So, I've written three novels now. The first was a crappy mystery that never went anywhere (though
recently when I found a copy of it, I realized it was better than I remembered.) The second was my MFA novel and its not half bad, it's just got a plot that doesn't quite work. I promised my daughter and daughter-in-law that I'd publish copies for them, so stay tuned, it may just appear here soon. And the third novel is the first one I've finished that not only hangs together, I think its pretty damn good. It is currently making the rounds in New York.
In all that novel writing, I've learned a thing or two. And that is this: a bit of prepping goes a long way. So that's what this post is about. But first, a thing or two about the novel I'm currently writing. I've been in a bit of a dry spell when it comes to fiction. I kept coming up with ideas and working on them for a few chapters and then realizing they weren't going to pan out, for whatever reason. Finally, this new novel, which I'm temporarily calling Jemima B, popped into my head (actually, when I was doing some free writing, proof that it works).
But, here's the deal–with all my wandering through novels that didn't work, I had lost my ability to discern. And I wasn't sure if this new novel was "good" enough to keep going with. So I just wrote, didn't do any prepping or anything. Finally, last week I mustered up my courage and took the three chapters into my writing group. And, while I got specific comments about things that need to change, I also got that people liked it a lot. So now, finally, I feel well and truly started on a project. And I can go back and do the prep work for it.
This is a statement of sorts. It is saying, yes I commit to this novel. Yes, I'm going to do what it takes to carry through to the end. Yes, I'm ready to do it.
Are you? This post is the first in a series. I'm also thinking about putting this together as either a program or a one-on-one coaching product. (If you're interested, email me and I'll put you on a list for the announcement.) But you can easily follow along with the action ideas listed at the end of each post and get yourself ready to write a novel. So, today, let's start with tools.
Here's what I consider essential, beyond a computer and pens:
1. A small spiral notebook, in which to collect all your notes. Even if you originally note them on a scrap of paper, try to transfer them to this journal so they will all stay together.
2. A bigger spiral notebook, like 8 1/2 by 11 size, in which to do free writes, which are a great way to learn more about your characters and story.
3. A binder in which to keep research and images related to the story. This may also hold a completed draft if you so desire.
4. A vision board. You can make this so that it hangs on the wall near your desk, or you can put it into your binder. But either way, do work with images for your book, it is amazing how helpful it is. (You can download my free Ebook on how to create a vision board for your book by signing up to the right.)
5. A stack of 3 by 5 cards. These come in handy for all kinds of things, like to note scenes or character traits on, to name two.
Okay, that's it for now. We're starting slow and easy.
Create a successful, inspired writing life: Gather your tools. Make it fun. Go to the office supply store and prowl the alley. Buy spirals and binders that you love, or take them home and decorate them.
And, please comment: what do you consider the essential tools for writing a novel (or a book)?
Photograph by Hey Paul.