Monday, April 27, 2009

Character Outlines

Over the weekend I tried to get some outlining done on this novel. As before, I got stuck on getting the details down. However, this time I leaned the source of my frustrations from previous attempts at outlining. I was trying to work out too much detail for each of the scenes. So, I decided to work on the climaxes for the novel. I was a little more successful there, but only for the first third of the book. At this stage of writing a novel I think I only need to have the basics of the events of the story in mind rather than a detailed description of each scene. More on the reason below.

Setting the plot aside, I decided to do some work on my characterization. First, I worked on the main character. This is my new main character due to the story changes I made a few months ago. I am getting a much better feel of who she is and what she wants in life. This is something I was unaware of previously. She is coming more alive now than ever. In fact, as I developed her character I came to get a better feel for one of my supporting role characters. So much so that I can see a strong dynamic between these characters building.

As I stated above, I think only need the basics of the storyline at this stage because as I developed the main character (MC) and this supporting character I discovered scenes that I could place in the novel that would play out the dynamic relationship these characters have. These scenes would never exist had I not developed the characters as I did today.

With this experience in mind, I may later take the last two thirds of this project and draft up a very basic sequence of events. Using those basic events I can then delve deeper into the minds of these characters. In addition, since I have two new characters being introduced in the middle third, I can take that time to develop their characters and build scenes based upon their personalities.

Overall I am quite pleased with these results. I think, for me at least, having a basic outline of a novel may be important before I begin characterization. I don't know that this technique will continue to work on this project or any future projects. However, I will go along with it as long as it works.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Returning to Original Project

Fellow aspiring writer, Jeff Baerveldt, convinced me to not give up on my first novel project. I had only set it aside, but I did come to realize the source of my frustrations. I had made some changes to the story and characters but I did not complete the job of fully developing those characters and the world around them to match those changes. Thus, I need to go back to the world building aspect of that project.

I will still track my efforts as I progress through the project. I hope to include information of what steps I go through in order to complete the novel. This may include what world building aspects I completed on a specific day or what characterization I did. I had the thought also of tracking how much time I put into each of these. That may be more work than it's worth but I would be interested in knowing how much time goes into writing a novel.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Gathering Characters

I put together a list of the characters that I intend to use in this novel. In addition to the main character, I have a primary character, several secondary characters and the antagonist. What I will do over the next few weeks is develop their history and characterization.

I intend for this novel to be character-driven rather than plot-driven. My previous book was more about the plot. Unfortunately, I did not take the time to draw out the characters sufficiently. When I return to that novel I will take better care in learning about who those characters are. This time I want to concentrate more on the characters of this new project so that I have a better idea of who they are and how they will react to the events I will throw at them.

I have also written a paragraph that briefly describes the general plot of the story. When I begin pitching this novel I will need to refine this summary into more of a "high concept" description. However, I think I will wait on that until I have a better idea of the characters and their personalities. That way I can present a feel of the characters in the hook that I will use for querying.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

New Novel Project (Project: Life)

In the last few days since setting aside (not giving up) on my last novel attempt I have tried to come up with a new idea. This has been a struggle. I came up with a few ideas for starting a few novels but none of them worked for me. I could not come up with their overall storylines. On the way home from work tonight I came up with a new story idea. I think all of the articles on "high concept" helped me with this. If you're struggling with your next novel idea perhaps you ought to do a search on "high concept novel" and do some reading. Alexandra Sokoloff has a post on premise that is also a good read for this.

I have always been interested in what goes into getting a novel completed. Other aspiring writers may be curious as well. So, I will attempt to track the progress of this new project from its inception, through its lifespan, up to completion (and, hopefully, publication). I may make mistakes and backtrack along the way but this is a learning experience for me. If so, hopefully others will be able to learn from my mistakes.

For this new project, what I came up so far is the "high concept" of the book. It's a single sentence, though not detailed. In addition, it would be more of a "middle concept" since it may not attract the attention a true "high concept" idea would. However, from this I have an entire novel churning through my head--beginning, middle, end--whereas the previous ideas gave me very little from which to work.

In short, I came up with the "high concept" of this new novel project and will start from there.

Friday, April 17, 2009


I have not done much writing this week at all. This new outline has given me all kinds of trouble. I'm thinking of setting it aside for now and coming up with another novel idea. It has been a long time since I've done any writing so that may take me a while (at least to come up with a decent idea that has not already been done to death). I may just go to the bookstore and go on a spending spree.

I read a post this week (don't recall the source) where someone sent a novel manuscript to TOR and it took THREE YEARS to get a rejection; he did that two more times. That's just crazy. Definitely makes sense to start working on the next novel while waiting (I was planning on that anyway). In that time you could complete a trilogy by the time you get a rejection. The sad thing is that you cannot submit simultaneously during that time.

For now I will work to come up with a new novel idea. This current one is giving me so much trouble. Perhaps I'm only now realizing that it was not very good in the first place. Either that or my writing skills have gotten rusty after ten years. I prefer the former.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Organic versus Structured Writing

I have come to the conclusion that I am not an organic writer. Some writers are able to sit down at a black screen (or sheet of paper) and start wrting their novel from beginning to end with little or no outlining. Now, I have "written by Muse" before where a scene is so vivid that it flows straight to the page. However, I could never do an entire novel that way. For me, I need to have an outline before I write. I am the type of writer that requires structure.

I searched the Internet for authors in my genre to see how they write. Orson Scott Card (OSC) has some nice articles in his Writing Class section, which gave me a start. In addition, I read several methods of fellow aspiring writers on OSC's forums. Jeffery A. Carver's online course can be of help as well. However, none of these seemed right for me.

One day, as I looked for sites and blogs of literary agents, I came across Alexandra Sokoloff's blog (author of The Harrowing and The Price). She describes her Index Card Method where she writes the scenes of her novel on index cards (one scene per card) then organizes them into three acts. I won't go into much detail here, but I suggest you check it out if you're seeking guidance on how to get started on you next novel. She has several other posts on her blog that I have found very helpful.  I will try the index card method on my next novel. She breaks down the novel in an intuitive manner (for me at least) that I feel will help me get past some of the writer's block I have been experiencing.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Choosing the Main Character

I made quite a few changes to the world history of my novel and added some deeper characterization. These changes have improved the story quite a bit. Having the history more defined has helped me get a better feel for the story.

Unfortunately, I have come to the conclusion that the novel is no longer my current main character's story to tell. I've been fighting with that for a week now because that character has been the center of the story for a long time. I wasn't planning on reusing much of the original writing so I'm not too upset at having to write additional chapters. However, I was on a roll with the scene writing and now I need to re-think the outline.