Write. Edit/Cut. Repeat. The life of a novelist is a vicious cycle and it’s not for the faint of heart. But there are steps you can take that may reduce the number of edits you make to your WIP.
Yes, they require extra work. No shortcuts or smokescreens here.
Believe me, I’m right there with you. Sometimes I’m ready to write and sick and tired of prepping. But every single time I do, I end up doing a ton of pre-writing that I later have to cut anyway. Putting in the effort before you write can make a huge difference once you finish your first draft. Here’s how you can enrich your fiction.
- Hit the Books. “Write what you know” may seem cliché, but there’s a world of truth to be found there. Logging the hours before you “officially” put pen to paper may mean fewer edits in the long run. So, do your research. Read in the genre that you want to be writing. Learn the voice. Master the tropes. Find your own style.
- A Firm Foundation. A firm foundation is great when building houses, bridges, sky scrapers and, of course, novels. World building is pivotal in every genre. Just look at real life. If someone hadn’t written the rules, then we’d be nothing but chaos. Okay, maybe that’s not the best example. But look at gravity. It has rules. Otherwise, we’d float off this rock we call home. World building can include everything from how transportation works, class/race relations or even just what style of clothing the characters wear. Want more tips on world building? Check out this post.
- Talk it out. Using a plot outline can be a huge a time saver, even if your story tends to veer off track. Characters do that to you sometimes. But, if you have a basic map of where you’re starting and where you want to end up, with a few details sketched along the way, you’ll do less meandering and produce sharper content that drives the story forward.
- Get Your Ducks in a Row. There’s a reason God made Excel (or Google Spreadsheets. Your choice). And it wasn’t so you could track your finances. It was for authors who want to keep track of their characters. The greats like J.K. Rowling and Joseph Heller used an Excel-style spreadsheet (okay so they went the handwritten route) to keep track of everything from character traits, plot trajectories and personal loyalties. When you’re weaving a tale of epic proportions and have characters coming out the wazoo like Dickens in Great Expectations (there are more than 40 characters in that novel! Good Gravy!), an Excel document, or any sort of character/plot chart, can help you stay on track and remember that Ella’s eyes are blue in chapter one and can help ensure that they remain so all the way through chapter 25.
I’m finishing up Withered World right now and am simultaneously in the planning stages of my next project, NightWind. NightWind will be my first project to use a dedicated spreadsheet. I have documented character names, political affiliations, nicknames, relationships and more. And even though I’m not yet ready to write (because I have another novel to publish first. No biggie.), everything is neat-freak approved and I feel a little like this.