The Path to Publication Step One: Pre Outlining (Part One)

I’m back with the first revised post in The Path to Publication series. This series will detail the steps from pre-outlining and beyond to get you to a place where you have a publishable novel. It will be a weekly series, and I’m excited to see how it goes. I hope you all find these tips and tricks as helpful as I have.
Today’s topic is pre outlining, a subject that I have already talked about, but today I’m going to get more in depth. My pre outlining is quite extensive, so I’ve chosen to break it into two posts. The next one should be out next Friday.
Pre outlining is usually the first step I take after I’ve picked out my next novel idea and let it simmer in my brain. Even if you don’t outline, pre outlining can still be a helpful step so that you have a slight idea of what you’re going to write before you actually start your first draft.

The first thing I do when I pre outline is write down all of the things that I know will happen in my book. It’s usually about four or five pages of scenes and major events that will take place in my book. The reason this is helpful is that it puts all of the ideas for your book in one spot, and gives you a good idea of where to go from there.
Here is an example of how I write all the general ideas for my plot from my work in progress, By Night:

1. Alice has a strained relationship with about everyone in her kingdom, including her parents, the king and queen, because of the tragic accident she caused that killed her beloved older sister, Victoria.

But you can format them however you want, this is just what worked for me.

Next I take a highlighter and highlight all parts of ideas, characters, or settings that need more fleshing out. This helps develop your story and fill in some of the plot holes, and gives you things to brainstorm. For instance, one of the things I had to flesh out was the mid-point of my story, which I will talk more in-depth about soon.
Then I make a list of all the highlighted ideas, characters, and settings, and brainstorm each one. I write down whatever comes to mind, whether it be brilliant or kind of silly. I start with writing out what specifically I want to brainstorm.
For example, for the mid-point I wrote out that I knew I wanted to have an epic battle on one of the estates, and that there were specific secrets I wanted revealed, and I knew that there were a couple specific characters that I needed to die for thematic impact and for the story’s greater good in general, but I wasn’t quite sure how to get there.
So what I do next is just write all the ideas that come to mind to untangle that great mess, and when I finally come up with a proper solution, I write it out neatly so I can come back to it later and understand my notes.

That is all for today, come back next Friday for the second part of my pre outlining process which includes figuring out my plot points and creating a story timeline (an outline for my outline.) Leave a comment letting me know if you pre outline, and if any of these tips helped you. Thanks so much and sorry for the late post.
Elizabeth

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The Path To Publication Step Seven: When and Where to Write

Hey guys! It’s Elizabeth. NaNoWriMo is officially over! I still can’t believe it. It still feels like the beginning of November. But that’s how these things go, I guess. I’m sorry I didn’t write as much as I hoped, but I got a solid ten thousand words in, and that’s a good start. I hope to get my novel done by the end of the year. But to do that, I need to restart my scheduled writing time, which is actually the subject of this post.
So if you all are new, I’ll quickly review what the Path to Publication is. The Path to Publication, is a series of articles taking you through the steps of writing and publishing a novel. So far I have gone through six steps: deciding if your story idea is right for you, making a writing plan, pre-outlining, using plot points, outlining, and some of the things you need to do before starting your first draft.
Today, the topic is: Figuring out when to write.
Where To Write
I have already written a short article on this:
It’s time to find your writer’s space. This space can be in any spot that you want. Where do you like to write? The answer will not be the same for everyone.
I, for instance, like to write at desks, preferably in my bedroom. I started at a small, pale, wooden desk meant for a much smaller child. My legs were pressed up against the top, and it sometimes left marks, but it was worth the words pouring out from my fingertips. Later I got what I work at now, a huge L shaped desk made out of dark wood. It has many bookshelves, where I store all of my books on writing, notebooks, and library books I need to return. I also hang posters on it, and store little mementos around me for inspiration. I also have a vanilla air-freshener. Whenever I open it up, the scent of vanilla floods out, and inspires me to write. This scent gets me in a writing mood, since I only use it when I write.
I say all this to give you ideas, none of which you have to use. Maybe you don’t like to write at a desk, but at a coffee shop, or on your bed, or in a tree, or on your living room couch. That is awesome! Do what works best for you.
If you don’t know what works best for you, experiment. Try your couch one day, and your kitchen table the next. You never know what place will inspire creativity, and aid your writing.
And remember, you might need a change of scenery now and again. For instance, I wrote most of my novel at my desk, but finished it on my bed. I desperately needed a change of scenery, and it worked! Soon, while I plot my next novel, I’m going to try writing at my library in the newly remodeled teen section. Who knows, maybe it will be just the thing to get this new novel jump started!
What Time Of Day To Write
This, again, is different for everyone. It depends on a lot of things, including your circumstances, and what time of day you are most productive.
I like to write early morning, just before noon, or at night. In the summer I wrote just before noon and at night, but when school rolled around, I couldn’t do that anymore. I had to discipline myself to wake up earlier.
That’s all for today! If you have any more questions, please comment below. And come back on Wednesday for the first post in Katie’s new series.
Elizabeth

