Writing the novel in 2011 (for real)

Last night I talked to a friend of mine from my bookstore days on the phone. He is also an aspiring writer and talking to him I got inspired. My friend is putting his time in and has sacrificed more for writing than I have, but he is supportive of my pursuits too. A lot of my friends want publication and I hope we all get our cake. So for this blog entry I’m going to chart out my plans to getting the first draft done.

After talking to my friend I decided to simply write a synopsis of the novel I’d like to do. I’m going for the same story that in 2008 to early 2009 I wrote a hundred plus pages into it and then stopped. This is the story I have to tell, but I need to start from scratch. Last night and a little bit tonight I wrote out my novel idea in less than a thousand words. As I wrote memories and scenes I wrote came back to me, and I’m now excited about this winter writing project.

Writing out the idea in two or so pages was simply my first step. On my first attempt of this novel I did not do a full outline, but did an outline of 10 or so chapters, or a third of the whole story. I think the last chapter I wrote was the last one I planned. Learning from that I need to have all my chapters figured out before I start. In college I learned that within each chapter of a book something must happen, the story needs to evolve, and it needs to lead to the next chapter. In that first attempt the chapters ranged from 7 to 17 pages. I think in this attempt I will put a goal of 6 to 11 pages per chapter. If I’m able to do that for a full length novel there would need to be 30 to 40 or more chapters. That is a lot of planning for an outline but I think I came up with a system that will work for me.

Now that I wrote the synopsis of it the next step is to write a short chapter outline. So if there are 35 chapters I will type a brief description for each one. I might even try to condense it to one sentence or at least a short paragraph. The goal would to have this only be 2 to 3 pages, and to get a general idea of the movement of the story. The brief descriptions of each chapter would be an action, event, or something to move the story along. I hope to do this in a week or so.

After I’m happy with that short chapter outline, I will spend evenings writing out a more extensive outline for each chapter, one chapter outline for each night.  This will be a single spaced bullet point approach of at least one page. Each short story has the introduction, the body, and the conclusion. I think novel chapters work in a similar way except the conclusion is more of a transition to the next chapter. I am going to take this part very seriously and it may take over a month, but I plan work on this daily.

As much as I’d like to plow in and start writing right after this, I think that would be a good time to figure out what research will be needed to add substance to this novel attempt. I think having an outline made would help me know what information gaps are there. My novel will be a first person narrative, so it would need less detail than an omniscient third person, but there will be things I’ll need to look up. After I do my research I would add notes to the chapter outlines.

Once I’m ready to start the writing of the novel I’m going to do it differently. Last time I would write a chapter out by hand, and then typed that chapter out on the computer. I thought this gave me a more solid chapter and I could read over my progression better. But I think that’s what killed my attempt. I would get in a flow writing it, and then would always stop to type out the chapter. It think once I get to the writing the first draft it needs to be a routine and flow. A certain number of days a week I would write it out. I would not stop to type each chapter. Instead using the chapter outline as a guide I would write it by hand. After I finished a chapter I would take a day or two off and then start the next chapter. Finishing the first draft would be a major accomplishment, but I realize it will be long haul to type out 100,000 words or so. If I can do that I’ll read a book on revision and grammar.

This here is another lofty goal, but I’m serious this time.

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