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How to start a novel

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by skip.knox, Jul 9, 2019.

  1. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    summondicesummondice, thanks for contributing. Like you, I'm finding the discussion both interesting and useful.

    The process you describe sounds like how I wrote my first novel. I don't know how I could have approached it any other way. I had armloads of things that *could* happen a few things I thought had to happen that turned out didn't, and a mere thimble full of things from those early days that wound up in the final version. But without that armload at the start, I wouldn't have found some of the secondary characters that appear, would never have hit on how the story ends, and very likely wouldn't have got the thing written at all. Stumbling forward still counts as progress!

    That said, I can't do the next one like the first one. Every project has unfolded in its own way. I like to think my attempts at wrangling (being orderly) have had at least some positive effect, but I'll never really know. I do stand in dumbfounded awe at my fellow writers who somehow manage not only to see the shape of their story early on, but manage to make the finished product look like that vision. To this writer, it looks like some sort of magic trick. :)
  2. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

    I’m similar, I know the ending damned near first... might be a basic concept before the ending... but I don’t work directly backwards. My tendency is to find the omega then the alpha, and fill in no particular order. For instance, I know how the world ends, but I’ve no idea how many books it’ll take to get there, heh heh.

    I never outline, a detailed outline will end my writing, I hate them. Took me a long time to figure that out. Pure pantsing doesn’ work for me either, took a long time to figure that out, as well. Once I have the Alpha & Omega, I want a few set piece scenes that are the key moments. Then! I just write to fill in the blanks. And oddly enough, it all fits in a three act plot when its done despite never thinking about it in this way, heh heh.

    Waypoint Writing... pantsing between the set pieces.

    I could add... I had the ending written for the end of the series before the ending of book one was written. Details will change, but the gist has been written for a couple years.

  3. Malik

    Malik Auror

    I'd suggest that this might be the problem, right here. I knew that Dragon's Trail was going to end with Jarrod looking out at the sea feeling proud of himself. I just knew it. I wasn't even sure what he was so proud of; I just had the scene. I could see the enormous breakers and the flumes like jewels in the sunset with the ringed moon going down behind an island, and it was perfect.

    I knew that I didn't want him to have defeated the Big Bad--because him fighting the Big Bad was the point of the series--so I knew that there had to be a fight with someone else, maybe with one of the Big Bad's henchmen, some huge epic battle sequence, before that. I knew it because I knew how he felt.

    What led to that fight? (An attempt to rescue the princess.)

    How was she captured? (The Big Bad.)

    What were they all doing there? (A negotiation.)

    And so on, all the way back to Jarrod on Earth, in an illegal, off-the-books duel outside a Renfaire with a wizard--a real goddamned wizard--in the crowd, looking on.

    How did the wizard get there?

    Aaaand, opening scene.

    I didn't have every single plot point, of course. But I plot by flow charts on yellow legal pads, and then once I have a good start point, I draw it all out again forwards and fill it in. The first draft takes care of the rest. Mostly.
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  4. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    I know how Smughitter ends and I haven't actually written much of it. But in laying out the story it wasn't anywhere near my starting point, and I don't yet know how the series (5 books I believe) will end. I had made a list of all the different ways a fight between Haifen (going for his target) and Aliffe trying to stop him could play out. At some point I went back to this list and decided that one seemed like a big "book end" piece. And then I thought, "After that happens, what would turn everything around?" If I spoiled the whole book that would make a lot of sense. But who are the Hush Friends Bashter mentions in the dialogue posted above? That's a question Aliffe doesn't yet know to ask, but it's a game changer for her.

    I guess I'll advocate for knowing the ending early, but wow to the strict backwards process from Malik.
  5. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    That helps. Because I *don't* have a clear closing scene for Frederick. I have possibilities, but so far they feel conditional. If I choose one sort of path, then the closing scene is A, but another path leads to B. I'll get there, but the route may be circuitous.

    It was with Goblins at the Gates. I knew the goblins would be defeated, but I didn't know exactly how. Once I figured out how, I still had to decide on who did the defeating. I was far along before that path became clear.

    Once it did, though, I'm pretty sure I do remember working backward. Because I knew I had to get certain characters to certain places, both physically and psychologically, and that drove a good deal of pacing as well as plotting over the last quarter or so of the book. So maybe it's just that endings for me don't arrive until I'm well along.
  6. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

    This is similar to my current situation.

