I’m an expert at writing a middle grade novel when not having a clue if I was going about it the correct way. Now that I am beginning my second manuscript I feel more comfortable with the process. What I have learned is to go with what works for me. I have no idea if other aspiring authors use similar approaches but here is my 8-step program for writing a novel:
- Write a storyline. ________ is the story of_________ who wants to _______ but can’t because ________. Fairly basic but it helps to have this in black and white before doing anything else.
- Who are the characters and how will they change? I try and get each character in my head and write down the important events that will take place for each.
- Write the specific plot points. In my first effort I had three with the first appearing on page 15 in a 170-page manuscript. The next one on p. 54 and the final on p. 115. Each of these plot points moved my character in a different direction but still focused on his original goal.
- Write the first and last chapter. I find it important to write a solid beginning and ending chapter. It gives me direction for the interior of the story.
- Divide up the writing task into four unequal parts. The first three all culminate with a plot point and the final takes me to the end of the book. This step consumes my thinking as I write scenes and then wake up the next day thinking of a better way.
- Re-write. Each part is now read and read again, sometimes out loud. I look to balance the amount of dialog with description. I tend to get carried away with the dialog at times and this helps me focus. It also helps to look at the pages in Word’s reduced display format of 50-75% or print them out and lay them in front of you.
- Get critiques from people you know and don’t know. Rewrite based on their comments, then get more critiques.
- Let the final product sit for as long as possible. I haven’t been able to hold out longer than 15 days. I was amazed how new the words seemed to be. It was a huge help in being subjective in the evaluation of my own writing that led to more revisions.
How long did all of this take? Two years but I feel confident this next round will find a shorter time period.