As I began working on my current steampunk novel, I took notice of how much work I do in preparation before actually writing any prose. I find it makes the writing go much more smoothly. Primarily, I have fewer issues to mentally juggle in each scene as I’ve already done much of that thinking in the prep work. I can concentrate more on the emotion, the language and the details.
Although I believe every writer has a different process, I thought mine might provide some value to beginning writesr. So without further ado, here’s my list of preparation materials for my current novel:
- Plot Post-Its: After a great deal of discovery writing, I try to first nail the plot down by writing plot points on post-its and arranging them on a blank wall or door.
- Plot Outline: Using the post-its as a guide, I create the master outline. I spend a great deal of time injecting this outline with all the nuances of needed story (foreshadowing, exposition, inner conflicts, etc.)
- Plot High Points: I also find it useful to condense the outline down into a much shorter set of plot high points.
- Plot Chart: I create a spreadsheet from the plot high points and created columns for each major character so I can visualize how they were woven in and out of the plot.
- Character Bios: I explore primary characters, as far as their past, strengths, weaknesses and appearance.
- Research: For this novel, this consisted primarily of research into mechanical machines, various apparatus and specific scientific issues. I keep a Word document with all of these relevant particulars.
- Names: Names are critical to developing characters and places. I try to generate every relevant name in the story (knowing there will be more). I also try to group names by (fictitious) cultural influences.
- Themes: Here I explore the themes of the novel. This is used to modify the plot outline where necessary.
- Elements of Suspense: In this document, I analyze the plot for opportunities for suspense. I then modify the plot outline accordingly.
- Ideas Catalog: Like a small encyclopedia, I detail elements and concepts in the world I have created.
- Powers Ideas: In this novel, I created a new kind of magic and so felt I required documentation specifically around that.
- Diagram of Powers: I also felt I needed a visual representation of how magic is used, so I made a rough sketch.
- Map of City: Naturally, I drew a map of the primary city.
- Map of World: I created another map of the world.
- Images (Environments):* I create image folders for various scenes and backdrops. These folders are filled with images I searched for on Google image search.
- Dream Cast:* I identify the celebrities I think might best represent my main characters, and save the most relevant images of them in a file folder. These celebrities do not have to be actors.
*Both the ideas for the image file folders and the dream cast were suggested to me by other successful writers.