No Idea? No problem: Conceptualizing a Novel, Part One

Note: Old photos were lost with a website death. The image of notes below is from a different project, but it's the same idea.

A funny thing happened to me this week. My husband threw a fit about NaNoWriMo. He didn't like me mixing work and play. My novels are work, and he views NaNoWriMo as something other than work. It's play.

In part, he's right. He cooled off, which is nice, but it did get me to thinking. And he did, as he will do, bring up a good point.

Royal Slaves can wait until December. I can afford to work on something else in November. Then someone from Book Country pinged me about NaNoWriMo because they're a sponsor of it now. I thought this was really interesting! She asked me if I was going to post my NaNoWriMo to the website.

That made me think. Well, if I start something new and off the wall, I can do that. If I work on Royal Slaves, which I want to publish in the middle of 2014, I can't.

So. Here I am. Conceptualizing a novel from scratch. No idea. No fancy dreams with a seedling of a story in them. Me, myself, and I, plus a blank page.

As with all things, I start at the very beginning. I gather up all of my supplies.

Pumpkin Chai may quickly become my go-to creative go-go juice. So tasty. With my tea situated, I make sure I have a collection of pens readily available. I used the fattest of the cherry-wood pens my mother gave me. I have a writing journal a friend gave me as the story bible and outline journal for this novel.

Sir Foximus Maximus is around to make sure I'm doing my work. This counts as work. Sharing knowledge is good work. My laptop and keyboard are around for when I need to do tidbits of research. The white moleskine is out to remind me I get to work on Winter Wolf later in the day.

Now, to begin.

The first thing I did was write “NaNoWriMo 2013” in the upper right corner of the page. Because reasons. Then, I scratched out “Title:” on the top of the header line. That's left blank for now.

Since I had absolutely no idea what type of novel I'm going to write at this point, I started with the very beginning. What genre is this story? Who is my target audience?

I decided chocolate cheesecake was a necessity after about ten minutes of staring at a blank page. Cheesecake really is a cure all.

Finally, I wrote down the answers to this question. Thriller, UF. I want a more adult audience, apparently.

Next, I decided what POV Type I wanted the novel to be. I selected first person. I want to practice a little more in first, as I think it is a good skill to develop.

I also jotted down the number of POVs. This is one. I usually have this field because I write in third normally. Old habits die hard.

I decided I was writing about a girl again. Why not? I need more practice writing girls.

The next step is a little strange. I know absolutely nothing about this girl, just that she's equipped with female parts. So, I decided I was going to start with what makes her different. A Character Quirk is a great way for me to figure out how a person ticks.

Her quirk is an allergy to dogs.

She's a werewolf.

Yeah, I like that quirk. I like it a lot. I decided what species of werewolf she is. I also decided her pack status, and the locations she roams.

Finally, I wrote a short description: Allison's (oh, she has a name now!) allergy to dogs rears its ugly head when a string of murders on the East Coast is linked to a werewolf. If the killer isn't found, and quick, she'll be put to death for the crimes she didn't commit.

If the killer doesn't come after her first…

This is phase one of my conceptualization. I now have a conflict: There are murders, and she's been framed for them. I have a consequence: She'll be killed if the conflict isn't resolved. I have a secondary conflict: She's being framed for the murders she didn't commit, leaving her open to having committed a bunch of other crimes…

Finally, I have a consequence line that looks pretty bad no matter whether or not she succeeds. She has shit being flung at her from both sides of the fence.

This is the heart and soul of the story, and I'll build the rest of the novel based on this concept.

When I picked my quirk, I made certain the quirk could tie in to the main plot of the story. I find it is more fun this way.

The first page of notes looks a little like this:

Circa Journal 003

This is the very beginning of my novel creation process. Today, it took me a little less than an hour to come up with this. Sometimes, it can days to get this amount. In theory, I could take this blurb and start writing immediately. But, since it is for a NaNoWriMo, I'll plan out some things a little better, although it will be mostly character background, descriptions, and things of that nature.

My outline won't be very intensive this year. I want to get back to the roots of my writing, and just throw glitter in the wind and see where it goes.

I will, however, do primary research on the things I think I'll need in advance.

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