    I have four characters I'll need to resolve by the end. My wizard, his apprentice, a young sociopath wizard who's begun killing wizards (a serial killer), and a wizard entrenched in the capital city playing a major power game.

    There are two outcomes I'm weighing, and this decision depends on whether the serial killer is the main villain (my original plan) or that power-playing wizard is revealed to be even worse (an idea I'm liking more and more.)

    As for my two main characters, they'll end up at about the same place either way. This doesn't mean I have a pure vision already of their final state, but I do know the master-apprentice relationship will be over.
  7. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

    On endings, the consensus, or most common approach reported in this thread, seems to be to have a general idea for the ending but not necessarily all the details. At least, initially. Perhaps it's to have a couple or three general ideas for the ending in the back of the mind; but, on the other hand, is this a single general idea that might vary in two or three details, yet to be determined, rather than two or three ideas for an ending? Semantics, heh.

    Having a general idea for the ending—then working back from it to discover the details that will lead to that ending, before writing? (While simultaneously giving that ending more detail, through following this process.)

    Having a general idea for the ending—then working forward toward it, discovering the details as you write the story? (And yes, giving that ending more detail as you develop more about the story.)

    A lot of the process from initial conception to completion of the story may be this settling upon details. Devil's in the details, yes.

    Which details are needed before writing the first scene—or for any future scene?

    I've already mentioned that I've discovered I need a firmer understanding of the initial conditions of the main characters before I write, but I didn't give much detail to other things I've been developing before I write. I didn't give a fuller description of the process I've been using.

    I knew I wanted a master-apprentice wizarding story. But I also knew almost immediately that I didn't want it to be typical. From the moment I thought of "master-apprentice wizard duo," I had flashes of other stories, some of my favorites, that had done it. And in my head, when I thought of the details of those duos, I thought, No, not that. It's not that I found fault with previous examples, but I felt a need to make this one different in some way.

    One of the first follow-up thoughts was, It must be wrong. Something in that relationship must be counter to "right." I needed a fundamental conflict inherent in the situation.

    Simultaneously, I had begun to wonder where this story occurs. I have a map with multiple lands on it that I've already used for creating other stories—technically, for conceptualizing those stories, not fully writing any of them, although I've started a couple—and here was a little piece of land, a nation, I hadn't used yet. The thing about this world is that each nation/people has a different relationship to magic, different types of magic. I decided to use this nation for my setting. This helped. I decided this nation must have wizards, and more than just a handful, but not as many practitioners of magic as some of the other lands. But because I wanted the magic practiced by my master wizard to be extremely powerful, and given that there would be about 30+ wizards in this smallish land, I had to find a way to make such a place sensible.

    I won't go into all the details of this land, but almost as soon as I started figuring out how to make the wizarding situation in that land sensible, I hit upon the inherent conflict in my apprentice-master wizarding duo. He's not supposed to have an apprentice, for various reasons relating to the way that land and the wizards in it regulate such relationships.

    I began a text page in Scrivener to describe this land's wizarding situation, and most of the paragraphs addressed specifically the process of acquiring apprentices and how the practice of magic is regulated in this land. For the first time, I also wrote that page, still continuing to add to it, in the voice of an omniscient narrator, almost like someone from in-world describing the situation to a reader. This, incidentally, was the first such page in Scrivener. This is the key initial circumstance. At some point, I'm going to have to discover the other details of that society, heh.

    But then, given that he's not supposed to have an apprentice, how did he come to have one, and how have they been managing for the last ten years beyond the view of the powers that be? Ah, haha, that led to so much, not only to various backstories but also to the greater conflicts to come. It suggested the outlines of a plot.

    Do I have all the details of that plot? No, not yet. In fact, I'm pretty sure those details will need to be discovered as I progress while writing, although the general ideas behind the plot are rather strong right now, and I also have the outlines (in my head) of various events and situations. Do I have all the details of the ending yet? Nope. I do have a general idea for how these two characters and their relationship will change at the ending. I know the two primary antagonists will be defeated (at least, the threat from those two will be eliminated), and I know the status quo in this land will be changed. But many of the specific details, going from inciting incident to that ending, are unknown to me.

