I titled this “Post 1” because I imagine I will not remember everything and/or I will have too much to say and cut this post off at some point.
For me, the first step in creating a new novel (poem process is completely different as there is much less pre-planning work involved) is that initial idea, the spark. It could be a bit of overheard conversation, an article, a random thought or nearly anything. That happens a lot. Not all of the things that make it to step 1 have staying power. I write these things down and then think about them. Those ideas that me intrigued make it to the second step. Step 2 is fleshing out. I will sit with notebook in hand and makes notes: who’s the victim, who’s the killer, what’s the back story, what’s the motive for the killing, what are my red herrings, my clues, my other tidbits to include, and anything else that seems to fit the story. I also jot down what I think will be key plot points – just a sentence or a phrase for each.
I like to start my mystery novels with the dead body so I have to figure out how to do that. It’s not always easy. So I figure out how to start the novel and then of course my cop character shows up, usually with his partner in tow. Sometimes my reporter shows up with her best friend in tow. I have both sets of characters involved in my investigations although not together since my lieutenant and my reporter have a shared history and a bad breakup. Knowing my characters makes it easier for me to write their stories than the novels where I don’t have a set cast.
Although I have notes to follow, I allow my characters to guide me as I write my novel. In my recent murder mystery, I thought I knew from the beginning who the killer was when another character very clearly indicated that it was the murderer. I make it a rule not to argue with my characters and adapted accordingly. It actually made for a better story, in my opinion.
So, there you have it. Four paragraphs on how to write a novel. There will be more to come. Please let me know if you have any questions. I’m happy to share what I’ve learned. There’s no one right way but sometimes it helps to hear how someone else got started in the craft.