for me.
Step 1: The idea Usually an idea will crop up during everyday life, and I’ll mull it over in my mind for a few days or weeks and jot down notes as I think of them.
Eventually, the idea either blossoms into a full-fledged story or withers and dies a painful death. … Not really.
Step 2: The plot outline If a story makes it past the idea phase, I’ll then write a plot outline. I really like Vivien Reis’ outline video, which I’ve referenced before in my past videos. To learn more about plot outlining, be sure to check that out. I’ll leave a link in the description below.
Step 3: The character outline I’ll usually write an outline for the main cast of characters, including their physical description, the desire(s) that drive them throughout the story, weaknesses or shortcomings of their characters, and their role in the plot.
This is how I get to know the characters, and it’s extremely helpful for me to reference this outline as I’m writing the story.
Step 4: The chapter-by-chapter outline In case you’re not starting to sense a theme, I love outlines.
At this point, I’ll do the math for my target word count. If I’m aiming for 90,000 words–and there’s an average of 250 words per page and 10-15 pages per chapter–I’ll approximate how many chapters I’ll have in the book.
I’ll write out what’s going to happen in every chapter and try to plan the inciting incident, plot arc, character development, resolution, and so on.
Step 5: Drafting + editing + outside feedback Unlike most writers, I like to get outside feedback on my work as I’m writing and edit as I go. This way, if there are any structural or plot issues, I’ll hopefully discover them early-on. I’ll usually write the first fourth of my book before I start sharing with critique partners.
Step 6: Re-write the chapter-by-chapter outline In this step, I will try to incorporate any changes I made from the original outline.
In the outline, I’ll write not just what happened during that chapter, but what world-building and character development took place. During this rewrite, I’ll usually notice parts of the story where there are plot holes or scenes that need to be added or removed. I’ll also note if there is too much or not enough world-building.
Step 7: Self-editing Once I’ve drafted the entire manuscript and rewritten the chapter-by-chapter outline with the changes I want to make, I will edit the entire novel on my own.
Step 8: Get feedback from critique partners and beta readers. At this point, I’ll start sharing my manuscript with people in bulk–either the full manuscript or chunks of the book (depending on that person’s personality/editing style). On average, I work with 10-20 critique partners and beta readers per manuscript.
Step 9: Edit + get more feedback. Once I’ve received feedback from my critique partners and beta readers, I’ll assess if there are any themes on people’s feedback, what feedback I agree will improve the story, if I need to make any big structural changes, and edit the whole manuscript again. *Note that I don’t incorporate every piece of feedback I get.
Once I’ve made changes, I’ll share my manuscript with critique partners and beta readers and the process will start all over again.
Step 10: Write a synopsis and query. Once I feel my manuscript is as good as I can possibly make it on my own, I’ll write a two-page synopsis and one-page query letter. For this part, I not only share both documents with critique partners and beta readers, but I’ll also hire freelance editors to make sure I have objectively summarized my story and nailed my pitch.
Thanks for tuning into this episode on iWriterly on my writing process. If you liked what you saw, give the video a thumbs up. It lets me know you like this type of content and want more. If you’re new here, welcome!
Consider subscribing. I post writing-related videos every Wednesday. If you have questions about anything we covered today, leave those in the comments below. As always, KEEP WRITING!
You may have heard some variation on this quote before: “Write a million words— the absolute best you can write, then throw it all away and bravely turn your back on what you have written. At that point, you’re ready to begin.”
All writers want to attain that level of mastery, but reaching the million-word mark seems like a daunting task, especially if you have problems with motivation. Maybe you have countless ideas floating around in your head, yet feel paralyzed when trying to put your imaginings into words. The root of the problem is perfectionism.
Sometimes we’re so in love with our stories that we want them to be born into the world as perfect beings. But that’s what prevents writers from moving from the imagining stage to the creating stage. You have to get used to ugly babies.
Give yourself permission to write CRAP. But this brings us to another problem: We all know we’re supposed to write every day, but we don’t do it! We waste time watching TV or daydreaming instead. So how do we FORCE ourselves to write? Here are six tips on how to do just that.
Number one: Establish a Routine. Writing at the same time and in the same place every day will help you develop good habits. Maybe you write in bed when you first wake up, or at the café you visit during your lunch hour, or at the library between classes.
As much as night owls hate to hear it, the morning is the best time to write. Why? Because humans love to procrastinate. Waiting until the evening leaves more room for excuses. Don’t fall into that trap.
