After I Do: A Novel

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She faces death rather than leave Peta behind and in the Climax, defeats President Snow and wins the Games, returning to the real world of the district at the end, forever changed. If you want readers to want to spend their precious time on your book, then you have to write a character that keeps them engaged. There are other people in the worlds of those books, but the main characters are the ones that we care about most and follow through the books and also why these became huge films as well as multi-million selling books.

Your character will also shape the Point of View you write from, and this is critical because every story is different from a different perspective.

2. Build yourself a blistering plot

The bad guy never thinks they are the bad guy, after all. Go back to the books you love the most and you are likely to find that these are the core aspects of those stories. The Taj Mahal features in my novel, Destroyer of Worlds. You can also think about where this will happen, otherwise known as the setting. There needs to be action that takes place somewhere specific. Game of Thrones is a great example of this. Take Jon Snow at the Wall in the North. The ice and snow bring a dark, cold tone to the experiences of the characters and makes life much harder than those who live in the golden city of Kings Landing in the sunnier south.

The Hunger Games also uses setting to derive plot, with much of the first book taking place in the games arena where Katniss must survive the deadly traps set for the Tributes. In Gone Girl , Nick must find his missing wife Amy, and figure out the psychological games she has been playing as he falls into the domestic traps she has set. Remember that plot and setting is experienced by the character and the closer you get to the emotions of the protagonist, the more your readers will resonate with the story.

Because that is NOT what the author wrote the first time they put pen to paper. The reality is that everyone starts with a first draft, and most authors would never show that draft to anyone. In my experience, the amazing ideas I have in my head turn out to be a mess on the page. Finding the right words is difficult. And how the hell did my character even get into this dilemma in the first place?! Do you schedule your gym classes? Your meetings at work? Your social life?

I use Google calendar and schedule my writing time in blocks. Now I tend to go to a cafe or a co-working space and pound away at the keyboard while plugged into Rain and Thunderstorms on my noise-cancelling headphones. Anything to quiet that critical voice! Once you are in your specific place at the specific scheduled time, then you need to focus.

No Facebook, no email, no social media, no texting. Set a timer and start small, since writing takes stamina and you have to build it up over time. Try ten minutes of typing and just write down what your character is doing in a particular place. Allow yourself to write a load of crap without censoring and I guarantee you that there will some something there worth saving! Take a quick break and then do another ten minutes.

Repeat this until you have your first draft. It really is that simple but not easy, and you get the bug, this will turn out to be immensely satisfying and addictive! Bonus tip: You can write by hand on paper, or use MS Word, but many writers now use Scrivener software which helps you organize and write your novel.

I have personally found it life-changing! So said Michael Crichton, author of Jurassic Park and many other incredible bestselling books. This is particularly true when you first start writing fiction because there is a huge gap between the books that you love and the pitiful first draft you have created. I end up with pages of scribbled notes, arrows, lines and extra scenes, strike-through marks across whole pages, as well as grammar and typos fixes.

Then I put all those changes back into my Scrivener document, remembering to back up my files along the way, of course! That first edit is usually my most significant one, and then I will print it out and go through it once more before working with a professional editor. The best way to improve your writing is to work with an editor on your manuscript. If you want an agent, then improving your manuscript before submission is a good idea. Click here for my list of recommended professional editors. There are different types of edits.

A story edit, or content edit, is a great way to check whether your structure is working, whether your characters are engaging or whether your plot has massive holes. Too many writers think editing is about fixing typos, but that is the least important thing at this stage. Readers will forgive terrible writing if your story is amazing. After all, 50 Shades of Grey sold million copies!

Getting a story edit is often the best way to improve your work and well worth investing in. Then you can do your rewrites based on the suggested changes. This article has been a whistle-stop tour through the process, but I want to reassure you again that it is possible. So I wish you all the best with your book. If you want to get started on your novel right now, and get into these topics in more detail, then check out my multimedia course: How to Write a Novel: From First Draft to Finished Manuscript.

If ever I'm struggling, I can go back to a real scene and recall what you said about it whether it be relating to setting, character, or whatever. And that puts me back on track. Joanna's positive attitude and teaching style make learning how to write a novel enjoyable and feasible. Click here to sign up for my Author 2.

