Plotters tend to love a good roadmap to turn to when it comes to tackling their stories. Pre-writing a novel is a surefire way to avoid a messy draft and more revisions than you’d want. In this article we’ll discuss some steps for you to consider so your drafting process is smooth. Bonus to this also? Revisions will also go quicker so you can publish faster. Let’s dive in!
1. Organize Yourself.
You’ll want to decide on a writing tool. Whether you choose Microsoft Word, Google Docs, Scrivener, or good old pen and paper, knowing where your story will be written is important. Whatever is the most comfortable for you, is best. Choose the tool that will keep your flow going, will help you chart through the story with a bit of speed, and will foster an enjoyable writing experience.
You’ll also want to consider back-ups as well. Nothing is worse than writing an entire novel, upwards of 100K, and then losing all of your material without a back-up of your manuscript anywhere. Trust me, I’ve been there. Consider Dropbox, Google Drive, and especially, an External Hard Drive, for backing up your work. If you’re writing your story by hand – taking pictures of the pages and keeping those stored somewhere you’ll remember, will be important.
Finally, be sure to have a set place for where your writing will happen. This will double with helping you build your writing habit regardless of what your life and schedule look like. Whether it be the kitchen counter, your patio table, or in your office – specify the place you’ll write and keep all necessary materials there so you can easily dive in each day.
2. Choose A Genre and Know Your Audience.
Writing is easy when you know what you’re writing. Not to mention, this helps with research, books to read for study, and also for sourcing inspiration along the way. Chances are, what you love to read is what you’ll want to write. Start there. Then consider this genre (and sub-genre’s) audience. Writing YA Fantasy? You’ll be writing to passionate teens who think in extremes, as well as Millennials to Gen X’ers who like a fast-paced tale that follows characters diving deep into real-world themes while facing insurmountable odds along the way.
3. Peruse Themes.
The beauty of themes is it can be vast or specific. And whichever way you choose to go, will work for your story. Take love, for example. You can simply choose for your story to hinge upon the general term and weave these threads through your book. Or, you can decide to dig deep and get specific. Love lost? Love stolen? Forbidden love? Unwanted love? Misconstrued love? Depending on the story you plan to write, knowing the theme you wish to unveil will help with developing character’s, their arcs, and the world that will unfold around them.
4. Brain Dump and Mind Map.
These two terms are sometimes used interchangeably. Nevertheless, they’re two different processes.
Brain Dumping is the act of pouring out every idea that comes to mind on a piece of paper, or a blank document. Bits of dialogue, descriptions of food and fashion, ideas for parts of the world, and thoughts on different characters that may make a presence.
Mind Mapping on the other hand is taking the ideas already dumped on the page and connecting them all like a wide spiders web. It’s the meticulous process of combing through all of your ideas and seeing which ones connect best with one another. Which ideas are related, and how they can be grouped for fleshing out scenes to form your outline.
Take some time to do both. Brain dump every single little idea you can think of. Don’t be surprised if more develop as you write them down. Then, begin to Map them together, grouping related thoughts.
And everything it entails. Take some time in this step. Slowly bring the people you see in your mind to the page. Who are they? What’s their name? What’s their story? Write down each character you foresee making an appearance. Then, in order of importance, tackle their backstories. This is SO important. Far more will surface while developing backstory than just answering a few questions in a questionnaire about the characters. From their, you can pull out motives, intent, and really begin to develop their character arcs.
Be sure to go a step further and get visual! Ahem, this is FUN! Pinterest is so great for this. Consider Storyboarding through this part of the pre-writing process. What’s awesome now with Pinterest, every board has a Sections feature. This is essentially, a folder within a folder, if you’re familiar with digital storage platforms. That said, you can create a board for the book, and create Sections within the board tailored to your characters. Then within these Sections, you can pin away everything you’d like to visually know about them. What they look like, what they eat, where they live, what weapons they prefer, what kind of magic they can wield, and so on.
6. World Building.
This is truly one of my absolute favorite parts of pre-writing. Or the writing process in general. There’s just too much you can do here. In a general scope, I advise tackling the main parts of world building.
Start off with a map. Whether your characters go to two places or fifteen. Whether they talk about one street or all parts of the continent. You can do this on a piece of paper, scratch lines into a digital notebook app, or even play around on artist tools online. Regardless, be sure to sketch out a quick map with locations, mountains, hills, water sources, etc.
Be sure to address these in some way if it’s necessary for your story:
- Geography and Cosmology
- Government and Society
- Culture and Religion
- History, Intersocietal Affairs, and Natural Disasters
- Fantasy Species and Unique Supernatural Beings
You can find more details in this article: World Building Blueprint: An Epic Guide to Building Your World From Scratch.
World building is incredibly fun, but a serious black hole in the writing process. Don’t spend more time in this step than you need to. Tackle which regions have alliances. But don’t waste time naming location specific flowers. Have fun, and build away! Also, the same Storyboarding process you’d entertain for crafting your characters, consider doing the same for your world building.
It’s no secret writing a novel is a huge undertaking. But seriously, it’s also tons of fun. These are just a few things to think about when you’re getting ready to dive into your next novel. Don’t overwhelm yourself. And don’t bite off more you can chew. Keep fun at the center, and give yourself permission to explore, think of the wildest ideas, and build the word and story you love. Happy pre-writing!