By Misty M Beller @MistyMBeller
On the SC Writers ACFW chapter blog this week, we're continuing our series on how published authors plan their novels. In case you missed it, MaryLu Tyndall shared her method last week.
I'm a firm believer that everyone must find their own process for inspiration and creativity, but we discover it by trying methods from other successful writers. When you find something that works for you, make it your own!
I'm a plotter, but not to an extreme. I've used the method I'll outline below to write my last nine books, fine-tuning it as I go. I'm able to write a 55K - 60K story in about three months, spending 2-3 hours a day doing heads-down writing. Some days I spend less time, depending on how the muse strikes and focused I am.
Before I begin writing the actual manuscript, I always spend 2-3 weeks (or more) creating two different documents. The first document, I call:
*** Brainstorming ***
To begin, I spend several days (or sometimes weeks) detailing my characters and developing a rough synopsis. I’m typically more character-driven, so I start with the characters, and use them to develop the plot synopsis, but you could do it either way.
This Brainstorming document usually has three parts:
1. Characters: This is for my protagonists (hero and heroine since I write romance), not necessarily minor characters. I develop my character motivations in detail, including free-writing their backstory.
For motivations, I make sure I have these things worked through for both the hero & heroine:
Black moment and lie:
Tension that separates from heroine/hero:
Happy moment and want (dream):
2. Plot synopsis: This is for my eyes only, and hits the high points of the plot. It usually takes 1-2 pages, and I make sure I identify all of the major plot points:
I’m a big fan of James Scott Bell, and for a while I would re-read Plot and Structure before starting every new novel. It’s a fantastic book, whether you’re a plotter or a pantster. Now, I read sections of it (at least) for inspiration before starting a new story. His book, Write Your Novel from the Middle, is also very good.
Depending on the story and how comfortable I’m feeling with the plot, I may also do a one-sentence plot and identify the pinch-points. Generally, if it feels like something’s missing or the plot is not strong enough, I keep pushing until I find the missing piece.
3. Research: This Brainstorming document is also where I keep track of my research and websites I use. Since I write Historical Romance, research usually plays a huge part in developing my plot, so every time I find a new website to help with part of the story, I go ahead and copy/paste that link into the research section.
Those are the main parts of the Brainstorming document, although I often add in other tidbits: Possibilities for a title, Possible opening lines, and anything that I might need to pull from later.
Next week, I'll be back to talk about the next step in my process: the Chapter Outline. Until then, I'd love to hear your comments! Do you create a brainstorming file for each novel? Is there anything in it I haven't mentioned here?
Misty M. Beller writes Christian historical romance, and is author of the bestselling Mountain Dreams Series and the Texas Rancher Trilogy. Her upcoming book, The Lady and the Mountain Call, will release April 5th, 2016.
Misty was raised on a farm in South Carolina, so her Southern roots run deep. About eleven years ago, she made a career change from farm life into the business world, where she worked as a Senior Manager and Director of Process & Training. She's now loving the life of a writer, wife, and mother.