First off I want to give a huge shoutout to everyone new to the blog. It’s such a pleasure to finally be on WordPress, and I am loving the experience. The excitement and the structure of it all makes me thrilled to blog even more than I did before (on Blogger), and this gives me a nice break (but also practice) from writing.
As promised, here’s the second part to my segment about writing your next story. If you missed part one, please check it out and let me know if between the two of these I left out anything major. I am so eager to hear you thoughts on the topic too. I cannot stress enough that everyone has a different way of writing a story, so don’t hesitate to add in your own tips in the comments below. And now without further ado…
Whether you have a story in your head or not, there’s no way around outlining. Even with your story idea, characters, and a working title it’s going to be difficult to altogether skip outlining. Everyone’s preferred method is different, and granted there might be writers who say “hey, I never outline!” But I’m certain at some point or another you open up a journal or Word document and write something down for later. Unless you have an amazing memory –which in that case, you deserve more credit than can be given.
So while you can outline however you want and as often (or not often) as you want, there is one rule to keep in mind. Never let your outlines define your story. Never let them overwhelm the story you’re trying to tell. Personally I’ve outlined in different ways (depending on the book I’m writing), and sometimes I keep an entire journal just for outlines. Each chapter’s importance is written out all the way until the very end. And that’s fine. But don’t have your outlines force your hand into writing the story like an essay. Sometimes your characters are going to want to tell the story. Their feelings or actions might jump ahead of what was planned or take a turn (for better or for worse). Sometimes what you think will happen doesn’t happen in that chapter (or at all in some cases). And the important thing is to remember all of this is okay. No matter what your method is, your story needs to have feelings running through it. Remember you can always change your outline or add more to it as you go.
We’ve talked about developing ideas, outlining, and first chapters. While I touched briefly upon building your characters, I wanted to talk more about this. Characters are the key to everything. Ever read a story without a character? Without them the story can’t happen, and without them your readers have no way or relating to anything in the story or toward the characters. The way you choose to develop them and create them is an unique process. Each character, though fictional, needs to be given life. You are the reason for their existence, and you’ll be in charge of their survival from the moment you write (or type) their name until their death (or the end of their story). I won’t go too deep into characters, since it’s a large topic for another post, but don’t forget you need them before you write the first chapter. You need them even as you’re writing down the plot and determining the genre. You might not have names right away or know their appearance or have ideas about their backstory. But develop them with your plot; the two go hand in hand. One does not exist without the other. Give life to them, and they in return will give life to your story.
Lastly, you’ll want to have some level of organization. A writer’s workspace isn’t always the cleanest place, but where you store the important information (ex: your outlines, character backstories, notes, questions, etc.) is going to affect how quickly (or slowly) you work. If this novel isn’t your first one odds are you’re working against a deadline. If you lose important paperwork or lose track of a chapter you’re writing that is going to slow you down significantly. I think it’s safe to say we’ve all had that scare of “oh no did I back up my entire novel?” I won’t go as far as saying make a copy of everything, but you’ll definitely want to know where everything is and have multiple ways to access it. Keep journals, papers, and clipboards all in one place. Dedicate journals for specific purposes, title your notes, and back up your novel (send it to your email and put another copy on a USB). You never know when something unexpected could happen, and you don’t want to lose any of your work. For those of us who have we can tell you, it’s not fun.
And that’s all I’ve got! There’s likely some points I’ve skipped over (or should have gone into more detail about), and I apologize in advance. Leave a comment with any additions; I want to hear about your own methods too.