Try gradually setting your alarm earlier each day until you’re waking up an hour earlier than usual, then use that time to WRITE first thing in the morning. Avoid checking your email or thinking about what else you have to do later that day.
In addition, don’t research while you’re writing. This time is for pure word-count generation only. Here’s another productivity trick: Write everywhere. On the bus, standing in line, or waiting for dinner to come out of the oven.
If you like the feel of old-fashioned pencil and paper, start carrying around a small notebook. Use note-taking apps to jot down ideas or short descriptions. There are so many short stretches of time that we waste in a day by checking Facebook or browsing Reddit.
By making writing as integral to your daily routine as sleeping or eating, you will develop good habits, and your future self will thank you.
Number two: Eliminate distractions, such as the Internet. You may be tempted to find the perfect synonym or Google pressing questions. What you need is Self-Control. Self-Control is a free app for Mac that allows you to block certain websites for a set amount of time.
StayFocusd and Leechblock are similar services that are extensions for web browsers. There are plenty of others out there as well. Sometimes our loved ones can also interrupt our writing time without knowing it.
However, if you establish a writing routine, you can tell your family, roommates, or significant other that you’re setting aside certain times of the day just for writing. It will be easier for them to respect your schedule if you follow a predictable pattern.
Music can also further delay your writing time, as you might waste time trying to find the perfect song to inspire you. Instead, give your full attention to the task at hand— putting words on the page. Save the headphones for times when you’re brainstorming ideas or plotting.
Number three: Set daily writing goals for yourself. Writing a novel is a huge task, but if you break it down into smaller chunks, it can feel more achievable. Choose what type of quota you’d like to reach. Maybe you’d like to aim for a thousand words per day, or perhaps you’d rather write an hour a day, regardless of the resulting word count.
You can also aim to complete one scene per day, whether it be the first time the protagonist meets a love interest or the final epic battle sequence. Write chronologically or start with the scene you’re most excited to put on paper.
Here’s another trick to keep in mind: “The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day when you are writing a novel you will never be stuck.”
If you get behind on your daily targets, don’t despair. Cut yourself some slack, but really try to avoid putting off your daily writing. If you skip one day, you’re more likely to skip the next one…and the next…and the next.
In addition, people often underestimate the time it takes us to complete a project, so give yourself plenty of leeway when setting goals. The Pomodoro Technique can be another great time management tool.
Set a timer for 25 minutes, and work on your project until it rings. When you’re done, checkmark a piece of paper, and take a five-minute break. Then start the timer again and repeat the cycle.
Once you have completed four of these sessions, or “pomodoros” as they’re called, you can take a longer break of 15 to 30 minutes. These rest intervals will give your brain time to relax and digest stray thoughts.
If you want to visualize your success, try the Don’t Break the Chain method. It’s very simple: Set your daily writing goal, then take a calendar, and cross off each day that you complete that goal. Your goal is to not “break the chain” or leave any boxes without an X.
If you’re a more extrinsically motivated person, you can try rewarding yourself after each writing session. It could be your favorite kind of chocolate or an episode of some guilty-pleasure TV show. Make sure you only get this reward after writing and not at any other time. You want your mind to associate writing with that reward.
Number Four: Try Alternative Forms of Writing. Writing anything is better than writing nothing at all, so if you don’t have the motivation to slug through your main work-in-progress, try something different. How about a writing prompt?
You can put your current cast of characters into the prompt situation, or you can branch out and explore new worlds. Think of these as flash fiction exercises, and try to keep your responses under a thousand words.
Writer’s Digest posts some great weekly prompts and also features a discussion section, where you can share your work and see how others interpreted the prompt. Sometimes it’s easier to write about your own life experiences and opinions rather than pull imaginary ones from thin air.
Think about how you can tap into your own emotions to convey your characters’ feelings more vividly. Write about your first love or a time you felt true fear. Meditate on how it feels to have siblings or to be an only child.
Imagine how different you would be if you grew up with a different religion, in a country on the other side of the world, or as the opposite gender. Start keeping a journal of your daily thoughts.
Fanfiction can be another great way to boost your daily writing, as you’re already working with an established world and familiar characters—but the plot and writing style are entirely your own. How about switching the perspective of the story to a minor character?
Play around with first and third-person. Do some genre-bending by adding fantasy elements to a story set in modern times or switch to an entirely different time period. Although I don’t recommend basing your own novel off of your fanfiction, this can help you find your voice and provide more storytelling practice.
