Tip 2: Spend time developing your story

by richard on February 25, 2011

book stack 224x300 Tip 2: Spend time developing your story

This post relates to my blog series on the top ten tips to writing a novel. Visit my archives to see the full list, and other relevant postings.

It’s often very tempting to have an idea for a book (or something else for that matter), and be so keen that you just want to launch right in and start writing. The problem is, you might find after 50,000 words that you don’t know what to write next, or that you can’t work out who the villain is, or worse, that you’ve just realized that a better way for the book to progress is to have someone else be the hero, meaning the first 50,000 words will need to be re-written completely.

It might sound really boring, but writing a chapter outline will really allow you to develop your story, understand where it is going, and what research you will need to do to make it whole. The chapter outline doesn’t necessarily need to be long – maybe a paragraph or two for each chapter – depending on how long your chapters are. You should know though what is going to happen in each chapter, how this will lead on to the following chapters, where the twists and turns will be introduced, and why you need to include the shotgun mounted over the fireplace back in chapter two. All of this makes it easy to understand how the book will develop and flow.

When you have done the outline, it makes it so much easier to be able to focus on one chapter at a time when you sit down to write. All you need to do is concentrate on that one scene, and give it your best, knowing how it will fit into the rest of the story.

It’s important to spend some time on this outline, not just a passing glance. The devil is in the detail, as they say. I heard John Grisham once say that he can spend years developing the chapter outline before he starts writing the book. But when he does start to write, he knows exactly what is going to happen every step of the way.

Don’t for a minute think that this takes the spontaneity or excitement out of your writing. Indeed, it will allow you to become extremely creative within the moment you are in, knowing the boundaries you must write within. Think of how much fun you will have being totally immersed in the bedroom scene, or the dark alley, allowing your mind to focus on every little detail, knowing that when you finish the scene, you’ll know exactly where you will go next.

Richard Jagger formerly worked in the biotechnology industry, and has completed his first novel “The Cure”. Apart from writing his second novel, he works as a professional photographer. He has had two solo photographic exhibitions and one joint painting exhibition. Further information can be found at www.richardjagger.com

If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

Previous post:

Next post: