A NOVEL JOURNEY
Writing & Publishing A Novel
Writing reminds me of cooking.
Only I write much better than I cook or bake. Still, I’m often drawn to recipe boxes in thrift shops or discount stores because they are compact, whimsical containers for my brainstorming notes.
I plan my stories by their ingredients.
Typically to get started I explore four categories. Each one helps me envision the world splayed out in front of me and sidestep major problems. I also need this all to come together before I begin the actual storymapping. A pantser by nature, that just doesn’t work for me with longer works. So, with a bit of whiteout and a few recipe cards, I figure out the following:
Characters – Who are the important people? Honestly, I rarely start with the primary character. Often I’ve seen someone walking or talked to someone in line at the grocery and feel like they need a spot in this world I’m creating. The hero (or anti-hero) arrives after secondary folks take their place, waiting for the star attraction.
Places – Where should the different pieces of the story take place? I lean heavily on pictures for this one, studying details and trying to create the keystones for the story. This is a great moment to mimic moods and tone with those locales.
Events – What are the major happenings that change or shape the story? Thinking about their ripple effects lets me see the big picture while also adding secondary storylines. I imagine them as rocks in a pond and the rings those rocks make when dropped become the beats of the story.
Imagery – What are the governing images in the story? Even though this one isn’t a novel in verse, I am forever changed by the idea of an image system, something I first picked up through Cordelia Jensen’s awesome article. (SO excited to take a mini-course with her at Highlights this summer.) Click HERE for the full article but essentially establishing images and language that mesh and mean something help establish a lyrical continuity throughout the work.
Once these ingredients are all dumped into the proverbial mixing bowl, it's time to cook the story and plan ahead.