    At this point, I don't know at what point those details of the ending will become clear to me. I do suspect that I'll have far more clarity by some point in the second act. If I had to admit putting all my eggs in a basket, then I'd say that having a firm grounding in the initial condition of these characters, their world, and the two primary antagonists, ought to force an ending on its own. I mean, as things unfold, butterfly-effect-ish.
  8. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    I got a little caught up in reacting to Malik's process. But I would say my image of Smughitter's ending is pretty clear. Of course there are details that are hazy, but not many, not the important ones. There's the last fight between the two characters. Then the Hush Friends reveal themselves. There's a big fight. Then a fairy bargain. There's a new POV for one very feelsy chapter. Then in the last chapter Haifen reflects on what just happened and Aliffe speaks with Bashter. End of book 1.

    IMO, its a good idea to have an ending very early in the process because it confirms which story elements you're actually using and whether you have enough in your story for memorable ending. If you pants the book the whole way through I have no doubt you can figure out the ending.... but will it be memorable? Will it make the readers react? I believe a lot of writers don't give themselves enough to work with in their story. There's too few story elements.

    There's a quote somewhere, attributed to Einstein, that if he had an hour to work on a problem, he'd spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about the solution. To me, the ending of your book is the solution. It shouldn't be hard to figure out. The characters develop their confidence, use their tricks, overcome the conflict, and leave off feeling satisfied, except for the loose ends. If someone can't figure out their ending, I think there's a chance that it's that you just don't want to admit the ending is boring, and that's a sign that you need to add a new story element (another character, conflict, something) to your novel that will have an impact on that ending.
  9. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    I'll suggest something else can happen with endings; namely, that there can be multiple ending possibilities. Since they are all ideas at this stage, none are boring--boring is what happens when the story gets written. Ideas are *always* lively, or at least have that possibility.

    Anyway, there's also the matter of scope with an ending. If I say only Frederick becomes emperor, that's an ending all right, but it's not the *story* ending. To me, an ending means the story ending, which means a satisfactory conclusion in reader terms. For my story, it means knowing how Frederick has been changed, or at least what challenges he overcame. It means also knowing what happened with his two antagonists.

    As the author, this means I have to decide what changes I want to work in Frederick. The external story gives few clues to this. I'm pretty sure that once I know how I want Fritz to end up, I'll know how to arrange Otto's and Maddig's story around that. I'm pretty sure I'm not going to start writing until I have that worked out.

    I did it the other way with Goblins at the Gates. I knew the "ending" -- Constantinople is saved from the goblins -- from the start. That wasn't the story ending, but I didn't really grasp that until I'd started writing. A lot. Once I knew the story ending, I had to do quite a bit of rewriting to shape the story toward that end.

    So, to reply to my own question, in that space between idea and first scene, one crucial step is to suss out the story ending. This thread has helped me clarify my thinking on this.

    I'm pretty sure another crucial step is to create some sort of structure. It could be as short as a one-page set of waypoints, or as elaborate as a full scene list, but there needs to be some notion as to where the story starts and where the crisis points lie.

    From there, stuff starts feeling more optional. How deep the character sketches, how detailed the settings, how elaborate the magic, cast of supporting characters, all that and more feels like can vary by story and by author. For myself, I'll probably at least have the MCs and their cronies, a list of the settings, plot points, and a description of the theme. All provisional, of course. Sort of like packing for a trip to a new place, where I don't really know what I'll need, but I can be pretty sure of what I don't want to omit.
  10. Jstephens2087

    Jstephens2087 New Member

    This has been an insightful read. Everyone does everything a different way - but I normally get the ending(s) down. Or what I want from the ending anyway. Then the start. I fill in the blanks, I write down all the sub plots I think would be good for the story, and I fix them into place in the timeline. I then rewrite every idea I have because it all sucks. Then I start writing the novel itself.
  11. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

    That is very clear.

    Sometimes, semantics stirs up silt, muddying things. If you can forgive placing the murder at the end of the story rather than near the beginning, then the game of Clue comes to mind as a metaphor for what I meant by details for the ending.

    The butler did it in the library with a candlestick.

