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Writing, Organization, and Getting Out of the Bog

I’m really running into a problem with my novel. I want to write a good novel obviously, but the problem persists that I need to know certain things before I start putting words on the page. I already have spent so much time on character creation, culture creation, world building, plot lines, etc.

But I’m not finished. Not even close. I have limited time, I need to develop story quick.

I want to find that shortcut, that method to get the bare essentials that lets me write, while adding in what I need and journaling it for future books I plan to write in that world.

So here it was I’m proposing I should do: (This will be for future novels as I have so much already on my current novel)

– Draw a world map, only covering the area the story takes place. If you need more of the world later, draw it then.

– A list of all cultures/nations that will have a part in the story or you think will be mentioned. You can add to this list later if you need to add more. To name the culture you will want to do minor language building to come up with a name suitable for the culture.

– Write a quick one sentence describing the story. Keeping it under 15 words.

– Expand that sentence into a paragraph which will describes all major conflict points in the story. You may want to look up story structures to decide how many major conflicts will make up your book. Some people want to develop the world, languages, and culture, and find where conflict can happen. You can use your map for this and pick places you think cultures may clash, or ruins/other points of interest, where battles or adventure may happen. If it is cultural or language barriers that cause the conflict, open a new document for the cultures the conflict has drawn in and mention that as a point in the document to keep record. I believe, now, after all the work I have done, that you should develop your conflict first and develop the cultures and world around it. You will spend less time on world building and get to the writing sooner.

– Next is character development.

-You will need to name this person. Decide which culture from your list they come from. Do some quick language building to get the name system for that character figured out. Explain the naming system for the culture in a paragraph in a word document.

-Write a one sentence summary of the characters storyline. What is their story going to be in this book?

-Answer the following questions:

-What is the motivation for your character?(Abstract) (Don’t starve, protect family, earn money.)

-What is their goal?(Concrete) ( Obtain a sack of potatoes to feed himself, create a bunker to defend the home from invaders, rob a bank to obtain cash.)

-What are the conflicts that prevent the character from reaching his goal?

-How will the character grow? What will he learn? How will he change?

-Next write a one paragraph summary of the characters storyline.

Note: Only write up the above information for characters you know you will have.

-Now you know a bit about your characters. This will obviously give you more information for your story. You may even get some cultural information. If it has come out, add it to the corresponding cultures. Now with what you have learned about your story from your characters, go to your paragraph story summary and take each sentence and expand it into a paragraph. U don’t have to use what you learned from your characters for this, but it is probable that some of what you learned will help expand your story. The last sentence that is expanded into a paragraph will be the conclusion of the story. Your characters will probably be mentioned in this stage.

-Write a summary for each character you know for sure are going to be in the book. Don’t go more then a couple pages for major characters, and no more then a page for minor characters. You will tell their story from their eyes. Make sure you hit the points you mentioned above like goals, character growth, etc.
Note: Only write this info for characters you know for sure are going to be in the book. No point wasting time writing all this info for characters you only think will be in the book.

-Now you need to expand your story even more. You previously learned more about your characters, and you probably are getting more ideas. Take each paragraph from your story summary and write a page on each paragraph. Your story will become more complex and start hitting deeper issues. You may see themes emerging. Your character’s story threads will appear in this. More cultural points will pop up as you get ideas for them. Add them to your cultural pages.

-Now is time for deep character building. This is where you need to be careful. Don’t get to carried away. You will develop:

– Birthday

– Birth Place

– Age

– Description

– Motivations (Go deeper into the issue. Add more motivating factors. Sure they are starving, but why are they starving. Maybe their food has been taking by an evil king and another motivation is now getting revenge.)

– Goals (Goals are directly related to motivation. If you added more motivating factors, add more goals. If it is something the character can’t achieve until after the current story, maybe make it something that itches at them and causes problems as they try to choose goal to take. Internal Conflict.)

– History (Don’t go overboard, only mention what you think will have importance in the story or is something that has had a strong impact in the persons life. If you want to add more later while writing, then that is something fun that will pop up and surprise you and you can alter things as needs be then.)

– Close friends and why?

– Enemies and why?

– Fears and why?

– Things they dislike or hate and why?

– Religion and believes and why?

