By PD Martin
I’m about to start a new novel and I thought it might be interesting (especially for aspiring writers!) for me to blog about the process. For a start, while I’ve titled this post ‘Chapter 1′ that’s not the first thing I’ve done. I very rarely start a book by sitting down and writing the first chapter without some preparation. And this new novel is no exception. I’m moving into a new genre (again!) and so my first step was to read some of the books selling in this space. What do I like about these novels? What do I LOVE about these novels? And what were the things I didn’t like so much?
Next I came up with about five ideas that would work as novels and wrote a paragraph or two about each one. Then it was decision time – I selected one idea to be the first in this new direction.
For this novel, my next step was to plot the novel out. While I don’t want to reveal the specific genre/style (yet) I will say that the most important element in the genre is to have a multitude of layers. So, in this case it made sense to look at plot first. I decided to keep it simple. Rather than using a plot tool like Blake Snyder’s beat sheet, or even the three-act structure I simply wrote out each chapter/scene in bullet points. This is different to the plot tools and techniques I’ve used before, but somehow it seemed right. There are two viewpoint characters that I’m alternating between, so it was literally the person’s name, then a few bullet points on what happened and/or how they felt in that scene.
Next (and this is where I’m at now) is character development. I’ve started with my female viewpoint character and I’m on istock.com looking at images that look like the girl I’ve got in my head. I’ve set up a lightbox called ‘Jodi’ (yes, that’s my main character’s name) and I’m filling it with photos. Soon I’ll narrow it down to 3-10 photos that capture the character or her mood. Maybe it will be the hair of this woman, with the sense of carefree attitude in this pic, but with the ability to stare into your soul in her calmer moments. We all have different faces, so no ONE photo will be the one. My character is going to experience highs and lows in the novel, so I like to have visual reminders of how she looks happy, thoughtful, sad, etc. These pics come together with the image I already have of her to form MY Jodi. It’s visual, but it’s also more than that.
This is my current lightbox (still working on it though!). It gives a good idea of the visual element of my character development process.
Next stop: My character questionnaire!
And here’s a summary for the cheats/time-poor writers out there
1. Research genre.
2. Come up with several ideas in that space and select the one that’s calling to you the most. (Note: 1 & 2 are often/usually done in the opposite order to my example…the idea comes first, then you research genre).
3. Use a plot technique that works for you to plot your novel (if you want to do it before you start writing).
4. Work on your characters – I recommend choosing photos that look like your projected image of him/her and also completing a character questionnaire to drill deep into the character’s personality and psyche.
I’ll let you know how I’m going on 1 May.