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Those of you who have written a novel...

(21 Posts)
bodgersmash Wed 15-May-19 23:09:08

Can I ask how you planned it?

I've had a character in my head for about 5 years. The trouble is that I just can't find a story for her that I think is enough. She has a job, friends, problems. But then I get stuck.

I seem to have no problem churning out short stories because they're (obviously) short and simple, but when it comes to trying to think of all the twists and turns and interesting scenes needed to fill a whole book, my brain just gives up on me. And then I do nothing.

So, how do you write? Do you start with your character? With your main event? With your ending? And then how do you build your novel from there?

HollowTalk Wed 15-May-19 23:12:46

I start with an event and each time the beginning and end of the books have been there right from the start. I then feel how I would feel in that situation and my main character slowly emerges in my mind.

You have to think of a crisis point in that character's life. What means the most to her? What would she be devastated at losing? What would make her happy? Who means the most to her?

SimplySteveRedux Wed 15-May-19 23:14:00

Sorry, I've written technical books but nothing like you're suggesting.

However I found planning to be key - dividing up elements (characters) and what they correlate to (activities/episodes) to be useful. Then tackling the harder, larger structures (chapters and "big" things), and assigning elements and structures to it. I found dividing everything to be key, important parts especially, and working into them in various parts (insights) to work well.

Good luck, and it's fantastic you're planning this! I found some iOS apps to be very useful - I can dig the names out if you like?

smile

bodgersmash Wed 15-May-19 23:17:56

@HollowTalk thank you. So when you say you start your thinking with your event, is that usually your climax/ending? And then you'll have your start point, end point, and the focus of your writing is then to weave the two together?

And @SimplySteveRedux if you could find the names I'd really appreciate it, thank you. I'm a sucker for an app (and "how to write" books, pretty notepads, pens...)!

HollowTalk Wed 15-May-19 23:46:35

I always know the start of the book and the end of the book right from the beginning. I always know the time-frame, too. And I like to work with a small cast of characters, so I start to think then about who else would be involved and why they're in the book. So really I'm just taking the reader from the beginning of that time-frame to the end, but maybe moving things around a bit so that you don't always see things in chronological order. I like to write from more than one person's point of view, too. It depends on the genre, though. I'm writing psychological suspense so I really like first person point of view from a couple of characters' viewpoints.

SimplySteveRedux Wed 15-May-19 23:48:19

No probs @bodgersmash might take me a day or so, due to disability, but shall do so smile

bodgersmash Thu 16-May-19 00:03:22

Thank you @HollowTalk - I'm going to shove my character to one side and try to come at it from the event angle rather than the character angle. Your genre and style of writing actually sounds very much like that of an author who I discovered this year and she's my new absolute favourite. smile

And thank you too @SimplySteveRedux - I'll keep an eye on the thread over the next few days. Don't worry about any delay, my novel's been waiting to be released from within for about 24 years!

HollowTalk Thu 16-May-19 00:07:11

Without the event, you don't have a story. It's really good fun though if you have a character that you feel you know quite well - someone on this board told me to throw every kind of hurdle at the character - emotional, physical, financial, psychological etc so that each time she feels she's getting somewhere she trips over again grin

PreparingForDisappointment Thu 16-May-19 07:30:20

I think through the overall story in my head and make some notes about key plot points. Then I write towards those plot points, letting the characters develop as I go. When I come to the stage of the second draft, I try to look at the novel structurally and change things if needed. I often have ideas along the way - 'it would be much better if ...' so I take a flexible approach and don't regard anything as set in stone.

CakeRage Thu 16-May-19 08:54:58

I spent years unable to write because I thought I had to know every detail of the plot before I started, and I couldn’t figure it all out. Then I realised that’s just not who I am. I’m a winger. And when I gave up planning, it all came together.

I think it’s important to know vaguely what your eventual outcome will be, and I really knew at least my main character before I started, but everything else kind of unfolded as I wrote. I literally didn’t even know how it would end until I was writing the last chapter, and then all of a sudden it seemed obvious.