– Education

– Change (How will this character change by the end of the novel? What are the steps to this change?(Simple farm boy forced into war. Steps: Fear and confusion, understanding, more responsibility, leadership, not wanting leadership, leading grudgingly, accepting leadership, a great leader.)

-Add anything else you think is of importance, such as maybe their views of the future, they outlook on life, are they normally happy or are they of gruff personality. How do others view them( this can be very different from how they view themselves) How do they view the world?

-Now by this point you probably know what cultures are going to be involved in your story. You will know a little about their language. Certain issues will have probably popped up cause by culture class between your characters. For each culture you know is a part of the book write a one page summary that includes:

– common ground between the members of the culture

– shared philosophy between the members

– specific goals they all share

– the differences they set aside to meet their goals

– the sacrifices the members each make to meet the goals such as time, resources, and effort etc.

– how all members work for the good of the
group

– how the current members ensure the survival of the culture by recruiting new members. (Babies, recruiters, missionaries etc.)

– Write a one page summary for each culture that mentions the following points: (Don’t go into extreme detail. As you write and learn new things about the culture add them to your cultures document.)

-Home Life: What is the home life of a member like? Mention things like how life is for single people? How life is for married or paired people? How life is for people in groups or families? What is expected of them? What is life like for a child, teenager, young adult, adult, elder? Not all cultures will have these ages. The army is a culture and may include just teenagers to adults. How are things different based on sex? How is a pregnant person treated if not married? If Married? If they haven’t performed a sacred ritual? If married outside the culture? etc. How are people who are about to die treated? How are old people about to die treated? How are young people about to die treated? Is there an unacceptable way to die? etc. Ask questions like this and answer them.

-Community: How is life outside the home and in the community? What is expected of each member? Of members of different class? How are members treated based on sex? How do people gain respect in the community? How are people treated based on age? What is considered wrong or out of the norm and how is it treated?

-Religion: What religions are big in your culture? What happens if your not a part of them? How do they recruit new members? Are the people forced to follow the religion? Is it mixed with government or separate? How are people treated based on sex, age, or other circumstances such as pregnancy, sickness, money, etc.

-Government: What type of government does the culture have? What is it’s structure? How are leaders chosen or rise to power? How do they enforce the law? How are laws made? What services do they provide the members of the culture? What problems do they cause the members? Are the members acceptive of the government? Is the government mixed with religion? How do members get away with breaking laws? What happens if they are caught? etc.

-Write anything else you want noted

Note: You don’t have to answer all these questions. They are just examples of questions to ask and answer. Write whatever you want. If anything changes past documents go back and make the changes to reflect the culture. Maybe you’ll find new conflicts, now character quirks, etc. As you write you’ll learn new things about the cultures. Come back here and record it.

-Add points to your map. There is a good chance that through you development you have learned of cities or interesting points. Add them to maps to keep track of locations that are important to your story.

-Plan scenes. You have probably already made changes to your story summaries, added crucial culture points to your culture documents, added new characters as you realized you needed more. Take your story summary which probably already has your character individual stories melded into it and break it up into scenes. Scrivener is an excellent tool. It has a plot card view and you can write on them and move them around as you need to change up the order of the scenes.

-Write your story. You haven’t covered everything in the above steps, but anything that comes up as you write you add to your documents. Separate your manuscript scenes from the other scenes and have a labeling system so you know what scene in the book corresponds with your scene card. As you shift scenes around as you write you can keep the cards and scenes in the book in order together.

Notes: All the development you did is flexible. As you write your story you will discover you need to know certain things you have not developed. Develop it then, and only what you need. A new character shows up, add him into the documents, do the character steps, add him into the story summary, do a individual story thread for this character, change the story summary and add in the scenes. You need to borrow a piece of a language from a culture, develop enough of the language to create that sentence, and leave it at that. You need to zoom in on a piece of your map to write your story effectively, draw it and keep it for your documents. Photocopy a blank version of your map before drawing on it, that way you can use multiple copies of the map to represent different things.

Note: Have a miscellaneous document so as you learn things you can add it into the miscellaneous document. Maybe you have creatures you learn about, add it to the document. As things of similar nature start showing up, start a new document to group them together.