    That's the idea. But if I were designing a story that ended with that murder, I would eventually need more details before writing the scene. Does the victim see it coming? Is there a fight? Is the victim wielding a weapon also, or does he pick one up? What are the relative strengths and weaknesses of these two? What has been the shape of their relationship? What is the conversation between victim and murderer, either just before the murder occurs, or during the fight? Does the murderer say something after the deed is done—and is there a witness (happened to walk in or was hiding behind a tapestry?) Am I, the reader, left with the feeling that this murderer really will get away with it, or that he will be caught, or that he plans to turn himself in? Does he instantly regret the deed? Only regret it when he notices the witness staring at him? (Is she his lover, who never suspected he could be capable of this?) Does he settle upon killing the witness now, once he sees her, even if she's his lover? Does he commit suicide? Will there be other reverberations implied, or known, following this murder—throughout the society, or involving other plot threads and character arcs?

    Obviously, one could go on and on listing potential details. Some might be more or less important, may need knowing from very early in the writing process or can be left for discovery during the writing of it. (Here, insert the caveat that this may vary from story to story and author to author...)

    I'd mentioned the term listicle in my first post to this thread—a word I hate and have very rarely used, but it seemed to fit. So I used it multiple times, heh, perhaps too many. But, it seems to fit. For me, Butler, In the library, and Candlestick are a type of listicle. The scene doesn't come alive until I know and add those other details. The ending needs to flow from the rest, touch so many things included, foreshadowed, etc. For my current project, I have some general ideas about the ending, but these other things I'll need to discover at some point. I'm not even sure, when creating the listicle, which details will be most important for the ending, and whether some that seem important—added to the listicle—might turn out to be less important than other details I've not yet considered, heh.
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2019
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  12. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    In my experience the expression that endings should be "surprising yet inevitable" really does work both ways. What is the inevitable ending for this character and the promises your book is making? Reading this list of possibilities, almost all of them I would rapidly cross off if I really understood the character. Even questions like, "Is there a witness?" really come down to something like, "Would this influence my character to end in a way that leaves the readers with the right feeling?"

    But even if we assume a whole bunch of those possibilities are open for the character, I would still suggest (loosely, because I'm talking about your story as an example or a hypothetical, whereas if I was trying to help you with your story I'd really have a million questions to ask before I could comment) - but I would suggest maybe that means it needs more story elements.

    Imagine a box with a marble. The box is your story, the marble is your ending. Take a bunch of rubbery strings: each is a plot element, like a character or a conflict. For each plot element you have, you affix a rubbery string to the marble, and then to a place on the box. And you shake the box to see how it moves. With the first rubber string dangling from the top (your character) the marble swings around wildly. With the second holding it from the bottom, your conflict, the marble now twirls around in the air as you shake the box. At this point there might be lots of possible endings. But for each story element, each rubber string, you fix into place, the marble gets pulled into a specific direction, until you've added enough rubber strings that there's so much tension on the marble it can't move anymore.

    That's how I would describe the process of building an ending. Stare at the ceiling and keep poking that marble with a stick until you find the ending you like. That is, think about where the characters and the conflict naturally lead, and think about how it would be different if you added new stuff, new secrets, new problems, new characters, new "spells or abilities or setting quirks," and poke, and poke that marble ending until it looks cool. Then tie on the strings to affix it in place.

    I don't know how much sense any of this makes. What I do know is that I have an ending, that I personally think is awesome (even if I've no idea whether anyone will agree), that I came to with this weird philosophy, and I'm reading posts from people who are struggling with this same thing. So ... I'm trying.
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2019
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  13. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    Now I want to draw up a murder mystery that begins with a clue that someone will die and ends with the murder. I guess that would mean the big reveal happens right before the murder, but the murder happens anyway, followed by the arrest, then the main character waxing on about how it was too late while a love interest offers comfort.

    Huh, I wonder how an unreliable narrator would play out in that story. You'd probably need multiple POVs in that case. Or what if the love interest WAS the murderer? Or the one murdered? You wouldn't get that same bittersweet ending but a wildcard one. What if there was a second murder ahead of time? Now it's looking more like a regular mystery, so how is this story different? What are some non-murder mystery elements we can include? Maybe the MC is a thief who stumbles upon the mystery clue in the middle of a crime. Now make it a fantasy, he's breaking into the castle, finds evidence that murder will happen in the royal family, let's say it's an empty vial of poison, but who's even the target? The unreliable narrator is his partner in crime. If he can prove there's a will-be murderer in the castle his reward would be much greater than what he's stealing, including things like legitimacy and a pardon and a real life. But if he's caught in the castle, and can't prove it, he'll be executed. I wonder what his fantasy sneaking powers are that he's going to rely on.... and what's his partner doing that will be so sketchy, and .....

