This week as I started to work on this week’s blog, I came to a startling revelation. While I am always worried about what I can write about to help writers as I also introduce other writers, I realized I have fallen victim to something I am always telling other writers not to do – over commit! As a result I find myself editing one contracted book while editing another and teaching a writing class with another coming up soon. But that brought me to the realization that as writers we need to keep in mind what goes into writing a book and how we might be able to keep from overcommitting or losing sight of what the ultimate goal is – to write a good book.
We all want to deliver our best work to editors, the public or readers, and overcommitting can become a real problem. As a writer it would be fun if all you had to do was sit down at the keyboard or with a paper and pen and compose great fiction or nonfiction, but the finished product is never that simple. There are always other things that go into the mix of writing a good book.Research
2. Planning the Plot
3. Developing Characters
4. Writing Scenes
7. Planning the Next Book
And all of that is only the beginning. Each one of those elements can contain a series of steps of their own.
Gathering research can be time consuming and how much is too much? I always tell beginning writers in classes that I teach that when in doubt, go with what feels right to you. Yes, you can over-research but as time goes on you will find what works for you and what doesn’t and what you actually need and will use. The danger of research is that too often I have found writers who get so caught up in getting every single little detail right that they spend all their time researching instead of writing. Get the information you need for this story and save the rest for later.
Planning the plot can be one of the most fun elements of writing a story, but what if you decide to simply write off the top of your head? I admit that is what I often do. My book, Desert Blossom began with a simple premise from the popularity of online chatrooms where people were meeting online before ever seeing each other.
I can make all the plotting charts in the world, but I’m guaranteed to have one of my characters go off in another direction as the story moves along and suddenly everything falls into chaos. For me it is easier to write the story and let it flow along naturally. So, yes I am one of those intuitive writers who basically writes by the seat of my pants or what is also known as a “pantser” as opposed to a plotter.
The book I am currently editing, Deadman’s Treasure, has a heroine who completely stole my heart as a minor player in my book Dead Man’s Rules and made me want to write about her story. Freeda Ferguson was fully developed before I started writing the current book, but only because she had come to life in the first book and I wanted to know more about her and what made her who she was. Freeda's story has been contracted by The Wild Rose Press, so it should be released in the near future.
Many writers who plan carefully will make up all their character charts ahead of time. When I write organically, I will start writing and then go back and fill out the character chart after my character has taken form on the written page. Either way can work. Charts are great to have and keep so that you can easily check your character’s eye color or preferences and not end up with a brown eyed heroine on one page and a green-eyed heroine on the next.
That’s where that necessity of editing really comes in. Making up a quick character chart, even after you’ve written her/him into the story is a good idea so that the characters don’t change in mid-stream. You can check back as you edit.
Don’t scrimp on the editing either. It can make all the difference in the world. Just one quick read through after writing the first draft is not enough. This is where critique partners or Beta readers can come in handy. They can point out some of the little things that you might have mixed or question elements of your story that might need clarification.
While writing a book can seem overwhelming, simply sitting down and getting started can make all the difference in the world.
1. Get those characters on paper with a character sketch.
2. Write a scene that shows your characters or defines the problems
3. Write a scene of dialogue that illustrates who your characters are
4. Write a description of a room or setting or place so that you can get the idea in your head
5. Write the beginning scene
6. Write the ending scene
You don’t need to do all of these things in this order, but often just doing that can get you started on your story. I’ve been known to write that ending scene first (just as I used to sometimes read the last page of a book after the first chapter)
The better you know your story and characters, the better.
Any comments or questions?