You get that novel idea and you can’t wait to start writing. Your fingers are itching to pick up that pen or start typing away at your computer.
Stop. Hold up. Here’s a checklist of things to do before you sit down to write. You don’t have to do everything. Read the list and choose what works for you.
- Why are you writing? Why are you writing this novel? What is it about this story? The story should engage you. It should excite you and scare you. Writing a novel isn’t easy. Writing one well is even more difficult. You need to care about the characters, the story, etc. If you don’t, you’ll lose focus.
- Check your expectations. Writing a novel is a long process. It’s not going to be all sunshine and butterflies. There are going to be days where you want to trash everything and give up, go do something else. Remember that this is your first draft. Some parts may be fantastic the first time through. Most won’t. Make time to clarify. Make time to revise.
- Know your characters. You need to know your characters inside and out. They have to be real to you. If they aren’t, they’ll seem fake to readers.
- Plan it out. You don’t have to do an outline, though they can be very helpful. And you should at least know how to write an outline. One day you may be asked to do so. At the very least, you should know what’s going to happen over the course of your novel. Hundreds of pages, tens of thousands of words, major and minor plots, multiple characters, settings, etc. all add up. If you go in blind, you’ll end up with plot holes.
- Create the rules. If you’re creating a world, your setting’s in the future, or you’ve got fictional characters, you need to have rules for your story. Vampires? They drink human blood. They can survive off animal blood for short periods of time, but it’s human blood that sustains them. They can’t go out in the sunlight, unless they’re Originals, those of the first bloodline. They turn others into vampires by drinking their blood until the point of death, feeding them their blood, and then killing them. You get the point. Make the rules and stick to them.
- Know your ending. Know your ending before you begin writing. Why? Because it matters. Your entire story is tailored to how the novel ends. Know the ending and plan for it. This doesn’t mean you have to stick to the original ending. Most likely you’ll think of a better ending as you’re writing, but you don’t want to be left scratching your head during the last thirty pages.
- Research. Get some of the research out of the way before you start writing. Even if you’re writing fiction, you’ll still find you need to do research, whether it’s creating hybrid creatures or figuring out what’s most likely to happen if a hurricane and earthquake occur simultaneously. What’s the emergency plan? How will the power grid be impacted? Flooding? How will people react? You don’t have to do all your research ahead of time. You can do it as you go, but it’s good to do some early, so you’ll know what you’re talking about. Nothing’s more irritating than having someone talk about something they know nothing about.
- Write the query. A query letter will give you a clear image of what’s going on in your story. Aim for two to three paragraphs that explain the hook, the story, etc. Make sure to include the critical pieces.
- Forget about it. Forget about writing for a moment. Instead, think about your idea. Go to bed thinking about it. Ask questions. Envision problems with the story or with what the protagonist will face. Research. Let your brain absorb all you read and think about.
- Commit. Commit mentally and physically. Willpower has a lot to do with writing. You are going to finish this novel. It’s not a question. You’re not wishy-washy. You will complete this. No more waiting. Sit down and write. Get it all out on paper. The time is now.
What are some things you do before writing?