{Portrait of Robert Cheseman (1485-1547) by Hans Holbein the Younger. Might this be a model for my heroine’s father?}

I’m at the beginning of writing my next novel, and it’s a joy. I feel happy as a kid in a sandbox. It’s a slow process of discovery, and I expect it to take all year.

The things about my writing process that never change

This will be my seventh novel (ninth, counting the two thankfully unpublished ones), and there are a few things that always remain the same:

  • I always feel like a novice starting out.
  • I always change my method.
  • I always experiment with process.

Story Genius: a great book on writing

This time I’m following the advice given in Story Genius; How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel (Before You Waste Three Years Writing 327 Pages That Go Nowhere) by Lisa Cron.

By following, I mean that every time the author writes WHAT TO DO, I do it.

Here’s an early example from page 52:

WHAT TO DO Now, you try it. Write a What If that’s as fully fleshed out as you can make it, but still concise.

Here’s another example from page 118:

WHAT TO DO Now it’s your turn. Your goal is to zero in on three turning point scenes that will yield the most story-specific info, the most potent grist for the mill, so that you can, indeed, begin your novel in medias res.

The point of Story Genius is to identify the moments in your main character’s past life that result in an emotional wound so deep that it will propel her (and us) through the novel. It’s a slow process of discovery, but very worthwhile.

I’m at page 194 now, and at this point I’ve written three pivotal scenes from my main character’s early life, an opening scene and a critical scene at the end of the novel. (Cron makes it clear that all of this will inevitably change.)

Getting into the nitty-gritty

Now the task is to begin to “blueprint” the novel, first by setting up folders for each character, for scenes, for ideas, and for the world the story unfolds in. I plan to do all this in Scrivener, but I’m beginning by exploring my characters in more depth.

This, alone, will take time, but it’s truly a pleasure. In my next blog post, I intend to share the tools I have used in the past to develop character, along with some excellent new tools I have discovered.