If you have any questions, you can tweet me thecreativepenn or Contact me here. Start Here! Is it your dream to write a novel? Are you unclear on the process? I know how you feel! Sign up below to get your accompanying PDF cheatsheet The writing craft is like an iceberg , with hidden depths that you can spend the whole of your life exploring.

Some of my many journals. The Creative Penn Limited. All rights reserved. Search The Creative Penn. Story development, of which outlining is one technique, liberates your writing, it does not stifle it. Writing and storytelling have nothing to do with one another. They are different talents, crafts, and skills. Most writers are lousy at the story function, they may be good writers, but most people are weak storytellers. Thus, story planning, development, whatever you want to call it, is essential to help support creativity.

By giving form to the process, not to control and dominate the process, but to direct and harness it—like the banks of a river giving direction to water. No banks, what happens? Without the banks of the story development river to give support, the writing process with flood all over the place and you will be drowning in pages in no time. They have the talent, they have the gene, it comes naturally to them, like flight to an eagle. I agree, Jeff. For most people it is impossible to keep track of the real traits of a character they describe, so characters look inconsistent. They also let their writing wander and the point becomes more and more obscure, hidden behind the flow of words.

I may have a different perspective here, and I hope it helps. Your article reads to me very much like the advice of a creative writing teacher, or a modern sculptor. In classical art, as in classical music, classic literature, etc… it is the technical prowess, the planning and execution of the thing that takes it from a good idea towards something akin to ART.

I would never just sit down and throw a bowl, no no no, bad potter. I would never just carve out the features of a woman I vaguely remembered, I would make models, sketches, points upon a each plane of my precious piece of marble before even thinking of digging in. As a classic artist, and writer, I believe that bucket loads of people have good ideas, some even great ideas, but it is the execution of that idea, the technique, that makes it art… at least in my mind.

I bought it on recommendation from a multi-published friend, and it has done wonders for my writing. I am reading a book by C. Lakin about novel construction and find it to be very informative and original. She advises and I am trying it to construct a timeline first, rather than an outline. I have already written my plot down using a timeline and who knows? I may not even need to use an outline. First off, writing is not JUST art.

It is ALSO craft. It uses grammar. It has structure.

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Do whatever amount of story planning will help you finish a draft. Outlining does not stifle your art. It directs it. It becomes the bones on which you build. As the image progresses, the outline evolves. It works the same for writers. Tweak it, change it, move beyond it. Instead of wasting days, weeks, or even months going off course, make a note about it and explore it later—separately.

For now, focus on the story you decided to tell. This is what so many aspiring writers find so stifling. It takes such courage to call yourself a writer in the first place, and comments like some of those I saw above do not help! That is part of why being a writer is such a beautiful thing. If we all had the same story to tell, the library would be an awfully empty place. By the way, for all the people who say they have published novels, please add links or some other identifying information, so that I can read them.

I have two novels published. Outline is a vague term. Is it a plan, a set of lines enclosing something, a diagram, a general description, a summery? My novels were planned, one over a period of 50 years. I wrote it in a year, and I took reams notes on details I added to support the plot. My second novel was a lark.

Loving cats as if they are my children, I wanted to write a love story from their POV. Hence, all the characters are cats, and, yes, they talk. Again, my research notes were a sort of outline. I wrote it in three months. In each book I knew where I was going; the end was clearly in sight. If outlining is planning, then I dare say all writers outline because somewhere deep inside their minds is the story and it does bubble forth outline or no outline. It is an ooze that cannot be stanched. Is it necessary to write the plan out and hang it on your wall, or write it on the wall as Faulkner did.

To all of that I say, whatever floats your boat and succeeds. To outline or not to outline is a debate that writers have all the time, and, to repeat, the answer, invariably, is whatever works for YOU. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. By Stephen King. Another interesting take on the journey of stumbling through the storytelling process.

Make sense? I love being purple, obsequious, clairvoyant and slightly mad….. I agree with the folks at Storywonk. Whatever helps get your story told is fine. But of course, this is when you know what you want to do with a story. You can take it or not. You can write an outline and then erase it completely. It feels as if people are taking the subject too far like it is completely necessary to write one or completely forbidden.

But if you feel confident with an outline there is nothing wrong about trying it. What the article says works the other way too: what might not work for a writer, it actually might work for another. Giving writing advice can be tricky; the one giving the advice is, more than likely, sharing things and methods in accordance to their own experiences with writing.

The perspective given above is good, for certain people of course, who have the same mentality as you. Honestly, I both outline and, without an outline, dive into my tales. Yet, like most of the people in these comments either said or alluded to: just do what comes naturally to you. You hit the nail on the head. The best writers intuitively embrace their explorer role, thrill to it.

Great post!

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As someone who wrote a book without an outline and really struggled but insisted anyway that I would never, ever use an outline I completely understand the points raised in this article. But when I decided to start another novel I essentially wanted to do everything I did not do the first time and I signed up for a class being offered by James Patterson through MasterClass.

I did not realize he had sold more books than any other author in the world, but learned this while researching the course and ultimately signed up for it. With his example I set out on an outline for my new novel. Now he has published 75 novels, and again, most successful author in the world with some of the most high profile agents and publishers in NY, and he writes and outline for every.

Obviously it works for him and he insists every author does the same. Great Blog share by author, Congrats on blogging a novel! As an analogy:. Get in your car and start driving. Get in the car. And now, armed with the knowledge of this simple outline, you, the writer, have the freedom to deviate from your plan, allowing adventures to organically appear. Writing a novel without an outline is probably worth doing once.

But giving yourself a basic outline is not limiting your creativity. Conclusion does not match thesis. Plan to elucidate, first for yourself. If you have no idea where you are going, then the reader will sense that every damn time and will lose all faith in you. Plot, but allow for growth — a midnight tryst with a memory of a Keats poem may suddenly need to play its part in your plot. So, let it. Do not be so rigid as to remain fastidiously and immutably bound to a preconceived plan.

For what is a plan? Plans are not meant to survive the battle field, and the creative mind is war and ecstasy. You absolutely must know your characters, and who pushes whose buttons, and who wants what and who will support the fulfilling of the want, and who are traitors to such want-fulfilling. You must know. And you must know how the characters have hithertofore lives and how they will live once your hero and heroine sail far across the sunset sea.

Or your characters will look like hastily contrived plot devices, which removes dignity from reader, writer and our dearly beloved characters. I think this is all very good! Let me tell you this much: I can tell a novel that has been written without an outline. I can tell because when it comes to what you might call the third act in screenwriting circles, the author suddenly pulls a rabbit out of a hat, drops some godlike coincidences in, starts in with the meaningful coincidences; the deaus ex machina winds down out of the sky like a hot air balloon.

This happens because he had no idea how the story was going to end, so he had to actually think up one that could be grafted on.


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And what was he doing at that moment? He was outlining. Right at the end. Right at the last possible moment, when he had no room to move. Stephen King is one of the great advocates of non-outlining novels, and he is one of the greatest offenders. At the end he suddenly drags in some extra paranormal stuff that can rescue his people. God might as well of pulled them up to heaven. I am a big Stephen King fan, but this particular fault is illustrated in his work. Some times you hit them and sometime the story goes off another way — and if it does you adjust your waypoints, like a GPs route, stretching out and changing as you choose which way….

So I outline a bit, so that I am confident that I have somewhere to go. I can go better places though. Sure, not having an outline will create plot holes. But so will having an outline. First drafts will all require a great amount of editing no matter what to make it work. Not outlining might require more editing but even that depends on the project and its execution , but all that matters is getting your story down on the page. You claim you could tell if a novel has been written without an outline, but really you can only tell if the author likes to throw in random coincidences.

An author can go off course even with the most thorough of outlines. A good editing will take care of those as long as the author wants to take care of them. The bottom line is YMMV. This article made me think of the Briggs Myers personality types. This seems to be a great illustration of several of them. I completely and totally disagree, this is why novels end up being complicated, convoluted, unfocused and full of plot holes, especially if there is flashbacks or time travel.

I would advise outlining absolutely every aspect of the entire thing and make sure its got a fantastic arc, memorable character development, foreshadowing, and no plot holes. This article is the worst advise possible. Your book will be a nonsensical nightmare. I am probably the most opposite of outlining most of the time. I only ever know a title and I write ten keywords down which might matter to the story I am trying to tell, and often not all get used. Maybe when I am a well-known author I can dare myself to write a book about how I write. Thank you for the article.

I told bio stories about me, others and events that happened around my job as a Customs officer. Your article makes sense to me because my previous work just came to me and I wrote it. It included humor, seriousness and a message. I will try and write the idea for a book the same way. One chapter at a time. Thank You again. I loved this article. I can relate so much. I agree… and disagree. For the novel that I am currently writing, I outline. Each scene has about a notebook page of outline; and yet every time I write the scene I still discover.

I take a small detour. A turn. Sometimes you should go to that interesting village several miles off the road, sometimes you got to explore. You fix plot holes. You just decided to write, without thinking. You have something to lean on You get stuck. With an outline, you can skip ahead: if you get stuck, just move on to that other scene you planned.

And you have the same amount of fun. You write quicker. Having an outline to lean on gives you a place to go. With a place to go, you get there quicker. The getting there is the fun part, because serendipity lends a hand and she can be a beast. I do admire those of you who plan ahead with charts and index cards etc.

Thank you for this article. Being new to writing, my first instincts are to outline basics. Not too detailed but something to track plot point s and to stay on task. Thank you to all that left portions of there own processes as comments. I have read them all! A very helpful article, thanks. I tend to write from the seat of my pants, but have learned —the hard way— that following a loose outline and plot structure can save my editing budget down the line.

I recently featured a post on my blog with 5 key plotting techniques, which you might find interesting. For certain kinds of novels such as mysteries, some kind of outline or plan is almost necessary because there are many small details that have to fit together at the end. I liked this article so much, I linked to it from one of my blog posts about outlining. Great perspective that stands outside the popular box. Glad I read this article — very true.

Sure, for some an outline might work, but my WIP has been a voyage of discovery for the lack of an outline. I follow enough agents actually hundreds on social media to know what attracts them — something new and different. What kind of quack is this — I want to see her work and compare it to mine. Lets have a real time write off, and let the readers see for themselves what type of approach is more productive. I would think writers that outline are afraid. It always amuses me when people wax poetic about how outlining somehow stifles a writers creativity, or somehow puts a stranglehold on it, when in fact the only one putting a stranglehold on your creativity is in fact you.

Feel free to change anything and everything if while in the process of writing the story and filling in the remaining blanks aka, exactly how your story plays out in words vs the stripped down version of how it plays out in your outline. Go enjoy that process.


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Some people swear by outlining because it works for them. Jut find the formula to your success and apply it. Some people are prescriptive and arrogant when it comes to telling others how they do their jobs and think that because it worked for them, it has to work for everybody. We see some examples of that in this thread. Writing a plan is perfect for me because I can put in all the little details I want into the plan and when it comes to writing a first draft I can exclude any details that are irrelevant to the direction of the plot but the knowledge that they are there adds a layer of depth to me and gives me some background resources to touch on where and when I need them.

I like to have an idea of how absolutely everything in the worlds I create work and how they all interact with each other so I personally need a space to put all of that to one side for only me to know, with it all ready to pull in to the story when I need it. If I start to get bored then I reassess the idea and pinpoint where I lost me excitement for it.

Some kinds of stories are best written without any kind of plan, and some need extensive planning in advance in order to make sense. Basically whether or not you make any sort of plan for your book, and how much planning you do, ultimately depends on the idea that you have, how much it excites you and most importantly depends on what it is that gets your creativity flowing.

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It really is a case of going with the flow, not against it. Do whatever feels natural to you and see where you end up. Until its printed you can make any changes you like, and even afterwards you can still make small changes. Some people can write an unplanned story in a very short time, some take longer, and some can write a plan and get their story completed quickly and some can take years just planning alone.

