Begin where you are, with what you have. Just start writing your thoughts about your novel in a notebook. That’s how you begin.
Writing a novel is like putting a puzzle together, but first you must dream into existence all the pieces. Then, you must find where each piece belongs.
It’s important to have an organized system for collecting all these pieces of your novel and to be able to rearrange them as you better understand what your novel is about.
Dreaming the Pieces of Your Novel…
When you commit to writing a novel, ideas will come to you…ideas for dialogue, scenes, characters, titles…all sorts of stuff. These are the puzzle pieces. At first, it might just be a trickle of ideas, but the more you keep the channel open, the more ideas will come.
Not all the ideas will be usable. Some ideas might belong to another novel, one you haven’t even dreamed of yet. You won’t know for sure which ideas go where until you’re deep into writing your novel.
The important thing is to capture all of your ideas, all the puzzle pieces, as they come to you and keep the channel open.
There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium, and be lost. The world will not have it.
It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how valuable, nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours, clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.
You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urge that motivates you.
Keep the channel open. ─ Martha Graham to Agnes DeMille
Here’s how I record my ideas…
It’s important to have an organized system for collecting all these pieces of your novel. Here’s how I record my ideas.
I carry a small pocket notebook and pen with me at all times. My best ideas come to me when I’m walking, washing dishes and doing things unrelated to writing. I jot these ideas in my pocket notebook as they come to me.
I don’t edit or ponder over the ideas at this stage, I just get the ideas down.
I also have a larger spiral notebook on my desk. The pages in this notebook are the size of regular notebook paper and perforated so they can be easily torn out.
The pages also have three holes in the left margin so I can tear the pages out and put them in a three ring binder when I begin to organize my ideas later.
Being able to tear the page out and put it in a three ring binder is very important. This spiral notebook is the main depository of all the ideas for that particular novel while I’m dreaming all the pieces.
Later, I’ll organize all my ideas in the three ring binder and arrange them into a rough outline. The binder makes it much easier.
So, while I’m out and about, living my life, I record ideas that come to me in the smaller pocket notebook. At the end of the day, if I have ideas in the small pocket notebook, I transfer these to the spiral bound notebook.
If the notebook gets filled up with ideas, I start another spiral bound notebook. This idea gathering stage can go on for months or years.
When I’m ready to organize my ideas and notes into scenes I move them into a three ring binder.
The binder is divided into four main sections: Act I, Act IIa, Act IIb and Act III. I try to organize my ideas into the act where I think they might belong, but they move around as I get a better understanding of what my novel is about.
I also include a section in the three ring binder for characters, snippets of dialog, story premise, story theme, the value being pursued in my story, the central story question and what keeps the main character going, what she wants and why she can’t get it. I’ll cover all this in later posts.
For now, keep the channel open, dream the pieces to your novel and gather them together.
Take your time and stay relaxed.