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LK Griffie

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Young Writers Series: Preparing to Write
by LK Griffie   
Rated "G" by the Author.
Last edited: Monday, November 17, 2008
Posted: Sunday, February 24, 2008

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During the final rewrite phase of my novel, Misfit McCabe, leading up to publication, I worked with a class of young readers to preview the manuscript and provide feedback. This is the eleventh in a series of articles about fiction writing aimed at young writers. This article focuses on some of the pre-writing activities that help a writer formulate and solidify the direction of the book to be.

Before you start writing your story there are things that you need to do to prepare to write it.  These are things that will help keep your writing focused and on track and that will help you have a better understanding of the story that you will ultimately write.

1. Write a synopsis (a brief summary of the plot of a novel).  Before starting the story itself, write down a couple paragraphs summarizing the story.  This should be a general description of the main story line. What is the story that you want to tell?  If you're not sure how to summarize the story that you want to write, practice by summarizing some of your favorite books.  A sample synopsis of Misfit McCabe might be:

As summer comes to an end, Katie McCabe learns that her father is ill and will not be able to care for her for awhile.  Motherless, she is sent to live with an uncle and cousins that she has never met. Starting a new school in a new town is hard enough, but Katie makes an enemy of the town bully her first day in town.  She is angry with her father for sending her away and sets out to make life as difficult as possible for her uncle.

When her father passes away, her emotions spiral out of control and on top of that, the battles with the town bully escalate until Katie finds herself breaking the law to extract revenge.  Caught red-handed, Katie is brought home by a deputy sherrif, and is horrified to learn that her uncle feels that he has failed her.  Through one final act of revenge by the town bully, Katie finds herself lost and alone, struggling to get back to the only family she has left.

2. Write some character sketches.  List each of your main characters and write a few sentences about each one.  You can include as much detail as you'd like, even things that you don't plan to use in your final story.  This helps solidify your knowledge of your characters.  Writing down information about them that doesn't actually go into the story itself is an example of background information.  The more background information you have about your characters, the more three dimensional they become.  The reactions to the events of the story are always colored by the background information of the character.  For example: In Misfit McCabe, Katie reacts very strongly to the accusation that she cheated on a test and is extremely dismayed that no one appears to believe that she has not cheated.  Part of Katie's back story is that she has been accused before, and no one believed her then except her Daddy, who made sure the record was set straight.  So, part of her reactions are due to a part of her story that has never been told.

3. What does the setting of your book look like?  Can you draw a picture of it?  Or can you find a picture that looks like the place you are writing about?  Having a firm grasp of the place you are setting your story in makes a great deal of difference in the small details of the story.

4. Now that you have the synopsis, your character sketches and a firm idea of the setting of your story, it's time to start writing the outline.  Start with your synopsis and start filling in the details, as much detail as you can.  It doesn't matter what the outline format is, just get down as many details as you possibly can to provide the backbone for your story.

5. Now that you've done all of that, it's time to let the ideas simmer for awhile.  Take a few days off, and let your story really solidify in your mind.


LK Gardner-Griffie
Visit me at Griffie World
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