The Planning Stage

Having finished the second draft of The Nexus and being in the process of sending it to friends and colleagues to workshop for me, it’s time for me to set that novel aside for the moment. In fact, I’ve already begun the process of writing a new novel — one that’s completely unrelated, standalone, and which has a much higher probability of being published than the first-of-a-necessary-trilogy-from-an-unknown-author.

Since I started this blog near the end of my process of writing The Nexus, when the first draft was completed, I thought it might be interesting to look at my writing process from the start of a new novel.

And that, of course, is the planning stage.

Because there’s a whole lot that happens (for me) before I actually start writing Chapter 1. I’m not the kind of writer that just jumps right in — and that’s because of experience. There’s been a few times in the past (granted before I was as disciplined a writer as I am now) when I jumped right into a novel with a concept and a character and not much else. I never got very far before I floundered, unsure of where I was going or what I hoped to accomplish, and the story got left by the wayside, never to be looked at again.

So I refuse to let myself do that anymore.

So the first thing I need is a concept. What kind of story is this? What genre? Subgenre? Then I start thinking about characters. Who’s my protagonist? What’s he/she like? Who might be some of my secondary characters? What will be their relationship with the protagonist?

While I’m thinking of that, I start thinking about what I want to accomplish with this story. Do I want a prominent love story B plot? What kinds of themes and ideas do I want to explore? How can I include those? Because of course, this bigger-picture stuff will inform my characters and plot.

And as I’m considering that, I start thinking about plot. How will it start? What will the primary conflict be? How can I complicate things? Where will the story end?

Clearly, this is a lot of thinking. And really, I very often find myself sitting at my desk, staring at the computer screen, and just thinking for very long stretches of time. I just need to let my thoughts go wild for awhile, brainstorming ideas. A lot of them I won’t keep, but as thoughts go flying through my head, they’ll sometimes hit up against one another and a character will form, or a plot point, or just a little scene. And as I can start connecting these little ideas to other little ideas, a bigger and bigger picture forms.

Occasionally, when I know I’ve hit upon something, I’ll break from the thinking to write down some notes — because too often I’ve been thinking about some great ideas and then forgotten them when it comes time to write. But mainly this is a lot of thinking.

People have walked in on me doing this and wondered what I was doing and assumed I was doing nothing, wasting time, or whatever, and maybe even assumed since I was clearly doing nothing, they could interrupt me with conversation — which can seriously pull the brakes on a train of thought.

It really is a lot of thinking.

That’s sort of where I am now. I have a lot of ideas, some great character concepts, and a basic conflict — so I’m getting there. But I can’t see the end yet — and that’s a bit strange for me, because I usually know the end before much else. But there’s no end in sight.

So I still have some more sitting and staring and thinking to do, before I can move on to… the outline.

Oh, I also have a working title: Shadow of Death.

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