Feedback from reviewers can also be beneficial for identifying your strengths and weaknesses as a writer. Sometimes you need to take your writing a little less seriously and just goof off, and that’s where roleplaying can be really effective.
Roleplaying involves writing a story with someone else, piece by piece. You’re not playing Dungeons & Dragons; you’re exchanging messages. You team up with another person to create a story and then your characters interact.
Depending on your partner, the responses can be anywhere from two sentences to a thousand words. Roleplayers either use instant messaging services like Kik or Skype for real-time conversations or long-form methods like email.
You can explore different genres, from slice-of-life and historical fiction to sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. It may seem a bit geeky at first, but you’ll be surprised by how much easier it is to pop out a thousand words when you’re responding to what someone else has written.
Plus, roleplaying can help you brainstorm new plot ideas, flesh out new types of characters, and produce more completed stories.
Number Five: Enter writing contests. Writing contests and magazines force you to adhere to specific deadlines, and that can push you to finish projects. There are also certain word count and subject you need to follow, and having that kind of box to work in can make it easier to start writing.
Say the contest is looking for a sci-fi story with romantic elements and it must be less than seven thousand words. Oh, and the topic for this month’s magazine is artificial intelligence, and the deadline is in a month.
So, over the course of a month, you can aim to finish one submission with a little writing and revising each day. The thrill of actually completing a project, even it’s just a short story, can be a great motivator, as it tells you that you’re capable of finishing things you’ve started.
Start small and look at contests posted on blogs rather than huge international competitions. Many contests and magazines don’t have entry fees. Others have small entry fees but oftentimes provide a year’s subscription to the online publication with your entry.
With any contest, there are some best practices you should follow: always read past winners to see what the judges are looking for. You should also make a checklist of the submission guidelines you need to follow, read the FAQ page, and double check the formatting requirements before you submit.
Number Six: Take classes and join groups. Creative writing classes mainly focus on short stories, but the lessons you learn can be applied to larger projects. In addition, classes give you an imposed deadline and expose you to new writing styles.
College courses can be expensive, but many community centers, libraries, local art organizations, and online communities offer inexpensive or free classes that you can join. You could also join a writing group, whether it’s a local one that meets in person or an online group.
Grab a writing buddy and use each other to stay committed to your writing goals by sharing your successes and failures, bouncing off ideas and questions, and exchanging pieces for critique.
Feedback is how you grow as a writer, and receiving constructive criticism from professionals in the writing field and from your peers is of vital importance. It’s one thing to write every day, but in order to truly become a better writer, you need to be actively revising and improving upon your work, and that involves critically analyzing your own stories and prose.
Here is one final anecdote to motivate you to write every single day of your life. Imagine two painters. The first painter has been working on his masterpiece for the past three years, meticulously choosing each color and ensuring that every line is perfect.
In that same time period, the second painter has churned out dozens of paintings, experimenting with different types of brushstrokes and color combinations and even adding other mediums.
Sure, some of them are pretty bad—awful, actually. But there a few that are quite GOOD, as if the artist has discovered his own unique style. Now apply the idea of the two painters to the writing process.
The quality of your writing is obviously important, but producing a large quantity of art can provide valuable insight. Both aspects are important, but don’t become too obsessed with one or the other.
With all this information in mind, go try the 30-day challenge. Pick one or two of the methods listed here, and stick to a routine for a full month. Maybe you’d like to write for an hour every day and mark an X on your calendar, or experiment with a daily writing prompt each morning, or even start an elaborate role-play set in feudal Japan.
Hi – I’m Anna Yeatts for Flash Fiction Online and thanks for tuning in for ’13 tips for Writing flash Fiction’ or ‘Insider Tricks to Writing Insanely Short Stories’.
I want to focus on some fundamental tips for writing flash fiction ’cause it ain’t easy getting out of the slush pile and onto an editor’s desk. These tips will teach you how.
For flash fiction online stories must be between 500 and a thousand words. Those are some tight restrictions and that’s not a lot of space for your story, but as Shakespeare said, ‘brevity is the soul of wit’.
You can sum up flash fiction in that word brevity, though. The One tweet work out. Pretend you have one Tweet to convey the main idea. Take out all unnecessary words. Nothing shows you how to whittle down the sentence to the key elements better than Twitter.
Pretend you only get one single solitary Tweet to get the idea across. Can you do it? You don’t need all those adjectives and adverbs. Just use stronger nouns and verbs to do all the heavy lifting.
