“Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”
-E. L. Doctorow
Last time I went on about how I plan and execute a short story. Now we’re going to talk about how much that can differ from writing a longer story, such as the novel I’m writing Dawn Vernalis (working title) . If you didn’t yet read the first article in this set, about my process for blog posts check it out here. If you want to know more about Dawn Vernalis you can see the synopsis here. With the boring plugs out of the way we can get to it.
The biggest difference, for me, when trying to write a longer work of fiction is the use of more words. All jokes aside, I mean that my notes are also more wordy and organized. I need more detail in the outline in order to save myself from reading my entire story everyday before I write. The beginning of the process is not too dissimilar from that of the short story.
First I imagine the main points of the story, setting, characters, plot, but it usually stops there. At this point I need to begin the outline. I write a synopsis from the world I’ve imagined in my head, this gives me direction. This direction takes me into the plot line and details.
The main section of notes begin with outlining the plot, like a story board. I’ll plan out the introduction of characters, including detail information like a dossier. This includes the physical features, as well as character quirks; I don’t like to call them flaws, since quirks make us who we are. I’ll include setting details, such as ambiance, features, and landmarks. I might also add lines that I feel need to be added to the story, things that I come up with while brainstorming that are so critical that they fit in the story word for word.
I’ll plan out maybe the first act or major scene this way, then begin to write it out. Most of all I try to avoid going back to make corrections at this time. There will be plenty of time for grammar corrections, spell checks, revisions, and name changes after the story is finished. Once the first act is written, I’ll take all the information up to that point and plan out the next just as I did with the previous section. Wash, rinse, repeat until the story is complete.
And, as I said, we have plenty of time to go back and polish the work once the story is complete. Just think if you start editing before completion you might change the story you imagined, this type of thing would lead me into a serious case of writers block. Writer’s block is just your mind telling you that something in your story doesn’t make sense. This is the only caveat to not editing until completion; if you get writers block before completing your story, you may want to go back and try to find the thing that doesn’t make sense. Once you get that resolved it should be smooth sailing, at least until the next storm.
I have a hope that somehow these three posts will help someone realize, that with time and effort they too can write. It’s not just about that one story you carry, but maybe the stories you can imagine to get you closer to that story. Writing is work, the more you do it, the better you will get.