    *curses loudly*

    I just realized this would be a perfect addition to a webcomic project I really wish I could pursue. DAMNIT.
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  14. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

    Reading this description, I immediately thought of pendulums and dynamical systems, particularly about fixed-point, limit-cycle, and strange attractors—but my memory is too hazy to use these ideas in a clear way. A fascinating collection of essays sits somewhere in storage, Chaos and Order: Complex Dynamics in Literature and Science, ed. N. Katherine Hayles, but it's been far too long since I read it.

    The short version, however hazy: various types of ordered systems have "attractors" of one sort or other, i.e., a kind of limit, or point, or set of limits, points, variables which defines them or gives them shape. In other words, a thunderstorm may seem chaotic, but this is because we don't know all the variables that have come together to produce it. (Or, "around which" it has formed.) No matter how alike they are in some respects, one thunderstorm will be different than another due to different initial and ongoing variables. That sort of thing.

    So as you add rubber bands and fixed points, the system as a whole takes on a particular shape. The final fixed position of your marble has been determined by these variables.

    Can you predict the exact shape that a thunderstorm will take before it has even formed? Heh. If you are designing a simple pendulum, the variables are probably going to be fewer in number, and you'll have an easier time knowing beforehand not only the movements the marble will make but also where the marble will come to rest. Even if your readers gain awareness of various rubber bands only one at a time—the final state may be surprising to them—you as author can know these before writing. Perhaps if the system is very simple, with only one or five rubber bands, the reader will not be surprised when the ending comes; the story might be predictable, probably tedious.

    Well, I had mentioned a butterfly-effect-ish reliance—for me. Having the important initial conditions firmly in mind and relying on the natural culmination these ought to force, which I hope will become much clearer to me as I wade into the second act. (As for making one or the other antagonist the main villain, the initial movement will be largely the same either way, since both antagonists are going to be hazy for the main characters, involve mysteries to solve about what is happening and who is doing what. As I introduce and develop these mysteries, they don't particularly require knowing who the main villain will be. I'll need to know for the second act, however.)

    The only major problem I have with approaching the story in the method you describe is the rather droll, habitual answer I've developed in the past whenever I've considered the future: Yes, 1+3 is 4, but so is 2+2. In other words, if I want to arrive at 4, I can take more than one route. If at the end of the story I know a character will instantly regret a murder he's just committed, I have multiple options for making that happen and showing the level/tenor of his regret. It's not exactly a zero sum game, heh, in which one approach leads to one outcome but any other approach kills that outcome.

    But these considerations may be splitting the hair too finely. The final story will no doubt comprise entire, definite details. I will have settled on 2 and 2, not 1 and 3, by then. I will need to settle upon those details—this must be the part that terrifies many authors the most, heh. I'm not too terrified, although I have been in the past. But the question here is not so much the necessity of settling, but when in the process, from initial story idea to writing The End at the end of the final draft, this settling occurs.
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2019
  15. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

    Reading this, one of my first thoughts was, Prophecy, duh!

    In the fantasy genre, more times than not a prophecy is the clue about what will happen. Then it's a chase against ignorance to fulfill or prevent the fulfillment of that prophecy.

    Although, yours is interesting because it doesn't require magical sight. Mundane eyes can find a clue, yes.

  16. Danskin

    Danskin Scribe

    Really liked everything that you had to say about details and background! So easy to rush in without thinking about these mundane issues. My view is that even if the character’s food source doesn’t come into the narrative, the author should know!

    A little confused about the 2nd person part, though. To me that’s a difficult one to pull off for any longer piece. Do you mean you will convert to third person during redrafting? If so, that sounds tricky and time consuming! However I do think it’s a fab idea to have these dialogues between character and narrator as an extratextual bit of character development (and perhaps later as bonus content).. is that what you had in mind? Thanks for sharing!!
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  17. FifthView

    FifthView Istar


    In this case, knowing the food source has given me more material for developing the idea of this wizard's daily life, the local milieu, and the sorts of relationships he will have built there after 25 years. For instance, there's a woman from the village who comes daily to prepare meals for the wizard and his apprentice, in addition to villagers bringing food and asking for magical aid. It's a fairly small village, although I've had to expand its size somewhat, to make it sensible. (In other words, it's not only a few families struggling to support themselves, let along a wizard and his apprentice.)