How To Write a Good Fictional Story – Useful Guidelines
For example don’t say ‘walk leisurely’ when you can say ‘sauntered’. Don’t say ‘small dog’ when you can say ‘Chihuahua’. Your specificity will build a better story with a smaller word count. Exception – for dialogue tags you’re better off just using ‘said’, as other verbs related to speech tend to be distracting. Trust us – ‘said’ is your friend.
Pick a key emotion to color the story. Readers love it when they feel something. Caution – do not manipulate the reader with melodrama. Melodrama is a dramatic form that does not observe the laws of cause and effect, and then exaggerates some motion and emphasizes plot or action at the expense of characterization.
You’ve gotta earn those fields and try ending in a different emotional place than where you start. Size matters. Big ideas go in big stories and small ideas go in small stories. It seems simple, right? Okay, at least until you try to do it, or until you try to figure out if you have a big idea or a small idea.
The main difference is how you explore your concept well. With the big idea there’s a lot going on. A big idea equals a civil war breaks out in on several noble houses for the iron throne of the Seven Kingdoms, so you can think about it like a 360 degree panorama. No matter where you look, there’s that ‘big’ going on.
Next tip – limit your scenes. One scene might be best, otherwise the world building and setting could take up too much work out. The key is choosing a small but powerful moment in the character’s life and placing your story there. It’s the anti epic story.
Tip number six – pick a strong image. Give us a meaningful and memorable visual. You want a movie example? Indiana Jones shoots the fancy swordsman in Raiders of the Lost Ark or in the movie ‘Seven’ the box opening scene … speaking of characters, you don’t need more than 1 or 2. More than that and it gets dicey. Too much dialogue, too many interactions, 12 Disney Princesses sued over for a short story or novel. One day at sea, princess zoo boat for flash fiction. Just say no to character clutter.
Let’s talk about point of view and choosing the right point of view for a flash fiction story. You don’t have very much time, which means we need to jump right into your main character’s head and feel like we know them. You want a really tight point of view and if you don’t understand what’s POV as well, don’t worry – we’ll be posting some more videos about that later.
The quick answer is think about looking after someone else’s eyeballs. You’re better off using first person or third person limited points of view, which stick tight to the protagonist. Head hopping is particularly jarring in flash fiction and avoid third omniscient, which also brings in too many points of view and character baggage for such a small space.
If you’re using an admission, you’re probably bouncing around from character to character. With only a thousand words it gets really confusing to keep up with ‘who this person is’ and ‘who that person is’ and ‘where are we going’ in what tense. ‘What city you in’ and ‘what’s happening’.
Give us one character to know and care about and just with that character, one carry-on. No suitcase. There can be only one. The same goes for theme. You only have room for one. Make it count but don’t hit us over the head with it either. A subtle thing, that’s better than a hardcore one.
Humans don’t respond well to stories that are more about a lesson than entertainment. It’s ten to one Harry vs. Voldemort focused on one main conflict. Skip the subplots. JK Rowling is a master of subplots. If this were a Harry Potter flash, it would be stripped of everything else but the main conflict – Harry vs. Voldemort.
Harry wouldn’t be involved with Joe. Hermione wouldn’t campaign to free the house elves. Ron wouldn’t play Quidditch. Fred and George wouldn’t quit school to open a joke shop, and a million other things just wouldn’t fit. Remember Harry vs Voldemort. Start in the middle of the story, at the beginning of the conflict.
Avoid backstory or prologue and it’s best if you don’t use flashbacks or flash-forward either. They don’t work well in such a small space. Over the rainbow – make sure you have a character arc. There’s nothing more disappointing that a character who doesn’t grow, change or learn. Sure it happens but does it make a fulfilling experience, not particularly.
Choose an effective title. First impressions help, count, whatever. Let your title do some of the work but don’t give away the store to resolution with it either, titles that are spoilers. There you have it. Those are some of our tips for writing flash fiction and congratulations – you made it to the end of the video.
This is far longer than any flash fiction you’re gonna have to write, so well done. While you’re here, make sure to subscribe to our channel. Make sure to hit us up on Facebook and Twitter or on our website http://flashfictiononline.com. When you have those stories ready, go ahead and submit them, our submission link is there as well.
These aren’t hard and fast rules by any means. There are plenty of great exceptions out there but we’re confident that if you follow these aspects then you use the idea of brevity. You keep it short sweet and simple and to the point. You’ll have a lot easier time crafting some great fiction out there if you use this guide. Come back and let us know how it went. We want to hear from you.
