When I started on this "writing a novel" journey several years ago, I never dreamed it would take me this long. To be fair to myself, at the time I was working full time, very involved with a couple of nonprofits, and doing some side work as a grant writer. So I didn't focus on the WIP so much.
Last year, I finally retired from full-time work and decided to spend my "spare time" working on my novel. Well, I wrote a little over 33,000 words before I was stuck in the mud with no idea how to move forward. After going through my story, I realized I had forgotten a few things. I had the beginning and the end, but no middle! I had not fleshed out my plot lines, so they were disjointed and made no sense. The issue was, nothing was coming. What could I do to fix this?
When I get stuck and I realize I just don't know what to do, I start to research. I am beginning to understand just how much work goes into writing a novel. It's not just about sitting down to write -- although thats a really important part -- but writing all the supporting information before you get down to the story. As I outline all the work I still need to do, in no particular order, I am in awe that anyone actually finishes a novel!
1. Character Sketches
Writing a personality entails several details. What are their occupations? What are their likes and dislikes? How did the character grow up? In what kind of environment? Siblings? Schools? Ticks and traits? Speech? All of these relate directly to a full-fledged, albeit fictional, human being.
Sketches for your important characters do change as each one develops, but the sketches help define how the they approach the story, keeps them consistent, and informs their growth (if they are destined to grow) and helps the writer to get to know them as people in the story.
My thought is to write the more detailed sketches for the main protagonist and antagonists and lesser sketches for the supporting characters. We'll see how that works out.
The settings of the story most certainly contribute to the plot and set the stage for the events (scenes). Thinking about some of the books I love most, the places described in them always spoke to the scenes that unfolded there. Of course, most books will have several settings, so it is important to find a happy balance between discussing the place and the scenes taking place there.
When describing scene settings, it can be a good idea to flesh them out as well. We all know what we see in our minds, but putting those visuals on the page is another story. Again, stressing balance is key to making the scene shine in the in its setting. I once read a book that took two and a half pages to describe a room that housed a brief conversation between two minor characters and was never used again. So while setting is important, wasted words on unimportant places and scenes that do not move the story forward are a big no-no!
I really dropped the ball in this area. I am a technical writer by trade, so I tend toward brevity. Sometimes too much brevity. I found descriptions of settings in my story sorely lacking, so that will need a lot of work.
I have begun working on character sketches and will spend a great amount of time working on my setting sketches. As I continue to research the necessary pieces that go into building a coherent and satisfying novel, I will write about it here.
Join me on the journey!