The Path To Publication Step Six: Before You Write Your First Draft

Today’s the big day, or so you think. You’ve planned, outlined, and you’re rearing to go. That’s great! But, you still have a few more things to do before sitting down and starting the novel that you’ve dreamed about for the past month.
One thing I suggest you do before starting your first draft is to look at my Becoming a Writer Series, especially the post about setting up your writer’s spot. You’ll need it before starting your novel.
Another thing to do before starting your novel is to sit down and look at how many words you want to write. This varies from book to book, and genre to genre. Here’s a rough estimate:
Picture Books: 32 pages, or 500-600 words
Middle Grade: 20,000 to 55,000 words, depending on the target ages of the readers
Young Adult: 55,000 to 80,000 words, though you may want to be careful when you get up in the seventies and eighties
Adult: 70,000 to 100,000 words, depending on the genre
(Note: I got all of these facts from an article in Writer’s Digest, but I have seen similar information elsewhere. Check out the original article here: http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/word-count-for-novels-and-childrens-books-the-definitive-post)
That is my quick guide to word count. Also note that your first draft may be shorter or longer depending on if you tend to write more than necessary or less than needed, and can change during the edits. For example, with my current MG (middle grade) novel, it’s at 37,000 words, but since I tend to underwrite and leave out description, I estimate it will gain about another 3,000 or 4,000 during edits, which is a healthy size for my genre and target age group.
Now that you know around how many words your novel is, you need to figure out how much you want to write each day, when you don’t want to write and have a day of rest, and how long it will take you to write your novel. For instance you may be writing a YA (young adult) novel that you estimate will be 60,000 words. You need realistically to look at how much you can write a day, and what days you want to take off. I suggest you at least take one day off a week, to get a little rest. Say you have work or school, and can only write 500 words a day. That’s okay! And you decide to take Sundays off, meaning you write 3,000 words per week. Divide 3,000 (how many words you write per week) into 60,000 (how many words you estimate your novel will be), and you get 20. It will take you twenty weeks to write the first draft of your novel.
That’s all for today, stop by Wednesday where my new partner Katie will be talking about characters!
Elizabeth

The Path to Publication Step Five: Outlining

Congratulations! You’ve made it all the way in your journey to outlining! Some of you out there might consider yourselves pantsers, (none outliners), and that’s okay. I suggest that you at least pre-outline before you jump into your story, so you can at least have an idea of where your story is going.
One thing I want you to remember as you outline is that you don’t have to stick to it when you start writing. Maybe you find a more interesting path to take and that is fine. But never, ever throw away your outline, because maybe that shiny path turns out to be a dead-end. If you find a new path, you may want to outline it again.
There’s no real set in stone way to outline. All I’m telling you now is how I outline.
My outline is very simple and straightforward. I just outline scene by scene. My outline goes a little something like this (This isn’t an actual book I’m writing.):
1. Julia walks to the store with her friend Kaitlin. They encounter Jessa, a bully. Jessa gives Kaitlin a black eye because Kaitlin got the lead role instead of herself.
Okay, I admit, a bad example, but you get the point. Your outline can be as detailed or as condensed as you want.
One thing that really helps me when I’m outlining is to estimate how many words each scene will be, so that when I’m done outlining, I can add them all up and have a rough estimate of how long my novel will be.
That’s all for today, thanks for reading, and be sure to check back Wednesday where I’ll be talking about a very important writing goal I just achieved.
Elizabeth

