Writing a Novel My Way

All of my past writing teachers probably drilled me as to how to create the perfect story, but I was too busy seeing images in my head. Listening to long lectures has never been one of my strengths.

I know some writers who carefully plan every plot point out on paper or index cards before there story gets written. Too messy for me.

Some writers will disappear from the world and do marathon writing sessions, not surfacing until the end is stamped on the last page. Too intense for me.

Other writers will sit and stare at a computer screen impulsively tapping away and creating the story on the run. I can see that might work for me in a short blog post but not a whole novel.

I’m at the beginnings of writing my second middle grade novel, while the first one patiently waits for the publishing world. I write the way it works for me with apologies to past instructors. So here’s how it goes.

1. It starts with an image in my head and a problem for the main character. I’ll work out this inciting event as a movie in my mind before I begin writing.

2. The end or resolution of the problem is also visible. The movie is not as clear, but it’s the ending I’m striving for.

3. The first chapter gets written. Nothing great, just the ideas, motions and actions to get the scenes on paper.

4. I re-write this first chapter five, ten, maybe sixty times over the course of five, ten, maybe sixty days. I keep rewriting until it sounds right. My current first chapter was completed in a week. I need this solid first chapter to propel the rest of the story in the right direction.

5. I have also started thinking how I want to bridge the gap from beginning to ending chapter. There are 2-3 ideas that will be the focus of the next chapters. Again, I visualize the story in my head first and then put the action down on paper. The novel begins to take shape as new plot points surface from seeing and writing each scene. So far I have written three more chapters and  have the direction for three more. All of it moving me closer to the end. I’m striving for about 18 chapters total.

6. No rewrites yet for anything but that first chapter. I want to get the whole story down first. More chapters are  spinning around in my head. I write a summary line and wait to have the time to expand each into a full chapter. I write each chapter so that it has the feeling of a nice short story. The visualizing and writing compliment each other. While visualizing, I get the ideas of what to write next. While writing, I get  ideas as to how the next part of the story can bring me closer to a resolution of the main problem.

7. When the visualizing and writing is complete,  and the problem meets its resolution, the story is done. On to the rewriting process, something I actually enjoy. Taking one chapter at a time I add description, humor, and emotion to each scene. Make the reader feel the scene through my words is guiding me as I rewrite. With available time, this could take days and sometimes weeks for each chapter.

8. When I’m satisfied, it will be time to see if others feel the same way. Critiques are a necessary component of making the story better.

That’s it. I’ve been at it two weeks now and am about 20% complete. Not bad for someone who does thing there own way.

About Greg Pattridge

Climbing another mountain...writing middle grade novels.
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