The time it takes has no relation to the method you choose, if anything it depends on the speed at which ideas and inspiration jump at you, and the amount of free time you have in which to write. Planned novels can take just as long or longer to write and no level of detailed planning can make it more or less superior to an unplanned book. All it comes down to in the end is the end product: the idea you have and how well it is written. This certainly opened up new perspectives for me. OMG, this is horrible.

Yeah, you can. Very interesting. I shall remember the points from this as I proceed to plan the F out of my novel. People may have diverse needs in terms of writing. A simple short story requires different mechanics than a series of page novels. Feature films vs. TV Show. You may even need a step in front of outlining if your scenarios are complex. For me, writing prose is the very last step.

I am for the idea that work should be planned but then the existence of the plan do not limit creativity, you could change the direction of the story whenever you feel like. There are the Outliners, who swear up and down that to fail to outline is to invite pain and suffering; that refusing to outline is being lazy and avoiding work; that novels will suffer from aimless writing and extensive rewrites due to the lack of an outline. Rigid, immutable outlines offer no surprises, leave no room for creativity or inspiration, and turn the work of writing into mindless drudgery.

Because clearly whoever is on the opposing side is an idiot. Or, conversely, the same people when working on different kinds of projects? I can certainly see the benefits of both! A complex novel with many different locales, a large group of characters with varying motives, and a plot that needs to proceed in a particular fashion would absolutely benefit from an outline. Yes, there are benefits AND disadvantages to both methods. Sometimes you need a loose, rough outline that covers only the broad strokes.

Major story events are still set in stone, but you still have the freedom to play around with, invent, and discover new minor moments and characters and twists. Writing a novel is a very personal affair. It requires you to rip out a piece of your heart and show it to the world.

The manner in which you may choose to do this is entirely of your own choosing. What works for one person may not work for another at all. You may surprise yourself. I see a lot of assertive comments on the importance of outlining. I can only write by discovery, which means sitting down and writing my story with nothing more than ideas to guide me. When I try to outline, my brain becomes and open space of nothingness.

When I write, my characters guide me to multiple ideas that branch my story into several directions in which I must choose from. It all comes down to the individual. If outlining works do it. A person new to this writing thing will be overwhelmed by all the advice.

Do what works. You will make mistakes like I did and slowly you will figure it out. Most of all, write. I am currently working on a novel which is about two contemporary writers trying to solve a historical murder mystery. What I find works for me is to get the outline of the story in your head so you have a beginning middle and end and then fill in the pieces in between.

I would argue that you should think at least, one to two chapters ahead so you should know what will happen next. But if you always have your end result you then have to think ten pages ahead as how to get to it. I knew what was going to happen in the chapter that I wrote today of my current project and I now know how it is going to end and I have identified the culprit in the murder mystery.

Because I am writing a parallel story I know the name of the culprit but the characters are yet to identify him themselves. So if you know the end result yourself filling in the dots in between can be relatively easy, continuity is the most important factor and having Aspergers Syndrome I sometimes struggle with that. Although that is what editing is for. Gotta agree that outlining leads to paralysis of creativity, but also understand where some of the pro outliners are coming from. Not everyone can spend a good portion of each day writing and thereby always staying attuned to the direction their story is traveling.

An outline helps you pick up the writing if you have a day job and family and must take a day or a few off from writing periodically or frequently. This is just a series of notes to yourself to remind you of what you were thinking and how to pick the thread up again. I also have a book to help writers that avoids like the plague stale, redundant, and cliche writing advice.

Available on Kindle. I loved your article. And I am SO grateful that I saw it today becauase yesterday I took a course from someone who told me to make a Master List, then a list out of that list, and then sub-topics after that. And then to write about each subtopic following a whole format of answering questions and even editing that sub-topic by reading it out loud three times before I approve it and move on.

I started making my outline today and fell asleep. And it felt and I believed it to be good advice. But I mean, I have never been a person that edits my work. When I write, I just write. Because it was what I was thinking and feeling in the moment, how can that be edited? Its real, authentic and dare I say from within.

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Anyways, thanks for your article, it was like a beacon in a sea of bullshit for me. Great article, I do a little bit of both with my stories. Thank you for this…! So I guess having some idea to what you want and being open and receptive to change it is a lot more balanced than fully pants it or fully plot it. But I had no idea how the thing would develop, and made wonderful discoveries as I proceeded. Most of the events in the novel came to me as it evolved.