The Path To Publication Step Four: Plot Points

Plot points are something I touched briefly in my last post about pre-writing, but I decided that since it’s very complex that it would be helpful to do a more in-depth look.
Plot points, which are major turning points in your novel, can be very tricky. You want your story to go the way you want it to go, and plot points and where you place them can get in the way, because they have certain times they need to take place. But they are also very helpful in keeping your story on track.
The first plot point, for example, changes your main character’s life. The example of the first plot point I used in my last post was Harry Potter finding out he was a famous wizard in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling. That was a big change, wasn’t it? Harry went from living in a cupboard under the stairs of his aunt and uncle’s house and being bullied mercilessly by his cousin, Dudley, to going to a wizard school called Hogwarts. His life would never be the same.
​The first plot point can be found around 15% to 25% of the way through your novel. Sometimes earlier, sometimes later, but no earlier than 15%, and no later than 30% of the way through.
​The second plot point occurs about half way through your novel. It usually is some sort of revelation that causes your main character to question his motives and actions during the first half of the novel.
​The third plot point ensues around the 75% mark. It usually sets up the end, and may have some revelation, like in a mystery the main character finds the final clue that solves the case. There’s some sort of conflict, and maybe even a final stand. The third plot point almost always surprises readers (and sometimes the writers).
Next Monday on The Path to Publication, I will be talking about outlining.
Elizabeth

The Path to Publication Step Three: Pre-Outlining

Pre-outlining is a very important step in your novel writing process. This step helps you flesh out your novel idea and get to know your characters. Though you have already determined that you want to keep your novel idea, this step also helps you determine if you still like my novel idea.
1. Read my post on knowing if your novel idea is right for you.
2. Write what you think you might go on the back cover so you have a clear idea to work towards.
Before you write your blurb, take some of your favorite novels from your shelf and read their blurbs. What does the blurb do right? What does the blurb do wrong? How does the blurb leave you wanting to read the novel? In your blurb, make sure to include your character, the setting, the story problem, and end in such a way that leaves people wanting to read your book.
3. Next, list your three plot points.
If you don’t know what a plot point is, it’s a major turning point in your novel. The first plot point usually occur around 15%-25% of the way through your novel, or even less. To use an example from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, the first plot point occurs when Harry finds out he’s a wizard. The second plot point happens half way through you novel, and the third around 75% of the way through your novel. I will do an in depth look at plot points next.
4. Write down numbers one through ten, each on its own line.
Write down your first plot point on numbers two or three, your second on five, and your third on seven or eight. Fill in the others with scenes that are important in the book, and make the plot points happen. Add foreshadowing to make the plot points believable. This can also be called the brief outline.
5. Learn about your characters.
If you would rather get to know your characters as you write, that’s okay. Just so you know enough about them to make them unique. But if you want to know more about your character, K.M. Weiland has a great character information sheet on her site: http://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com, and countless others have sheets for your characters as well.
6. Outline the ending.
You need to know what you’re writing and foreshadowing to, so you can write a believable novel.
Okay, that’s all! Next week I’ll be writing about plot points that I talked about in step three.
Liz
(If you found this post helpful, please comment, like, and follow my blog.)

The Path to Publication Step Two: Making a Writing Plan

Hi everyone! Today I’m going to talk about making a writing plan.

Note: This is not for everyone, but for those of you who are super organized and like to have things planned out, I highly recommend this.

What is a writing plan? Well, basically a writing plan is a plot out of all the steps to writing your novel and getting it published. It can be as specific or as vague as you want it to be, and you can change it over time. The writing plan isn’t a strict timeline that you have to follow or suffer the consequences, it’s only a rough estimation of the time it will take to complete the steps to writing and publishing your novel.

