Novel Road Map

Some people start a novel only knowing the beginning and ending and then create the journey as they go along.  I’m not that free spirited; I found that I needed more structure because I tend to ramble. 

For my first novel, I started out with a chapter summary.  For each chapter, I listed several bullet point items that had to happen to keep the story on track.  Of course, as I wrote , I had some changes to the story line and additional chapters, which required changes to the chapter summary.

After I finished my first draft, I realized that I wanted to use some of the characters in my next book.  That’s when I decided to create a character description spreadsheet.  I set up columns for:  character name; age; hair color/style; eye color; additional characteristics/description (for other physical traits and behavioral mannerisms) and Books (where I list the book title(s) which use the characters).  As I work on my second novel, I keep the spreadsheet open and add information as I write so I don’t have to go back and fill it in after the fact.  This also helps keep me consistent when I reference a character’s trait in later chapters.

It should have been obvious, but one thing I didn’t do on my first novel was to actually write down the conflicts and resolutions.  I knew the big one – find out who did it (it’s a mystery).  I didn’t really think about the personal or relationship conflicts that would arise in the story and need resolution to show character growth.  This didn’t come up until I started working on my query letter (which I still haven’t finished – I’m procrastinating).

On my second novel, I’ve written down the conflicts and resolutions.  This, along with the chapter summary, should keep me more focused on the story line.  Of course, I won’t know for sure how well it works until I’m done with the novel; I’ll let you know in a year or two!


2 thoughts on “Novel Road Map

  1. dayner May 5, 2010 / 8:41 PM

    Sounds like you have it all figured out. You’re much more organized than me. My most important novel prep is a calendar. I write down things as they happen on the appropriated day so I keep the time distance realistic.
    I’ve also turned my novel into a series. I liked the secondary characters so much I gave them their own story.

    • jannatwrites May 5, 2010 / 8:54 PM

      I wish I had it figured out! I’m going through the process blind and mostly finding out what NOT to do. I do like your calendar idea; I have issues with that too. Thanks for sharing that tip.

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