    RE: the second person part. My plan is to write the entire first draft in second person, then convert it later to third person. I don't think this will necessarily be more time consuming than writing the first draft in third person, especially since my first drafts are usually horrible anyway, heh. I've been discovering something. Being able to address the character directly also allows me to "tell" him a lot about himself, about his relationship to whatever is happening. In a third person draft intended for a reader, I'd naturally avoid that telling, and I think this has held me back before. Being free to tell the character frees me to explore that character in that environment more. So the hope is that I'll be better keyed into the character through whatever is happening, scene to scene.

  18. Darkfantasy

    Darkfantasy Inkling

    Everyone has their own unique method and it's important to find yours and the only way you'll do that is by trying different things for yourself. Some of the techniques others have said here would be my worst nightmare and totally screw me up. I hate the note-card things, lots of tiny pieces of paper laying everywhere looking messy? My OCD tenancies kick in. I only know that because I've tried it. Panstering is not for me - I know I've tried several times and I ended up not knowing my arse from my elbow.

    I have my own method. When I get an idea first I do nothing but mull it over. Play with it in my head. This is my research stage. I start watching things related to my idea, look into characters from real life that have interesting stories. Can I use any of those? I watch a movie and I love the ending. Maybe I could do something like that as my ending. I write nothing down yet because for me that's like confining it to a coffin. I have conversations with people and try to bring up topics from my book and they always give me ideas. This stage can last for months or years while I do other things. I just keep asking "what if...". I research the Genre and try to get a feel of what tropes are a necessity and used because they have a effect and what rules can be bent and what ones can be broken. I try to steer clear of some things and think outside the box. Most people wrote about a physical being, well what if mine character was no longer a physical being but a ghost...that's been done a lot. But I like the idea of the spirit world, so what else could be in that world? Sometimes I go on a real tangent. One night I'm learning about the Romaov's and the next I'm watching witchcraft documentaries in Asia. This is the most fun stage for me so I have a tendency to let it go on too long.

    Then it comes to coffin it into a coffin, which I hate. It's the stage where I start decding what ideas to use and which ones to throw away. I start with my main character and work my way through them all, then my plot, then setting. Then character, plot, setting and themes.

    Then I'm ready to start and discover the rest as I write.

    I hope something in all of this was useful to you
  19. Helen

    Helen Inkling

    The basis of my process is change.

    The change happens along the journey, so understanding that and the journey stages is important. For example, it’s along a certain part of the journey that change escalates, that the redemption and learning occurs and so on. The journey can be viewed from the POV of 2 Acts, 3 Acts, 4 Acts, 5 Acts etc, more sequences etc, depending.... . The journey also tells me how to pace.

    The change is underlined by theme and premise, which gives the characters, their points of view and the functions and archetypes. It also signals their relationships and how they evolve.

    The plot drives the journey; the plot is created to provoke the character change.

    The world also is created to provoke the character change.

    Then there’s symbolism. For example, if I want to rebirth a character, perhaps I’ll throw in baptism symbolism.

    That’s a summary of my process. There are lots of moving parts, but they all meaningfully work together to create a whole.

    Hope it helps.
  20. Chessie2

    Chessie2 Staff Article Team

    For me, the approach to starting a new novel is different each time.

    A few factors:
    -how long the idea has been marinating in my head
    -how strongly my intuition is telling me to write a particular story idea
    -whether writing a certain novel would be good/bad for my brand

    As for physically starting the process of writing, it takes me time to prepare. Most of my brainstorming happens before I write prose. If I don't take the time to "get to know" the characters/problem/setting then I screw myself out of writing a proper story. It's happened (ashamedly) on a couple different occasions (when I've written bad books). Every time I go back to doing it this way I end up satisfied with my work at the end.

    Suppose the foundations of a new novel are important to me--that it be done RIGHT. That rightness varies on the story itself and the message I'm trying to get across to my readers. Some messages are deeper than others...sometimes I want them thinking throughout the whole novel and other times I just want to entertain.

    I'm in this stage now and feel myself intuitively moving in the direction of the physical writing part. How the process happens afterward is by sheer determination/forcing myself to sit daily until the book is finished.
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