I finished my daily NaNoWriMo word count today and wanted to veer off that topic for my next blog post. I’m sure after the first few weeks those who chose not to participate are ready to hear about something other than reaching a word count.
The first one spoke to plot and how to gain enough content for a full novel. The second one provided content on character development and good ways to know and understand them before you start.
For this one I have given two final preparations before you start the novel. These will help your story fly and soar to the finish.
Outline and Edit
Yeah, these two are a strange grouping. Outline comes at the beginning and editing at the end. So why place them together? Well, I consider them both a necessary preparation of a novel.
Unless you are a discovery writer (writing until you “discover” an idea and then build your story from there,) you will write an outline.
Answer this question:
How much information do I need to write a complete story?
The beginning, middle, and end are easy place cards to initiate an outline, or main plot, arc, and climax are another option. The outlines most important section is the ending. If you can identify the end then the body and the beginning lead there. Successful books wrap up the plot and sub-plots, especially successful first novels. Established authors can change that up.
After the ending is decided, then look to the conflict. Each scene needs conflict, which is why an antagonist is important to a story. Without conflict readers begin to drift from the book. Something needs to happen and not the same thing over and over. I once read a book where the protagonist went for a run every single day as the important scene and the small amount of conflict came off as repetitive instead of intriguing.
The amount of information in your outline depends on the type of novel you write. A story with many characters, sub-plots, and dramatic conclusions need more detail, yet books with wiggle room for creative development during the writing can have a lot less in the outline.
For me, I write about 12 bullet points and fill in the basic pieces I want to include in the story. As I write I pull from it and expand it as I go. It has worked for me so far.
Arm yourself with the editing knowledge. My list mostly gives things to avoid.
- Avoid “to be verbs”: they are linking verbs that can be replaced with action verbs
- Be, am, is, are, was, were, been, has, have, had, do, did, does, can, could, shall, should, will, would, may, might, must
- Avoid adverbs: they are usually telling words instead of showing words
- Avoid too many adjectives: one before every word it becomes too much
- Avoid common words:
- Beautiful, pretty, really, seriously, literally
- Avoid too many metaphors and similes
- Avoid redundancies: especially common phrases like sit down, stand up, turn around, etc.
- Replace wordy sentences with action or stronger words
- Avoid too many propositions
- Avoid present participles
- Avoid dangling present participles
- Make sure your paragraphs and sentences have first word variance
- Switch up paragraph and sentence lengths
- Have every scene contain a beginning, middle and end
- Avoid too much back-story and flashbacks
- Avoid large amounts of description of your characters: you should show it instead of telling it
- Avoid clichés
First drafts are much cleaner when you apply editing techniques as you write. Some writers like to type their thoughts down without any restrictions for their first draft, and if you don’t mind re-writing almost every sentence of an 80K – 120K word novel, then go for it.
For me, I want to focus on consistency of plot, characters, and structure instead of a ton of re-writing. For my NaNo novel, I’ve attempted to write cleaner. It takes a little longer, but I know the editing will take less time. I’m happy with the trade-off.
With all the prep in place it’s easier to get started and keep on your way to the end.
How do you like to prepare for a novel? A lot of outlines? No outline? Something in-between?
I would love to discuss with you about this and I love to hear from you!
Thanks for reading my blog.