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From Concept to Shelves: Rough Plans

In the last post we discussed the concept of where ideas can come from and where I find them.  This time around is all about the first rough idea of where I will take that concept and idea and -- hopefully -- eventually also turn it into a novel.

The projects in question that we're going to follow are my next novel, Cold, as well as a few others in various stages of planning and writing.  The primary one will be Cold as it is in this stage of writing right now.

This stage is where that rough idea that might come from a vacuous half imagined scene, or something, and has to be fleshed out into a novel plan.

At this point I ask myself the following question

Novel or short story?

In the case of Cold I'm aiming for another full length novel.  Why is this important?  Other than length there has to be enough to the backstory and primary plot to justify the length of the novel.  Characters must have a fully fleshed out background and story.  The setting has to be dynamic and detailed.  The plot, obviously, shouldn't have gigantic plot holes big enough to drive semi trucks through and, just to keep it interesting, there could even be subplots.  Short stories, by their nature, concentrate on one aspect. This could be character development at expense of plot or setting, or setting at expense of... you get the idea.  Novellas, which fall in the middle of the two, often have two aspects but one is sacrificed so that the story fits into the shortened length.

Since I've decided on full length novel I need to make sure all things are in order before I start, and I have to make a plan of action of how I will accomplish my goal.  This is why writers and novelists make great project managers -- we're good at seeing the bigger picture and at what needs to be done to get there... and the really good ones also can set a timeline, stick to it and get the job done.

I then plan the general plot -- specifics are impossible without good research as if I get specific here and then my research blows a hole into the plot twist that depended on it... well... you see the problem.  However, I can plan for general things at this point, such as;

  • Who the characters are, their surface personalities, appearance, gender, age and even perhaps a few of their quirks.  Granted, with research (noticing a pattern yet?) these may change.
  • Where the novel will take place... or the multiple 'where's' if the characters move around... things such as country, climate, culture, etc.
  • Main plot.

This will guide where my research will go and, to some extent, how I will even get that research done in the first place.


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