How to begin writing a novel

Yesterday, I had a meeting with the local Writers Club again. One of our new members wants to start a book but doesn’t know where to begin. When I  myself decided to write, I just started. The first scene I wrote happened in the middle of the story (which I only discovered later), but this doesn’t work for everyone (and I wouldn’t suggest it either). Fortunately, I recently read about the snowflake method and could recommend it.

The Snowflake Method of Writing

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With this method, you start with one sentence which depicts the core of your story. In the next step, you expand that one sentence into a paragraph, outlining what happens in your story. Setup, major disasters, resolution. Next, you do this for each of your characters. If you don’t have a development for your characters during your story, your readers will find your characters flat and can’t connect with them which you don’t want. It also will give you more to write about as the direction of development for each character won’t always go along the same line, pace, direction. The fourth step is to expand each sentence into a whole paragraph. Next, you will be expanding what you’ve got even further. Once you’ve got the basic storyline, make a chart of the scenes. Each scene will have to depict a development. If there is no development in a scene (good turns bad, ideas change, emotions change), delete it as it is just page filler. You now put in more and more details, until you have a full story. An article in which it is explained in more detail can be found here.

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This is how I sort of began my third book, Killing A Vampire. I know the characters in it, I know what is going to happen, and how it’s going to end (I must admit this took me a while to figure out), but I didn’t know what was going to happen in between the major plot twists. I used Scrivener’s corkboard and note cards to layout the chapters/scenes.

I actually used the word count as a basis. Both my other books are about 72K words, so I wanted my third book to be at least this size. They both have about 60 chapters, so I created 60 note cards. It also meant that each chapter/note card needed to be about 1200 words. Then I started filling in on each card what would happen in that chapter. Sometimes I write more words, sometimes I write less. The good thing about Scrivener is that you can move the cards around as you please. Overal I want to stick to the 1200 words, so readers can read the short chapters while they have a little time to read and not have to cut off their reading while something major is happening.

It’s perhaps not as creative as some ‘on the fly’ writers write, but I’ve been thinking for a long time about this story and, even though I know in advance where the story is going, the how is still created only once I sit down and write. I just don’t have to think about the why and where anymore, which I feel is like a weight off my shoulders.

If you have a different way of starting a novel, let me know. I’m all ears 🙂

PS: Talking about ears, my hearing aids are working fine again after the swimming pool disaster last Monday!

 

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