The Genesis of a Novel, the Beginning – Part 1

writing

Although I’ve already started on the process, I thought it might be interesting to blog my way through the novel creation process. I’m already through about the first three-four days worth of work, so those will be schmooshed into this post.
I’m working on the fourth novel in the Druid’s Brooch series. Book 2 was just published this month (Legacy of Truth), and book 3 is submitted to my publisher and due out January 2017 (Legacy of Luck). 
The idea will be to have three trilogies in total. The first trilogy (the Legacy books) will be in the 18th/19th century. The second trilogy (the Misfortune books) will be in the 11th/12th century. The third and final trilogy (the Age books) will be in the 5th/6th century, and the final book of that trilogy will give the origins of the brooch itself.
So, that means in order to plan my next book, I really have to plan out SIX novels. And make them all tie neatly into a bow at the end. Right. OK, deep breath, let it out easily. Let’s do this.
Most writiers are Planners or Plotters to some extent. I’m pretty strong on the Planner end of the spectrum. That means I like to plan out my book and my scenes, flesh out my characters and my subplots before the first word is written. Yes, it can change later due to the capriciousness of my muse and my own editing, but that’s how I begin. I use something called The Snowflake Method (you can look it up online) which has been a Gods’ Send to this AR accountant with aspirations of authorship.

FIRST: The Concept

My first job was to come up with a basic premise for each book. A once-sentence elevator pitch. Something like ‘1940s nurse travels back in time 200 years and falls in love with a Highlander in the Jacobite revolution’ would be for Outlander. Each basic plot should have a conflict, a main character, and a resolution. For my series, each has to connect in some way to the others in the trilogy. The main character in one might be the grandfather in the next one, or the great-granddaugther of the previous one. Then try to mix it up – make sure you aren’t reusing basic plot devices, character types, even different ages.
For book 4, which has the working title of Misfortune of Vision, my main plot is a quest for an heir, and my main character is a 65-year-old grandmother. Because we need more adventure books with experienced heroes! Sure, I won’t be able to write in as much angst and rebellion, but I can get in plenty of snark and sarcasm. And I love it when little old ladies order everyone else around.
I made sure the main elevator-pitch plot was done on the other five books-to-be, so I had a good variety of themes and plots. and so I didn’t run out of ideas and have to change something I’d already done 😀

SECOND: The Synopsis

Now, this little old lady needs a quest – so she’s going to seek out her grandson. Why? Well, she has this heirloom, you see. A magic brooch she must gift to a relative. And her children are all dead. Why? Well, you might have to read the book to find out.
I want to find a time of great conflict to set the book in. External conflict is easier to meld into the characters’ conflict, adding tension and action. Of course, when I decided on 12th century Ireland, I had NO idea exactly how violent this time was in the northeast of Ireland. I knew it was bad in the southeast with the Norman invasion, but this time period makes Game of Thrones look like a peaceful Sunday picnic. The main historically reliable documents from the time mostly just list the deaths of kings and nobles, bishops, and the like. And there were a lot of them! It seemed like every minor king had a relative who hated him enough to off him for his throne.

Mix in: The Research

Then I lost myself in research. I dropped down into a rabbit hole of the Annals of Irish History, CELT, Lady Gregory, Yeats, and the ever-mocking Wikipedia. I researched kings and social structure. I researched clergy and local saints. I looked up fairy queens and holy wells. I delved into Neolithic mounds and burnt villages. After a good 15 hours’ worth of research, I checked out the local Vikings (called Ostmen at the time, or simly Foreigners), the Normans, and the Irish. I discovered that there was a local king who was a bit of a craven coward. He just fled when the Normans arrived.
Cool! Cowardly kings are great! Let’s use him.  Now I know where my main character lives. she has a purpose, plenty of crap to get in her way. I’ve added some characters to make her life even more difficult. I made that one sentence elevator pitch into a paragraph, and then into three paragraphs. Those three paragraphs have now become two full pages of detailed plot synopsis. Whew!!
Now I have to take a break. My head is swimming with possibilities, and the scenes are already beginning to form in my head. No! Not yet! Back, back you fools! You’re not on cue yet. I need my characters first.

