Thursday, February 11, 2010

To Build A Novel

Lately I've been mentioning this "practice" novel I'm working on. I explained it all here in this entry last month, so I won't retread all the details. Anyway, I've mentioned on Facebook that I've started an outline of the book last week. But it's come to light now that I really didn't need an outline, per say, since the general plot had already been laid out in my head months ago. You see, I've been working on it so much in my head since last September that I already had a pretty good barebones outline of my course of action vis-a-vis plotting and thematic arcs.

So, faced with the redundancy of actually writing all that down, I changed tactics. Instead of an outline, I would do chapter summaries. I broke down what I already knew of the general plot into three acts, plus a climax. The denouement portion, or wrap-up, at the end of the novel I'm going to leave up to the gods of the nether region for now. That part's pretty easy, at least on this particular project. It's one of those things that will get resolved once I get there, and it won't do any good worrying over it now.

So, instead, I've spent the last several days fleshing out the chapter layouts for the first act. The writing is vague but the structure is nice. I now have a working game plan for the beginning of the novel. What's great about writing out your chapter summaries first is that you get to test and balance all the various elements--action, suspense, characterization--without fully committing to the writing just yet. Getting to see what works and what fails before even writing "for reals" is a great advantage to have for the first time novelist like myself. Chapter summaries also allow me to mess with the order of events, since they are small nuggets of text that are easy to rearrange in Word until you get the proper pacing you want. Very, very kewl!

As of right now, I'm still at the beginning of the novel. I have a lot more chapter summaries to write. It's probably going to take me the rest of February to complete. But the up side is that, when I do complete them, I'll be ready to start writing the novel almost immediately.

So far the developments that have come to light as a result of this preliminary work have been fascinating. I mean, I'm the writer and even I'm amazed by what I'm reading! Sure, I know the overall story, but not the details. And sometimes--more often than you might think--I find myself pleasantly surprised by a particular plot development I had not seen coming. One that makes the surrounding scenes connect on levels I had never imagined. So working on these summaries is like reading a brand new book for the first time. A book in which I get to choose my own outcome.

It's times like these that I remember just how much fun it is to be a writer.


  1. Unfortunately I have a couple "practice" novels sitting around that I never meant to have sit :(

  2. Yeah, I know how it is, Kim. This is why I'm doing it. I'm sure I'm going to complete this, but even if I don't the experience will be valuable.


Panama Trip - Day 1: Here There Be Balboas!

In late May, 2017 I embarked on a trip of a lifetime. A trip to Panama's steamy tropical province, Bocas del Toro. Now, before 2017 ...