Readers are really smart. What the hell, why not add in a tour in Vietnam for your hero? Of course! That will explain why your protagonist can take over the joystick when the colonel gets hit by a bullet from the bad guys …. The plot-versus-pullitoutofyourass war is to the death! Some threaten to be mini short stories or tiny mood essays. I also populate a database with facts, pictures, websites, and citations as I plot. Further, I have to concede, after making somewhat acrimonious fun of our PIOOYAs, that some storylines require more planning than others.

My entire story consists of a prison inmate in Tanzania who narrates his life story into a voice recorder hidden in a stuffed-toy heron. And even with all my careful plotting, I have to go back and foreshadow the prison riot that costs the gentle giant, Captain Ndulu, his life.

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Simply forgot to do it. Foiled again! Thank you for giving me a permission to just write. I have this book in my mind for sometime now. But I have a question though, I want to apply for a residency where they pay you to take some time off of your daily job, to write your story. One of their requirement is to send them the outline of your book. How should I go about it? Thank you again. I wish that I was like that. In fact, over the years, I have learned the opposite wisdom. That there is something to say for just writing… for some of us, it leads to 20k words of a huge mess we have no idea how to fix, what parts are written, which parts are for some reason elaborated upon to excessively, which parts are not explained enough to follow to another point….

But then when I try to write an outline the process seems sterile and unproductive. That was 80, words where I just kept writing, not knowing exactly where or how it would end. Sit down, start a chapter, the words and ideas just came. You can definitely find certain parts of that article useful, not everything obviously, but I believe it is worth looking into.

So I CAN just jump straight into writing a book with hardly any planning?! As much as I can understand why some people might prefer not to outline, I have found that outlining helps me much more than not outlining. Go ahead and just write. You can do that. Every time you doubt whether you can handle a particular assignment, you can Order Research Paper Services from us and be sure that you will get good grades.

The quality we have assured our customized research papers services clients is depicted in the fact that all papers are checked by experienced professionals. Writing is a wave-form on a sea of pearls. Be florid and concise, brief and alive. Goodbye and thanks for all the hubris.

Nice article, article guy! I use a combo of no outline and outlining. Aw geez. Nothing takes or shows my comments anymore. God knows why. Hollywood script writers outline all the time. A simple one page Outline, which includes a summation of Beginning Hook, Middle, and End, as well as the global genre, controlling idea, and POV for me is extremely helpful.

Having an idea how your story not only begins but ends is very important. It gives a road map which the author needs to travel. For me, and this may work for other people, is to outline the story very generally and very briefly. Character X does Z and Y happens which leads to ending W.

Then, I always know the ending and most major plot points before I start writing and everything in between those is made up as I go along. So, things evolve, they change and not every idea for later in the novel is used or used as it was originally conceived. The important factor in my work then, is the theme and the journey…the character does X, Y, and Z, but how? Writing without an outline to me is like watching a trilogy where nothing got mapped out ahead of time, and becomes a jumbled mess with no structure, no point, empty plot lines, and conflicting characters.

It is absolutely false. My method leaves […]. While I agree with you, I feel like some planning is necessary. I know because I have tried to write a novel before. At least in my experience. But, that was just what worked for me. Maybe others have different opinions, and that is great if that works for your style of writing, and if you can maintain the characters as you write.

I guess as long as you have an idea of everything. Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment. Sign up for our newsletter. First Name. Why less planning could mean more for your next story. Reply I so agree. Reply I agree.

Greetings to you all! Reply Your comment has been the most helpful to me as an aspiring novelist. Writing is a process. Create an outline. Love this! I loved this article and the advice worked for me well. Thanks very much. Reply True that, George! And if? How rude. Many people write for enjoyment, Chuck. Not for money and fame, like you. What a metric fuck ton of utter horse shit.

Reply If writing is truly an art form as most presume it is, then the real question is does a painter sit down for hours staring and mapping the object of their work or do they simply see it and capture it exactly as it is? Cheers Reply. Ah, nothing like novel writing advice from someone who has never published a novel….. Reply Because you have?