Writers Wednesday War Room—Where do you start?

Do you ever worry that you don’t know your full novel—characters, storyline, subplots, POV, etc.—before beginning to write it? That’s not as big a problem as you might fear. Do you assume that all writers of consequence have a detailed out line of the novel prior to starting it? Not so. It’s commonly said that there are two approaches to writing a novel: plotters and pantsers. In simple terms, plotters are the writers that do the outlines first. Pantsers “fly by the seat of their pants.” They may or may not have a good plan for what the book will be about. There also is a hybrid—writers that have a general outline, maybe a page or two of bullet points, or a list of chapter concepts.

Some of the top bestselling writers, Lee Child among them, say that when they sit down to write their next book, they have no idea what it’s going to be about. Not even what the first chapter will be about. That may be an exaggeration, but there’s more than a grain of truth to it. Child says he approaches the book with the goal of crafting a really good first sentence then moves on to the next one. He says that about the time he approaches the middle of the book, he has written sufficient material that he knows what he has to start wrapping up in the second half of the book.

I sometimes use a system that approaches the hybrid style. In my current project, I have on several occasions in Part One used chapter prompts such as the following:

  • Where is Larsen?
  • Why is he there?
  • What’s driving/motivating him to be there and do that?
  • How does he intend to deal with the situation?
  • What events occur that force him to change those plans?
  • Who else becomes involved? Why?
  • How does it end for Larsen?
  • What’s the hook for the next chapter

To see how those prompts became a chapter, click on “Previews” above.

© John Wayne Falbey 2017 All Rights Reserved