There are a lot of things that go into planning a novel so that you can actually start the manuscript. In this blog post I thought I would write a little about the process I use to create an outline.
What I mean by backdrop is all those things that really have very little to do with the novel, but have everything to do with how authentic it seems. Backdrop includes items such as: maps; distances between towns and cities; economy of the country; religion; taxation; employment; technology level; history; weather; trees and fauna; animals; magic and potions; weapons; customs and traditions; etc. The list seemingly goes on forever. Spending a lot of time creating all these things makes for a richer story. If you do the work up front, the story itself will be easier to write and you will make less continuity errors.
2/ Major Characters
Of course you have to know who it is you're writing about. And you have to know how each of your characters look (physical attributes) and react (emotional attributes). You need a hero (protagonist) and a bad guy (antagonist). You also need an array of supporting characters. Again, time spent on this part will help enormously when you come to write the manuscript.
3/ Photographs & Drawings
I like to gather a collection of pictures I can use when I'm writing my books. Everything from character photos I can refer to, to pictures of cities and landmarks I can use to describe at the appropriate part of the story. I paste all my pictures into Scrivener, along with any written descriptions that come to mind.
4/ The Plot
Assuming you're a planner and not a pantser, you're going to need a plot. Some people need a more detailed plot than others. Me? I've written a little about this in previous posts, but I like to write my novels from plot point cards. Each card contains a sentence or two and moves the plot along. Each card will eventually yield about 360 words of manuscript (I've come to this number by trial and error). Therefore the number of plot point cards determines the length of the novel. If I want to write an 80,000 word novel I need about 224 cards. Before I start to write anything of my manuscript I make sure I have created 75% of those plot points (leaving 25% of the novel to be created as inspiration during the writing process). That means I have to write about 168 plot point cards before day one of writing.
I think by now you're getting an idea of just how much work goes into a novel before a single word is actually written! And I try and cram all this into the space of one month! As you can probably guess, I'm quite a busy person at the moment. I start writing Ryann's Brother (the first book in a follow-up trilogy to my novella Ryann) at the beginning of May. I really need to do some more work, we're already half-way through the month.