Today, I'm going to share how I develop and write my novels:
First, I typically start with a title that lights my fire. In my mind, I play around with a plot idea that can go with the title. I also think of my characters and the main conflict. It’s all daydreaming at first. Once a plot idea is formed in my head, I write a one-page outline summarizing what I think will happen in the story. I play with character names, settings, and begin to imagine scenes that could happen. I’ll decide my beginning (prologue), middle (Second Act) and the ending (grand finale/climax and resolution). All of this will probably change (including the title) once I get into writing the book, but it gives me a starting point.
I definitely do my best writing through organic, stream-of-consciousness writing. I’m always discovering new details about the characters as I journey along with them. Sometimes I steer the story, but mostly I allow my characters to take over and see where they take the story. There are often plot twists that completely surprise me.
After I’ve written a 100 pages or more and I’ve gotten to know my characters, I’ll write a chapter-by-chapter outline so I can have a bird’s-eye view of the story and keep on track of where it’s going. The second act of a novel can go way off course if a writer doesn’t widen the lens every now and then. So after the first 100 pages I continually go back and forth between losing myself in a scene and then reviewing my outline (a.k.a. synopsis). My outlines are every chapter summarized down to one paragraph. This allows me to observe the flow of the scenes and adjust them for pace and emotional impact. With multiple character subplots happening at the same time, like Dead of Winter for instance, I’m constantly changing the sequence of the scenes so that they build to a climax. I think of my subplots as if they are trains moving down a track toward a catastrophic collision. Outlining helps me get the timing down just right. The outline also helps me work out issues in the story line and smooth out my twists and turns.When I focus on writing the individual scenes, that's when I shift back to organic writing.
Once the first draft is completed, my book is nowhere close to being done. Now the truly fun part begins, because I know my characters and where the story is going from start to finish. I’ll rewrite and edit the book for months, adding more details to scenes, fleshing out my characters, punching up the dialogue, and tightening the action so that the scenes are taut. I also get a lot of new ideas on how to best unfold the mystery. Then I go back to scenes and add details in that set up a revelation or plot twist that happens later on. I’m also a perfectionist when I write. When a character says something or does something, I constantly ask myself, does this ring true? Would my character really go into that dark house where the killer is hiding? Would she run from the beast or would she hunker down and fight it? If she walks into the killer’s lair because she hears a noise and is curious, it won’t ring true for me. If the heroine’s a cop and the killer has her child captive in the house, the scene is more believable to me if she enters the house to save her child. The reason any character does something that will put their life in jeopardy must make sense.
Putting in extra hours in plotting my story in the revision stage has paid off, because the editors of my first two books had very minor changes. I also learned a trick to ratcheting up the tension and pace. In the final 100 pages, as I’m building toward the ultimate climax, I write shorter and shorter scenes that are mostly action.
I plan to continue a series of articles sharing my writing process. If you find this helpful, please leave a comment. Just click on the title of this article and scroll down to the comment area at the bottom. Thanks so much for stopping by.
Brian Moreland writes novels and short stories of horror and supernatural suspense. His first two novels, Dead of Winter and Shadows in the Mist, are now available. His upcoming novella, The Witching House, will release August 2013, and novel The Devil’s Woods will release December 2013. He loves hiking, kayaking, watching sports, and dancing. Brian lives in Dallas, Texas where he is diligently writing his next horror novel. You can communicate with him online at http://www.brianmoreland.com/