Writing a novel can feel like a journey, and in many ways, it is. It takes a good deal of planning, the right itinerary, and getting over a few bumps in the road. In fact, you might just need a vacation from your vacation by the time you’re done with it all!
Here’s a different way to approach writing a novel- think of it like planning a trip:
- Figure out where you want to go
Whether you’re a plotter or a panster, it’s still important to know your destination, to know where you want your story to end up or be like. Know if it’ll be fantasy or contemporary, MG or YA. Having this general direction will set you up from the start.
- Who’s going with you?
Knowing who’s going with you, aka who your characters are, is just as important as where you’re going. Can these characters exist in the setting you’re thinking of? Do you have enough of them? Who’s the villain, the one no one will get along with- the one that always claims the front seat on the road trip or insist on taking the room with the better view?
- Figure out the sites to see
Just as with a trip where you’ll want to do some research ahead of time to know what you’ll want to see, it’s the same with a plot. Make sure there’s enough going on so you know it’s worth making the trip. You don’t want your readers to get bored half way through.
- Plan for what could go wrong
Just as you need to know whether or not you’ll need to pack malaria pills or bring seasickness medication, it’s best to know what your characters might encounter to bring conflict to the story. However, unlike with real travel where you try to avoid those complications, in your writing, you’re going to want your characters to walk right into them.
- Be open to new experiences/people
While it’s great to know some major landmarks along your plot, it’s also amazing to be open to new opportunities as they arise in your manuscript. Just as that unplanned side trip down a small winding path might turn out to be the highlight of your vacation, so too might be the unexpected idea that pops into your head part way through your draft.
- Pack and head out
Once you’ve done your research, pack everything you need in your suitcase and head out and start writing. Don’t let fear hold you back. Go out there and get as much as you can from this journey, I mean draft. It’s okay if you’re an overpacker like me. You can always take something out later. And who knows, you might just need that extra parka when you get caught in a freak rainstorm at Dracula’s castle- trust me, I know from experience.
Once you return home, unpack everything. Go through bit by bit and see what stinks and needs to go straight to the laundry room and what still looks really great. Also, find out what you didn’t need so you’ll know better next time, too.
- Share those photos on social media
Once you get back, it’s time to share your experience, or in this case, send your novel off to some great critique partners!
After you’ve got that first trip under your belt, then it’s time to start planning your next one. And who knows, maybe all those places you went in the first one sparked the idea for what’s next.
So get out there and starting planning and writing!