Starting a Novel

The writing process, writing advice, and updates on your work in progress
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Nicholas Sabo
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Starting a Novel

Post by Nicholas Sabo » May 28th, 2012, 8:05 pm

I'm sure this question has been asked already, but how do you usually go about starting on a novel? Do you find it best to carefully outline, or just dive right in and start writing?

I have the basic storyline written out, but I'm having a difficult time of actually getting started.

I would love to hear some of the methods that you people have!

Mark.W.Carson
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Re: Starting a Novel

Post by Mark.W.Carson » May 28th, 2012, 8:21 pm

I have taken the hit on this myself. Story ideas are cheap. I suggest you go to the thread about Brandon Sanderson's classes online and watch them.

http://www.writeaboutdragons.com/home/brandon_w2012/ is the link, but you can go right to the youtube channel.

This will give you a good start. You may want to also do some research on the technical aspects of writing, because I swam around in a sea of not knowing for a year without doing anything like that. I probably would have gotten farther if I had learned this early on.

To your original question, though, that is harder to answer. Some people just write, others are meticulous planners. Find out what works for you. When you are finished writing, you can then realize you are only ready to start revising.

Nicholas Sabo
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Re: Starting a Novel

Post by Nicholas Sabo » May 29th, 2012, 12:05 am

Thanks for the advice!

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Beethovenfan
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Re: Starting a Novel

Post by Beethovenfan » May 29th, 2012, 4:22 am

We call 'em "pantsers" and "planners." I'm a definite pantser. I plan very little at the outset. I begin writing with an idea and sort of let it lead me. Soon I'll have an idea of where to go. Then I'll plan (just enough to keep me on track) how to get there. I enjoy writing this way. I sometimes end up very surprised. However, it sure means a LOT of editing when I'm finished.
"Don't only practice your art, but force your way into its secrets, for it and knowledge can raise men to the divine."
~ Ludwig van Beethoven

Sommer Leigh
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Re: Starting a Novel

Post by Sommer Leigh » May 29th, 2012, 9:12 am

This has been asked before, but it's ok that you asked it again! It's an important topic. You should do a search on pantsing and one on planning in the forum search bar. You'll get a wealth of knowledge!

Most people, from my experience, do something sort of in between pantsing and planning.
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Hillsy
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Re: Starting a Novel

Post by Hillsy » May 29th, 2012, 10:11 am

P.S. Pantsing is not writing whilst wearing your pants as a hat

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dios4vida
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Re: Starting a Novel

Post by dios4vida » May 29th, 2012, 11:29 am

Personally, I started writing my first books with an idea and the most bare-bones outline imaginable - here's what happens first, here's what happens last, here's a random idea or two that would be neat - and that was it. I filled in the gaps as I went. The more I wrote, the more went onto the outline.

I'm the first to admit this is a dangerous process, because it's easy to write yourself into corners that way. Lots of rewrites are required. It's worked for me before, and while it's still a pretty good system for me I'm starting to do more outlining at the beginning, so that I know where to go better and what pitfalls to avoid.

The beautiful thing about writing is that there's no 'right' or 'wrong' way to do it. If it works for you, then it's great. If not, ditch it and try something else. Keep learning, working, trying new things, and eventually you'll find a groove that fits your style and your brain patterns and your creativity. As long as the book gets written, you're golden. :)

I see you found the thread for newbie advice - yay! There's a treasure trove of information in there. I'd also suggest you try this one out: viewtopic.php?f=2&t=4606. It's a list of the best books on the craft of writing (from our humble opinions) and it'd be a great place to start if you want to study up on how to write, which is highly suggested.
Brenda :)

Inspiration isn't about the muse. Inspiration is working until something clicks. ~Brandon Sanderson

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polymath
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Re: Starting a Novel

Post by polymath » May 29th, 2012, 2:09 pm

One writing advice for any narrative is to begin at the beginning. I wondered for decades what that meant. Like most writing advice, the platitude is freighted with unstated meaning that has to be figured out.

What does a beginning do. The traditional name for an opening act is exposition, meaning introduction, exhibit as in introduction of a product or concept at a fair, setup, or outset of a dramatic action. Sticking with introduction for what a beginning does, that is introducing the setting's time, place, and situation; the central character and the character's greatest want and the opposition preventing achieving the want, which is the outcome of the action; that is, an unequivocal, irrevocable transformation of circumstances as a consequence of pursuing the want and the opposition preventing achieving the want.

A beginning is complete when all that is done and the clash of circumstances, want and opposition, compel the central character to act to a decisive degree.
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klbritt
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Re: Starting a Novel

Post by klbritt » May 29th, 2012, 4:23 pm

I am 68,000 words into my first novel and am finding that I prefer to write without an outline. One day while working on a totally separate novel, a scene with new characters popped into my brain and I had to write it down, and the story has developed over time into something I'm quite pleased with. Growing up, I had a hard time writing with outlines for schoolwork, so I think it has followed me through to my writing now.

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Re: Starting a Novel

Post by longknife » May 30th, 2012, 2:35 pm

I think the most important thing about writing a novel is creating your characters!

Once you've done that, the story gels and you can start telling it.

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Re: Starting a Novel

Post by Gypson » June 3rd, 2012, 11:01 pm

Since I've been writing about my main character since 2001, I haven't had to write a start-from-scratch beginning in quite awhile. Granted, each draft is something new and different, but having a foundation in the characters helps chart those foreign waters.

I would say that I am half-pantser, half-plotter. I have divided my novel into six sections. I know where each section begins and ends, and I know the main events per section, but how the characters arrive to those events is up in the air. Subplots arise in the beginning and thread their way throughout the book without much planning. I do not know the specific events of my plot well, but I know my characters well, and I can trust them to go where they need to go.

I'm happy to run with a new idea on a whim and see where it goes. My best ideas have happened by accident. I'm willing to restart the draft to accommodate a new idea.

I'm also extremely organized. I write out extensive notes and timelines. I have compiled a story encyclopedia that spans 60+ pages that I continue to reference and add to while I write. It helps me keep my facts straight and also forces me to think more critically and purposefully about my writing.

Something I do that might be helpful to you (OP) is loosely plan out the chapters. For each section of my novel, I'll create a document where I list out the known events of that section. Then I'll write out a loose chapter plan to sort each event into a chapter. My current chapter plan looks like this:

Ch. # __
-L and S enter the city; pass security; go to M's house
-Confrontation between S and M; M shoots S; dumps S outside
-L recovers S and leaves the city

Ch. #__
-L carries S home
-L's sister (T) heals S
-Tense L and T confrontation about L's future

Ch. #__
-L sneaks out and leaves for the city
-L goes to M with her proposal
-S realizes L lied to him

You get the idea. Writing bullet points for my chapters gives me an idea of how long the section will be, keeps me on track with the plots and subplots, and helps me cut out unnecessary filler. As I write the chapters, sometimes I realize that not all of the planned events can fit, so I split them across two or more chapters. The plan is flexible. It just keeps me on track.

Try listing a few scenes or ideas that occur near the beginning of the story. Start by writing about one of them, or an event that quickly leads to one of them. Good luck and keep us posted =)

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Re: Starting a Novel

Post by CarlaB » June 5th, 2012, 9:01 am

I don't know...Actually, I have never gone deep into the mechanism of my own writing...
I think first I get an idea somewhere in my head and then feeling a desire to write I just sit down and do it)

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