If you Googled “How to write a novel”, like I did (!), eventually you’ll land on Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method page. This guy was a mathematician professor who describes who you “fill out” a novel by starting with a one-line synopsis, expanding it, developing some characters, extending the synopsis, etc. It’s very much a back and forth process with a lot of structure and direction built in. I love it! I’ve heard great things about it. I’ve tried it and conquered it.
The snowflake template is available as a new novel template on StoryMill by Mariner Software. This program allows you to view your novel-in-progress in a timeline (so you see all the events/scenes in chronological order), put images and locations and tag characters in specific scenes, and allows you to develop characters, locations, and research tasks as you go along. All the elements in your novel within easy reach.
When you’re not sitting in front of a laptop developing joint pains, then I highly recommend sitting down at your favorite neighborhood cafe with pen and paper in hand. Get high on a cup of strong, Nespresso Lungo, and unleash the Kraken. Didn’t I say, Supergrade Godstar 5 technology in the title?
Really, writing by longhand in your journal or notebook everyday does two things. One, you establish the Creative Habit a la Twyla Tharp of getting into the writerly zone and being productive. Two, according to William H. Calvin‘s The Throwing Madonna, the more you exert your right arm, the more you work the hemisphere of your brain that promotes literary skills. (According to Calvin, this is how cave women evolved speaking for the human race — by throwing spears with the right hand while carrying the baby next to the heartbeat with the left).
Too busy to stop at a cafe? Don’t fret. Your Iphone allows you to download several applications that allow you to complete surgery on an operating table while transcribing your dramatic scene into text using your voice cues: Dictamus Free, Transcribe, and vBox. There are also writing apps like S!plot, Writers App and A Novel Idea at the Itunes store…. Or, you can be like Louis Litt in Suits and buy your own Supergrade Godstar 5 dictaphone!
Suppose you’ve spent shiploads of money outfitting your personal Bodleian library with reference books, magazines, fantasy books, comic books, and DVDs from across genres. And you’re still scratching for inspiration. Here are a few easy ways to get writing prompts: install Writing Prompts application on your Iphone. Open it, shake-shake-shake, voila! Or, get a deck of Doreen Virtue’s angel tarot cards. Nothing like archangel intervention to get you un-stuck. Shuffle, pull using the hand of fate, voila. Character, scene, and interpretation of action plan all in one card. Combine with other cards, you have some dialogue or another action scene. Sign up for Susan Miller‘s daily tarot readings. Apparently different combinations of the stars and their positions vis a vis other stars can trigger life-changing events! The way these readings are written can be so dramatic, I always wonder why I can’t raise the emotional stakes for my own characters and get them to progress as fast as all the signs in the zodiac. 😉
At some point you’ll have full-fledged plots in your head (or your Snowflake template in Storymill) and you’ll be ready for storyboarding. As I point out in an earlier post, I think perceiving your novel as a screenplay and storyboarding key scenes while in the plot development process is much more efficient than writing the whole manuscript out and then going back to edit. Storyboards allow you to put on the hat of an artistic director and think of the mis-en-scenes visually, put key hook lines or dialogues into thought bubbles, and quickly visualize each scene as dramatically/stylized as possible.
You’ll need two things to storyboard, if you want to do it for free. One, GIMP software installation, in order to draw characters, copy paste background images for your scenes from google images, and toggle/play with everything. Two, Celtx, the most recognized storyboarding freeware used by professors and university students. Upload your images created in GIMP to your Celtx clipboard. Storyboard away, referring back to scenes you may have created in Storymill! If you can’t master GIMP, I highly recommend getting tangible storyboard stationery and pencils sold by supply stores.