I don’t know how much this helps, I just wanted to say that if you feel like you can’t make any decisions, why not start anyway? It’s a first draft. You can always go back and change it, but you can’t change what you haven’t got. You might be a winger too smile

Reaah Thu 16-May-19 09:02:19

I wrote what was in my head at the time and then worked around around that, moving forward a few chapters and then back to the start.

Once I had the outline of the book, I started to organise it into a better timeline/chapters.

zonoverlords Thu 16-May-19 22:39:41

Your character needs a Goal, a Motivation and a Conflict.

She wants (Goal) because (Motivation) but (Conflict) is in her way.

That's basically what a story is at its most basic.

A character wants something.
Something is in their way.
They struggle against that thing.
And either succeed or lose.

Personally, I just start with premise and characters. Plot comes later.

Books that might be useful as a jumping off point if you're really struggling:
Libbie Hawker's Take Off Your Pants! Outline Your Books For Faster, Better Writing
Jessica Brody's Save The Cat! Writes A Novel
James Scott Bell's Super Structure
Lisa Cron's Story Genius

Witchend Fri 17-May-19 09:47:35

I've done that. I did it two years ago for NaNoWriMo where you write 50k in a month.
Got persuaded to do it on 30th October and sat down to write one chapter a day through November.
I started with one main character and knowing I was writing a children's adventure story.
Once I'd wrote the first few chapters it kind of wrote itself. I'd write a chapter each evening, then spend the next day mulling about what happened next.
Not sure if it's any good by the dc liked it. grin

PoorRichard Fri 17-May-19 15:44:17

The one I'm sending out at the moment is a (sort of) historical novel about real people whose biographies have never entirely convinced me as to what their relationship was really like, so I come to it with events already in place -- the challenge is how to shape the messiness of real life into something that is satisfying as fiction.

ShadowKitty Sun 23-Jun-19 15:11:29

I came up with the idea first and the characters followed. I wanted to write a fantasy so I spent time googling myths and legends, folklore, real historic events and people and this eventually gave me inspiration for the idea of the story. The idea I had was not taken directly from anything I'd read but the information got my cogs turning! I also found fantasy art a really good source of inspiration. Maybe you could try something similar? So if your book is a thriller or crime story, read up on true crime for ideas?

millimollimandi Fri 06-Sep-19 19:43:38

I'm a winger - I find it weird tbh because I don't know where the story is going until it goes there, but apparently this isn't unusual and a lot of writers write like this.

ShadowKitty Fri 06-Sep-19 20:26:19

@millimollimandi I've found the same thing. I can have a general idea of the plot but the characters take on lives of their own and often dictate the story to me themselves. It's a really weird process isn't it?

RamblingFern Sat 07-Sep-19 10:19:49

So what you are asking is - how do you write a novel? Not sure any post here will really help with that huge question! Agree with PP re: books on the subject. Suggest The Seven Types of Plot as that's the bit you're struggling with. Analyse other novels in the same genre/market as yours and think about how they work and how they're put together. Have you thought about a course?

IndefatigableMouse Sat 07-Sep-19 15:08:15

The good thing about having a character you know really well is that when you finally get a plot, you'll have a good sense of how she'll react to everything.

But you need something, whether it's something she wants and goes after, or something that happens that she responds to.

AppropriateAdult Tue 10-Sep-19 10:34:05

I tend to start with a premise and a central character, but I definitely don't know every element of the plot before I start to write. I do know how it will end, though. I plan out an overall structure/timeline at the beginning, and then I don't write sequentially (which works in my genre, but probably wouldn't if you're writing a thriller or anything very plot-driven).

ReanimatedSGB Fri 13-Sep-19 10:49:44

I tend to start with some kind of 'what if?' or set-up, or something that's annoying me. One of my books was inspired, sort of, by a combination of hating 50 shades and the McFly song Ultraviolet.

Also, and while this might be poor form, I'm going to claim piano tuner privilege and suggest you might find this useful. (It's a book on ways to get the building blocks for a story.)

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