Another piece of wisdom from the Internet: “You’ll learn so much by writing your first book.” This I’ve also found true. Some people say your first book will be garbage, but I don’t think that is guaranteed.
I’m not an expert when it comes to writing, nor do I claim to be, but I have learned a lot through my own experiences. So, I’ve decided to start this new series of blog posts to give you an idea of how I write a novel. It will be as real time, from beginning to end, and will document the entire process. As I move through different phases, I’ll give you some insight to what’s going on and where I’m at. It’s not meant to be a how-to, but it may serve that function somewhat.
When I started writing Breakers of the Dawn (the first book of the series), I had no clue what I was doing. It was my first full length manuscript, so I did what the advice says: “Create an outline.” Outlines are plans, and I like plans. Initially, however, I outlined the wrong thing and did it the wrong way. I got too involved in details and scenes and missed what I actually needed: A primary conflict with a climatic resolution. I did a much better job with my character profiles, thankfully, which I attribute to playing a fair amount of Dungeons and Dragons.
Another mistake I made was to not finish my outline, mostly because I got too excited and just wanted to start writing. So, flawed outline in hand, I began typing my first draft. Soon, my characters deviated from the outline and were way off doing their own things and making choices I hadn’t anticipated. Almost all of my planning was now obsolete. Good thing I didn’t spend too much effort finishing it! By the time I finished my manuscript for Breakers, I felt like I had lucked into having a complete plot. This was because I didn’t understand what I was doing, yet still managed to have the elements the story needed. Editing was a lot of work, and it took a ton of time to fix the mistakes brought about by my poor forethought. When I read the rough draft, I could actually see my writing improve as the story progressed. This was great from a personal standpoint, but not so good when it came to how much I had to fix.
So the advice was right:I did learn a lot from writing my first book. Now, before I type a single word into a manuscript, I take my time with the outline, making sure I perform this critical step properly. This means writing down key plot points, conflicts, and character arcs. I don’t write specific scenes or tell the characters what to do ahead of time. I’ve learned from my mistakes.
Ever since I released Harbingers of the Dawn in January, I’ve been trying to decide what the big “thing” will be in the third book. I spent last week developing ideas for the climax, paring them down and deciding what fit best. With that complete, I moved on to adding key details and plot points. Now that I’m done, I have a couple pages of notes that are far more potent and detailed than my Breakers’ outline, but still give me creative flexibility as I write.
Step one of the process: Find the big conflict, then guess what the characters will do with it as well as how they get there.