Not having a creative writing education, I had no idea where to start. So I took the standard 5 paragraph structure used in writing my term papers in college for my political science degree (you know what I'm talking about: the introductory 1st paragraph that includes the thesis statement, followed by the middle 3 paragraph body, and ending with the last paragraph conclusion) and began writing my first novel.
I knew no other way. It never occurred to me that they have manuals that tell you all about plotting a novel at the bookstore. *shrug* I'm sure you won't be surprised to find out that about 150 pages in, I got lost. I mean, I knew where I wanted my story to end, but things like story arc and multi-POVs bogged me down. So I started looking for help. Now, almost 3 years and several re-writes later, I have a collection of items I will never again attempt to writer a novel without. They are:
2) Outline- very detailed for each plot line, character, and each of the three books
3) Character Sketch- detailing everything from hair color to odd mannerisms or habits for my character
4) Setting Sketch- detailing each of the different countries and cities in my novel
5) Map- detailing my entire made up world. There isn't a moutnain or a tree that doesn't have its place.
6) List of Terms- if you have a made up language of any sort, even if you don't get too detailed with it, you really need this one. It is easy to forget and contradict yourself without this to refer back to.
7) List of Characters- not only does this act as a quick reference guide, but it also keeps you aware of the astronomical number of characters you can create if not careful, especially when writing an epic fantasy.
If there is something on this list you haven't considered using, I would challenge you to give it a try. It can make your life so much easier and better organized. I know it has mine. I am hoping that with these at my disposal, the next novel won't take me so long to write. (Not holding my breath, though. I am not known for brevity.) *blushes*
I'd love to hear your thoughts. Do you use these 7 items in your writing? Which do you not use and why?