Disclaimer: There is no right way to writing a novel. Every author has his or her own way of brewing for ideas, planning a novel, and writing said novel. This is however the way I have learned to do it. It is also something that is always evolving and if you continue to write it will change. It is also subjective and is good to remember there is no one right process.
What I learned while writing Black Thorn which comes out in November 2018, was simply how not to write a novel. I had followed the advice of nearly every published author out there and what I ended up with was a confused mess that was only straitened up by the editing process. Yes, the story flowed and made sense, but it was very hard to put everything in order. As many authors have advised I simply just wrote. What I ended up with was a lot of scenes for my novel that all had to be connected. This is not unlike using the outline method, but when you’re using an outline you normally know where every scene goes. There was a lot of deleting. By the time of my third draft I had come to understand that the advice I was following simply wasn’t for me. Moving forward to present day I am using what I like to think of as a flowing outline. I never was one for such ridged rules regarding how a novel should be written, but more on that in another post.
This week’s post I would like to cover the many methods of brain storming or as I like to call it brewing. Brewing, be it a stew, a pot of coffee, or an idea for a novel is the most critical process for making a complete thing. Without that first spark there is no idea, no plan, no story. Yet coming up with the idea isn’t always the easiest thing in the world to do. So drink some coffee or tea, put on your favorite playlist on Pandora or YouTube and try out the methods below.
I remember back in middle school, this had to be around eighth grade or somewhere around there I had an English teacher that showed us her method of coming up with an idea for writing. She wrote down a list of topics, then she chose one seemly at random. Placing it in a circle she had drawn she then wrote all types of things that could go with it. Connecting them all by a line until she had a giant web of ideas leading from one topic. This never really worked for me, although it certainly got me thinking in the right direction. There was also another technique that was covered, bullet lists are something I still do from time to time. The idea is very similar to webbing which is why I am including it here as an after thought.
Black Thorn was one of those ideas that had been knocking around my head for years. I cannot remember exactly when I came up with the idea, but I know that concepts for the world were made up here and there throughout my childhood and adolescent. This method of brewing is called world building. Unlike webbing a bunch of concepts together, world building constructs the foundation for a novel. Most commonly associated with fantasy but not limited there. A lot of authors, myself included start by drawing a map of the purposed world. Then we write histories of the countries, world, races, and by the time we are done we have a fairly fleshed out setting.
For example, I drew out what I imagined north America would look like after a world altering event. The landscape completely changed, save for a few landmarks. The Rocky Mountains being one of them although that’s not what I call them in my story.
With the landscape made I had to fill it. Now being a lover of fantasy, I placed elves, dwarves, orcs, gnomes, and all kinds of fae creatures in my world. Then I went about explaining how they got there, why this earth could be the very earth I lived in now, and the rules that allowed magic into a world that had none. That done I started the history of the world from the calamity that altered it to where I thought my story might take place.
The final brewing technique I’d like to touch on is the situation. Many great novels rely heavily on situation. Bringing a cast of characters together to solve a problem, or unlikely event. Another way to do it is find two topics that may seem unrelated at the time and put them together. The author I am thinking of who does this very well is Stephen King. As a master storyteller he creates a complex situation and sticks in average people and sees if they come out of it alive or not and as a beginning writer you would do well to try this out for yourself. You might be surprised what you come up with.
In conclusion these techniques I have listed; webbing, world building, and situation are but three of many different techniques you can use. You just need to come up with a single idea and build upon it. Go for a walk, listen to music, steam in the shower. Then when it hits you write it down, turn it over in your head and keep working it until you find out if its novel worthy or not. If not, place your notes in a folder for later. You never know when one idea will spark the next. Thank you for reading.