If you have any questions leave them for us in the feedback and we’ll try to make videos and answer those questions for you as well. Just don’t forget – writing takes time. Just keep at it keep going anything you want. It’s never gonna come easy and writing is one of those things.
How to write fiction for beginners – Lessons from a Pro
Have you ever wanted to be a writer? If you ever thought that maybe you had something to say that other people might enjoy reading or listening to? My name is George Weir and I want to talk to you today about writing, particularly fiction writing.
I suppose the first thing you have to have to be a writer is to have a story or an idea or something that you want to communicate. Obviously, if you don’t have an interest in that area you’re not going to communicate well, and the person reading what you’re writing isn’t going to be very interested in it as well.
So what you can do is find that one thing that is right for you to communicate and I’m sure that you have some area of your life that that begs the question – ‘Would someone be interested in this? Would someone want to read about this?. I’m sure there is.
I talked to a guy at a book signing one time. He said, ‘George, you know I’m an older guy and I’ve had just this long life and I’ve done many things. I thought about writing but I wasn’t sure, you know, whether or not that other people would be interested in reading what I had to say. Also whether or not I would really have something to say’.
When I was talking to him I said, ‘Well, you know it may seem at times that your life is a barren wasteland. But f you were to really look at that wasteland, all the dust and the sand laying out there, and if you were to find some old sign buried under that sand and dust it off, hold it up and take a look at it, you might find some interest there.’
You might find something worth communicating. Something that’s important to you, so really it’s something that is important to you, that’s what we’ll communicate. Because that’s really all that writing is is – communication – don’t forget it.
I guess for the next point that sort of begs the question ‘Are you a storyteller’? Do you have something to write about?. There’s a little test to find out whether or not you are. Are you the kind of person that when you go to the camp-out, you can tell the story by the fire and have everyone’s attention and have them hanging on your every word?
How’s your timing? What do people say to you after you finish telling a story? Do people laugh at your jokes? If you want to take a look at writing, what writing is, it is the end result of evolution and our oral tradition.
Anciently, writing was handed down from father to son, or the village elder to the junior by word of mouth, long before there was ever any any writing of any kind. That essential element in writing has never gone away. In fact, I would say that it’s the prime requisite.
Can you tell a good story? I would submit that, as your readers that will tell you whether or not you can tell a good story. Now we all want to take a look at ourselves and not be too critical and not be too harsh. At the same time, be open and honest with ourselves. That’s kind of dancing a fine line there.
What you do not want to do is get up in front of a writing group and read your story in front of a writing group. However, if you’ll share your story with a friend who will be honest with you, I think that you’ll get far.
So is writing an art? Would we say that it’s one of the liberal arts? Is it one of the humanities? Is it a discipline? Could it be a science? Possibly. Regardless of which of these things you happen to think that it is, it all boils down to one thing and that is this thing called B-I-C, a very important thing, which stands for ‘butt in chair’.
You have to actually sit down, and this is going to be hard for me to tell you this, but you have to actually sit down and write. You have to bang out copy. You have to write and write and write. You’ll have to read a lot too. You have to be very interested in everything around you and you have to be very interested in what other people have to say.
You have to be able to get what they say and to be able to communicate. You’re not going to be able to do that unless you develop the habit of sitting and writing. Now I have never been able, I’ve been writing for 25 years, I have never been able to fit this activity into a certain time slot.
God bless the guys who can, and the women who can, I’m just not that that way. It’s a creative thing with me. There was a great writer named Richard Bach who wrote the Illusions of a Reluctant Messiah. He is famous for Jonathan Livingston Seagul.
He was a great writer and he said that essentially he couldn’t stand writing. He would, you know, he hated sitting at the typewriter and writing but that when his muse or a story idea would get him, it would grab him and drag him kicking and screaming over to the typewriter set him down and force him to write.
Really that’s what you’re looking for in your story idea. Does it compel you, because if it doesn’t compel you, it’s not going to compel your reader. It should compel you to write and then you should have the discipline to be able to write.
In a future video I’m going to talk about developing your voice and your style as a writer, and after that in another video we’ll talk about some tips for a short story writing. I want to thank you so much for listening to me. I really hope this information has been helpful. I want you to go to my website and download this free short story, and you’re welcome to leave your comments with me.
You can contact me directly through my website, and I really appreciate it. Please give me a thumbs up if you liked this video …