All of these glorious story ideas are buzzing around in your head. The only way to escape? You must write them down. But how? Right now it’s not making sense. There’s little flickers of scenes and characters that keep repeating themselves, but what order do they go in? What led them there?
In this series of posts, we’re going to go through every step of publishing a book. From the writing process, to editing, cover choice, formatting, and then where and how to publish. This guide will assist in gaining footing as an indie author and keeping it.
With that in mind, the writing process is up first. Let’s begin!
I’m sure we’ve all seen Plot Mountain at some point (or multiple points if the teachers were really adamant) in our lives. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Take a look:
Even though this mountain is ancient, it’s still very relevant. This is a wonderful way to begin your Outline.
I will be the first to stand up and say it: I hate writing outlines. Hate it. I feel like it kills my chance at an organic creation if I’m following a guide. However, SOME kind of outline is necessary to follow so your stories and characters don’t wander off into nowhere.
As I’m a character driven writer more than a plot driven writer (we’ll talk about this later), I like to start with creating my main characters, first. As I’ve talked about before, I want to make sure my characters are complex and relatable. Side characters can come later. There are a lot of great profile lists for characters, but the most comprehensive I’ve found to date is ThirdPotato’s Character Profile Form on DeviantArt. It’s available in a variety of languages and consistently updated. Obviously, if things from the form don’t apply, or you’d like to fill out the rest as you go along, you can keep it in a separate document, or have it handy in Scrivener for easy access. I like to fill this out (usually with what I know so far) for the characters I’ll be focusing on the most. It could range from 3 to 10 depending on the story, and that’s fine! It takes a little extra time, but finding extra details like what that character is allergic to or what foods they like really adds that depth and humanity to the story. Once I have that at least partially filled out, I create a loose timeline.
Once I have that form at least partially filled out for my focus characters, I create a loose timeline of events. This example is from Requiem when I needed to align all of the character arcs:
Starting out, the timeline doesn’t need to be this detailed. It’s completely fine to have one simple line with point a to b for one character. Then, add in events that happen along the way. At this stage, even if they’re out of order that’s okay. Just getting a visual of all of them can help set the pieces in motion. This is the point where I usually get started on the story. However, we can take it a step further.
I promised earlier we would talk about Character Driven writers versus Plot Driven writers. Character Driven writers tend to write characters that drive their story. Plot Driven writers lean more towards plot that drives their characters. Striking a balance between the two is the ideal situation for an author, but in general, we lean to one side or another.
In the first example, the story is pushed by the actions of the character. In the second, the characters are pushed by the events in the plot. If the second example seems to fit more to your writing style, an outline and a timeline are must-haves. One method I really enjoy for an extensive outline is Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method.
The last thing we’ll talk about today, and something that can absolutely be enhanced while writing, is Worldbuilding. The worlds surrounding our characters will make and shape them, force them into reactions, and potentially change how they are as people. Are they living somewhere real? Somewhere made up? Consider your climate, altitude, terrain, and current technological advancement. I did a write-up on Patreon about creating my first map. The very first version is definitely the work of a bottle of wine and MSPaint:
I have no excuses or regrets for this masterpiece.
This honestly helped me out a lot. The islands were ditched and “Some other Kingdom” actually came into play later. Being able to see where everyone is at all times and to keep track of travel distances was invaluable.
At this point, at the very least, you should have your characters laid out, a timeline, your world somewhat under control, and plot points to get to. All that’s left is putting the pen to paper or fingers (face?) to keyboard and letting the words flow. While you’re writing, make sure to keep in mind my top 3 tips and the plot devices to avoid.
Next time, we’ll talk about editing the first draft. In the meantime, how’s the story going? What do you find helpful in your outlines? Happy writing!