Preparing to Write a Novel: From Seeds to Sprouts

HoneyMoonK 023During a recent #storycrafter session on developing ideas into fully fledged plots, I had a few questions about my process. As twitter is a limited format for explaining details, I thought I’d post about my answers to questions posed by Faye, and then my responses to other writer’s tweets.

Once you get an idea for a story, do you start expanding it straight away or wait?

That depends on the idea & if I’m in the middle of other projects. I try to let my ideas sit for a while, but jot down notes if they come. For example, I’ve had the idea for Skeletal for a few months. I’ve tried to explore the characters and plot, but the setting doesn’t quite work yet. I’ve written an introductory scene to get a feel for the former two aspects, but I’m waiting for the setting to make sense before I continue. Other stories have come with a setting already formed.

How do you take a seedling of an idea and develop it into a fully fledged plot?

I tend to separate ideas into Char/Plot/Sett/Background until the lists look big enough for a whole story. So I need enough character conflicts to create tension, and a setting to give the story rules (of physics, of magic level) and enough of a storyline beyond a few key events. Then I use time-lines to match scenes to a character/setting twist and give a sense of progression.

@K_R_Green “When does a list look big enough? :O This is a really interesting method.
@K_R_Green “I’d also be interested in details on this method! I’m a sucker for lists.”

I tend to think through enough scenes to give me 80 scenes. So if I can have a character arc or cool setting aspect, then come up with at least 10-12 scenes it would feature in; with a sense of progression (forward or backward, both work) & have about 6-7 plot/setting/character THINGS, then I’m all set for that first draft.

Twitter Q: “How do you land on 80 scenes? :O

My most successful first draft was a sequel – I knew the characters well, knew the major events which had led up to now, and knew the setting. When I wrote out a ‘vague scene list’ it was 83 scenes long. One of my early-writer problems was of not having enough to flesh out a full novel, so I know that’s an important thing for me to have settled before I begin the actual drafting stage. My scenes tend to be between 750-2000 words, so having at least 70 should let me reach my vague-goal of 90,000 words for a first draft – leaving enough room to cut and expand.

It is a bit of a random number, but I know if I have 30 scenes plotted out, I shouldn’t yet start a ‘quick draft’ as I will hit a block in the middle. Having a large number of scenes gives me enough structure to know I have a full 100k book but is fluid enough for those scenes to be short/ a few to merge in the later stages.

How would you answer those questions?

Do you have a particular method for turning seed ideas into sprouts?

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