I finally finished my current novel An Autumn Tale this weekend. There will still be some minor edits once my beta readers have all phoned in, and I’m sure if I ever get this novel past an agent or editor, there will be more edits; however, tweaking is much less laborious that conceiving, organizing, and writing a novel.
While I’m giving my beta readers a chance to read the novel, I’m looking at beginning a new novel. I had such success following my instructor’s recommendations for An Autumn Tale, I intend to use the same technique with my next book.
My novels always begin with a character, and I formulate my plot around that character’s flaws. With An Autumn Tale, I began with a sentence that encapsulated the entire novel and described the theme I wanted to convey. Then I built a three-act synopsis for the novel.
In my first draft of An Autumn Tale, I used the three-act synopsis and started writing. My story rose mid-way to the climax then flat-lined. By closely examining the chapters of the first draft, I could see where my story began to stagnate. Of course, entire chapters had to be completely rewritten so that in the second draft, the action rose steadily to climax before flowing to the denouement.
It was a bit time-consuming to write like that. So this time, I want to use a technique I found by author Hélène Boudreau in her post Plotting OCD Style where she talked about using a document map to plot a novel. This is a tremendous tool, and I intend to use it for my next book.
From the document map, I will create a rough chapter-by-chapter outline and then begin writing my novel. Isn’t this a lot of work on the front end of the book? Yes, but this way, I can clearly see how well the climax is working without writing 10,000 words that I’ll end up trashing.
Will the chapter-by-chapter outline be clad in stone? Absolutely not. I intend to give myself flexibility to deviate from the outline wherever necessary.
Doesn’t that kill all the joy of discovery with your characters? Absolutely not. Nuances of characterization will arise, but these distinctions can be shaded with some minor editing once the first draft is finished.
So here we are. A new day. A new novel. Hopefully for the next year, we’ll be talking about Guillermo and we’ll look at new processes and techniques as we go.
What about you? Peter Cooper has said he intends to use the same techniques with his sequel to The Ghost of Ping-Ling. Will you try a new technique with your next novel or do you feel comfortable with your current writing process?