WHAT…am I doing, writing a novel??


So I’ve mentioned before that I decided to write a novel. So what to write about? And how to do this? I had no idea what I was doing. I’ve written lots of non-fiction; I’m also a scientist, but non-fiction science papers are rather formulaic…Intro, Materials/Methods, Results, Discussion (boring).  But without a MFA, I had no idea of the nuance of fiction writing. So, like most scientists, when you don’t know anything about what you’re doing, generally you follow one of two processes: research how others do it and/or shotgun an approach that you know works.

For me, I thought about writing a book as something similar to a product. Writing a novel could be defined as a project and I know how to manage projects and know a little about product development, so that’s where I went.  What’s a novel have in common with a project?

1. Creating a novel is a finite number of tasks. It has an end.  At some point you will have a novel.  It might be really crappy, but it’s a finished product. Same with a project/product.

2. There are phases to writing a novel: 1st draft, 2nd draft, plot revision, character development and so on.  There are phases to a project: Conception/Initiation, Feasibility, Development, Validation, Commercialization. Let me describe how I’ve used these phases in my process of writing a novel.  Now, I should preface…I’m in the development phase of my current, FIRST novel, so anything after that is just a guess…an educated guess, nonetheless. So, I’ll only consider conception phase for this post.

Conception is a fun stage of product development.  Anything goes! Your imagination can create any product.  At this time, the more ideas you have, the better. The process will winnow down those ideas, but brainstorming is a great idea at this phase.  Also, for products a close connection with your customer is a good idea.  You don’t want to produce something your customers don’t want, do you?  So, my concept phase looked like this:

  • Target audience: First off, I had to decide who was my reader.  For me, I was a recent reader of Young Adult. I think this is because with my e-reader, I didn’t have to go into the children’s area of the bookstore to look for books. There’s wonderful YA out there to read. It’s fast-paced, easy reading and in the end, it’s generally about hope and happy endings. My son is a YA, reads YA, has YA friends, so it seemed like a good fit for me.
  • Value of reading: Thinking of my target audience, I decided that I should understand why I read. I kinda touched a little on this (http://wp.me/p2L2zP-A), but decided to take it even further. I wrote all those reasons down…escape, warmth, emotions, belief in humanity, etc.  All the themes I like in books, or the emotions I feel when reading were listed out.  I don’t feel that Lou Ann is so different from anyone else that my reasons would be so different from other readers.  Also, I’ve heard that write something yoConceptu like. That made sense to me. If no one else likes your book, at least you do, right?
  • I then brainstormed my concept for this novel.  I figured with my scientific background, my strength might be science fiction, so I settled on that genre.  Every run I made for several weeks, I would think about the possibilities of this story.  I’d write it all down, using colored pens. And then I’d look those ideas over, crossing out (dumb!), adding in (awesome!), adding another question…brainstorming that question, another question would rise, more answers and on and on until a concept started oozing from the primordial goo.  I wrote it all down.  I pasted pictures that resonated with me in my book. I still have my concept book.  It’s fun to look back at all the ideas I had, and how they were distilled into something cohesive. And also nice to see how far I’ve come. (This can be especially helpful when hitting the doldrums of plot revision, rewrite and the lonely times of writing).

I think creative processes come to everyone, it’s just being open to them, and of course, what you choose to do about them once they come into your life. In my concept phase, a mentor image came out of this process. That mentor is my MC’s human boyfriend’s dad…Warren. He originally started as a gollum-like creature in a cave. Now, he’s a meditation expert in Oregon, an elder leader of his tribe.  So, needless to say, the process is a journey of change…lots of it! But one I totally recommend!