I know you’ve heard me plug the Atlanta Writers Club before, but humor me. Because our last two meetings (with local Atlanta writers) were just so fabulous, and I got so much out of them, I just wanted to share with you a few incredible tips that have really helped me organize my thoughts about my next novel, Finding Om.
First, some background. I’ve never been much of an “outliner.” I know some writers of novels/screenplays/plays who complete all of their research and a 50-100 page outline before they write a single word. If I had to invest that much into a novel before doing any writing, I’d never have finished Secrets of the Sari Chest.
And yet, I wasn’t too keen on my writing process with Secrets. Though I had a pretty good idea of the story beforehand, my plot was all over the place. After several drafts, I changed the age of the protagonist, which threw off a good bit of the novel. I cut out an entire character. I brought in a character who previously only appeared in a flashback. Sure, every novel is revised a gazillion times before it’s ready. But I had 200+ extra pages that I didn’t even use in the novel because I wrote in such a disorganized fashion.
I didn’t want to repeat this incredibly inefficient method again with my second novel.
In December, the wonderful Terra Elan McVoy told the Club that she does a Character Web and a Timeline for her novels. The Character Web shows the relationships between all the characters. The timeline is just that– dates and times for all pertinent events in the plot. I rushed home from this meeting and immediately started creating them for Finding Om. Though Character Webs and Timelines requires a lot of forethought, I find them far easier to manage than doing a detailed, scene-to-scene, chapter-to-chapter outline.
Thanks to Terra, I now have a completed character web and a timeline for Finding Om.
Jeff Stepakoff was our wonderful speaker yesterday. He has written for Dawson’s Creek and other television shows, and is now out with his second novel, The Orchard. (I started The Orchard last night and so far I love it.) There is much to be learned from screenplay writers, that’s for sure. Jeff educated us on how one measures a television show or movie with Acts and Scenes and Beats– and how these measurements are imperative for good fiction writing.
But what I really took home from Jeff, was the importance of writing your book jacket before you write your novel. Book jackets have compelling “hooks” which try to get potential readers from the bookshelf in a bookstore to the cash register. I’ve spent most of this morning working on my book jacket for Finding Om. I’m hoping that the Book Jacket will keep me focused on the plot, keep me writing scenes that push the plot forward, and prevent me from writing gobs of back story (which I did i the first several drafts of Secrets.)
So, there you have it. Great tips from great author-speakers. Hope you writers out there find them helpful!