THIRD: The Characters

The main character is always the toughest. They set the theme for the whole book. I have a bad tendency to polarize my characters, especially the female leads. They are either contrary and sniping or they are passive and weak. I’m definitely going with the former for Grandma here, but I hope to make her kind as well. But with a nasty temper and a tendency to rap people hard with her walking stick. Because why not?
I fill in her physical characteristics, her hobbies, her quirks. Everyone must have virtues and vices. Tics and habits. Catch phrases, favorite curses, anything to humanize her. Does she like cloud-watching? Play with her hair? Yell ‘Gadzooks!’ whenever she meets someone new?
Now do this with the rest of your characters. You should have a good collection of people from your synopsis at this point. I’ve got a dozen already – Irish, Normans, Norsemen, and some Fae. Set up conflict. Make some inflexible, some easy-going. Don’t go for the obvious. Make the churchman the easy-going one and the Fool the guy with a stick up his butt. Mix it up. Remember, everyone has flaws and everyone has good points. No one is a perfect villain or a perfect hero. Make sure each of your characters has motivations, and for the bigger ones, good story arcs and growth within the story.
Now, it’s time to let things percolate. I’m going back to editing my other manuscript, and let the synopsis, characters and scenes percolate in my brain while my palate clears.

Next up: The Scene List.

*****
I write historical fantasy novels, mostly set in Ireland, and a contemporary romance based on my parents’ 30-year search for true love. Don’t miss information on Celtic myth and history, as well as practical travel planning tips, and hidden places, in my travel books.
– Better To Have Loved – Contemporary romance based on the true story of my parents’ 30-year search for love
– Legacy of Hunger – Historical fantasy set in 1846 Ireland
– Legacy of Truth – Historical fantasy set around 1800 Ireland. Prequel to Legacy of Hunger. Available now!
– Legacy of Luck – Historical fantasy set in 1745 Ireland and Scotland. Prequel to Legacy of Truth, tentative release date January, 2017!
– Stunning, Strange and Secret: A Guide to Hidden Scotland
– Mythical, Magical, Mystical: A Guide to Hidden Ireland
More info at Green Dragon Artist :: Home ,
Christy Jackson Nicholas, Author , and
Tirgearr Publishing – Christy Nicholas
Green Dragon Artist Blog
Handmade at Amazon Store
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I am an artist, accountant and author living in western New York, transplanted from Denmark, Michigan, Florida, West Virginia, Pennsylvania (in that order!) I love the beauty of the world and sharing it with others through jewelry, photography, digital painting and writing.

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Posted in Writing
15 comments on “The Genesis of a Novel, the Beginning – Part 1
  1. […] of processes, but here is a peek into my mad method. This is a series of posts on writing novels. The first part of this series is here. As I’ve delayed the next step – actually writing out my scene list – in favor […]

    Liked by 1 person

  2. […] parts: Part I – The Beginning Part II – Research Part III – Place Part IV – […]

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  3. […] have a much better sense of the book and what the opening lines should best be. . More parts: Part I – The Beginning Part II – Research Part III – Place Part IV – […]

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  4. […] the flow! Any other cliches I can throw out here? Oh, I know… Let it go!  . More parts: Part I – The Beginning Part II – Research Part III – Place Part IV – […]

    Liked by 1 person

  5. […] forget to write. Don’t let it happen too often, or you’ll never finish! More parts: Part I – The Beginning Part II – Research Part III – Place Part IV – […]

    Liked by 1 person

  6. […] does need to be dealth with, addressed, and conquered. All hail the conquering hero! More parts: Part I – The Beginning Part II – Research Part III – Place Part IV – […]

    Liked by 1 person

  7. […] . So many plotbunnies! . What are your favorite ways of battling procrastination? More parts: Part I – The Beginning Part II – Research Part III – Place Part IV – […]

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  8. Ruth mellott says:

    This is so great. Will enjoy reading more.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. […] correctly. Misfortune of Vision, the novel whose journey you’ve all been following since Part I – The Beginning back in July 2016, has now been accepted by my publisher! I’m just waiting on the contract […]

    Liked by 1 person

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