November/December 2007 Issue
Since the inception of Sincerely, Susan I’ve focused on writing and the writer’s life. But, I’d like to get closer to writing rather than just hovering above the idea of writing or the sketchy “how-to” of writing and bring the actual bits & pieces of writing into plain view. So, I’m dedicating the next year to explaining what it takes to write the parts of a novel.
In this newsletter, we’ll concentrate on planning to write in the New Year. We will talk in depth about each aspect of writing the novel and will continue until the end of 2008. Sincerely, Susan’s editorial calendar will look like this:
January/February – the beginning: point of view narrator, characterization & voice
March/April – scene setting & sensory perception, conflict: internal & external
May/June – the middle: rising conflict & steps throughout critical moments of the story
July/August – arc of the story, the most critical point & climax scenes
September/October – the ending: denouement, epiphany & bridging the conflict, resolution & wrapping up loose ends
November/December – the 60-second pitch, the chapter outline & the synopsis
This means, if you’re committed to writing along this schedule, you could have the first-draft of your novel finished by the end of 2008!
In the meantime, consider what subject you would like to write about. Will your novel fall under genre fiction: mystery, romance, thriller, sci-fi, fantasy? Is it YA? Is it a graphic novel or manga? Will it be historical fiction? Or, will your novel simply be mainstream fiction, a story about a person and one not so easily classified within the genre fiction categories. Whatever your story, the structural parts of it will remain the same. It will contain a beginning, a middle, and an end.
Of course, certain plots have considerations you may want to review. There are many great books regarding plot and developing a plot. One book called, “20 Master Plots (and how to build them)” by Ronald B. Tobias, is an exceptional reference for plot-building and one I’ve used on numerous occasions. The author has identified 20 plots and includes checklists after each plot’s discussion. Briefly, however, the riddle plot would be used for a mystery novel and the adventure, or even the quest plot, might be used for a fantasy novel. Whichever type of story you choose to write, you should think about what plot might fit it best. A mainstream novel might use a discovery plot or even an adventure plot or maybe both combined. One plot must be the main plot however. It’s always a good idea to review the different plots available.
Your job now is to decide on your story line. A story line is different from a plot. Your story line is what happens to a central character and what that central character wants, why what he wants is important, and the obstacles set forth that prevent him to get what he wants. Also, your story line should have an ending. For instance, you should be able to tell someone about your story like this:
“My story is about a woman (we’ll call her Jane) whose mother is dying. The mother has just revealed an old family secret to Jane. However, Jane isn’t quite sure she believes her mother and goes on a fact-finding mission plus while she’s on her mission she thinks she’ll begin writing that memoir she’s always wanted to write about her family. But, she’s blocked at every corner in her search for the truth. It’s only days before her mother’s death and she’s stumbled across the real truth and Jane is stunned. Will she be able to forgive her mother before her mother dies?”
This, of course, is a discovery plot with a bit of an quest plot thrown in for good measure. It also happens to be a super-abridged example of the story line for my third novel. I go through these exercises, deciding on plot and story line, because it focuses my writing. I don’t know about you but to me it’s very tiresome to read a book that goes on and on without direction. In fact, I usually put books like this down after the first 50 or so pages. Good pacing comes from hours and hours of preparation. It may seem to be a tedious task but it will be your friend in the end. This idea, this story line, I will then expand until it becomes a full-blown novel. Again, this takes many hours, days and months (sometimes years) to do. So, consider this, if you’re thinking about committing a substantial amount of time to something like writing a novel, wouldn’t you want to be as well-prepared as possible so as not to waist time, valuable time?
Again, between now and the end of January, your job is to decide what you want to write about. Write it down! If you have an idea how the story will end, all the better! Write that down too! When, we begin writing the nuts and bolts delineated in each eNewsletter you’ll be all the more prepared.
So, what are you waiting for, write now…
Award-winning author, Susan Wingate, writes fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and plays. In 2007 her mystery novel, OF THE LAW, was released. She lives in Washington State with her husband, Bob, where she writes full-time. Susan teaches writing classes at the community college level, around the country, and online through her website.
“Sincerely, Susan”© is the Official eNewsletter of Susan Wingate and www.susanwingate.com.