The first thing you do is brainstorm the list of steps you want to take. Below is a list of the steps I use (I will cover all these steps in The Path to Publication.):

*Pre-outline

*Outline

*Write first draft

*Put novel aside for at least six weeks

*Read through manuscript

*Make structure changes

*Do a general edit

*Edit grammar and other specific stuff

*Give to a beta reader

*Edit accordingly

*Send to a professional editor

*Re-read and edit as many times as necessary

*Write a query

*Edit query as many times as necessary

*Re-read both novel and query one last time

*Send to agents

Pick and choose what steps you want to use, and add more if you want. Next, add the goal times you want to finish your project. Here is an example of a step in my writing timeline: September 1- September 30: Read through the manuscript and edit. Give yourself more time than you think you’ll need, because life always happens and throws unexpected distractions your way.

After that, set a minimum for how many scenes you want to outline a day for your outline, and how many words you want to write a day for your first draft. I’ll talk more about choosing how many words to write a day as you get closer to writing your first draft.

Compile all your information into one big list, or chart if you are so inclined, and you’ll be set!

If you have any questions, feel free to comment below or contact me. And if you enjoyed this article, don’t forget to like, comment, and subscribe.

The Path To Publication Step One: Is This Plot Idea Right For You?

Welcome to the first blog post in the series The Path to Publication. Our series will start at the beginning of the novel-writing process, and end with querying. For the sake of this series we’re going to assume that you have never published a novel before, but that is your ultimate goal with writing a novel. I’ve broken the steps into baby steps, so we can cover certain area more thoroughly. A new step in the Path to Publication will be posted every Monday.
You may be wondering why I didn’t start with finding the idea to write. Because only you can come up with your idea, no one else can do it for you. I hope this first step will be helpful.

You have this nagging itch, this flash of inspiration, a story idea so brilliant you know you have to write it. You pick up the pen to start your novel—Wait! It’s great that you have your story idea, but now you need to test it, to see if this is one you can work with for however long it takes to write and re-write.
Trust me, I’ve been in that situation before, but it led to three months, 110 pages, a very exhausted writer, and half a novel that I didn’t have the heart to keep writing. I had outlined, I had prepared, but none of it seemed to work. I thought it might be a passing feeling, so I let myself have a break. When I came back to the story, I was no better off than I was before. I saw my novel with fresh eyes, and it was awful. After I cheered myself up, I tried to re-write it. That still didn’t work and I gave up on it. I tried another story, and another, but none of them seemed to work.
Then I came up with one more idea. This time I was very cautious, knowing what had happened the last four times. I knew that I would probably give up on this one too. I really wanted to give this idea a try, though, so I picked up a pen and brainstormed. And what I got was the assurance that, even though I had no guarantee that I would stick with it, I had a better chance than I had with all the others. So now I am going to share these tips with you, in the hopes that these few exercises will help you find the best story for you to write. (It might be a good idea to do one of these exercises a day, to see if you still like it the next day.)
1. Write down what you know about the story so far. Look at it. Is this what you want as your first published novel? Do you want your name on the cover? If so, continue onto step two.
2. Write a page of the story. How did it feel writing it? If you felt like you would rather be cleaning your house, maybe you should try to find another story. On the other hand, if you loved writing it, if the words flowed effortlessly from your pen, this might be the story for you.
3. Brainstorm your idea. Add what ifs and characters, relationships and themes, character names and possibilities. Do they work? Do they add up to a great premise? If so, move on to my third and last step.
4. Write a list of all the conflicts. What good is a story without conflict? Add antagonist, internal conflict, and awkward situations.
(Don’t forget, you don’t have to include all you brainstorm in your novel.)
Does all of this seem to work? You might have a novel! Also think about how you’ve been feeling the past few days as you’ve been writing. Have you felt ecstatic with what you’re writing? Or only so-so? Weigh what you like about the story with what you don’t like.
If you still aren’t sure, ask some questions about the idea and brainstorm some answers. For instance, in my WIP (work in progress), a fantasy, my MCs (main characters) have special powers, but I didn’t know how they got them. I tried to answer the question, and not only did I come up with some pretty juicy answers, but I also had a clearer understanding of the story itself.
Have you decided you are going to keep your idea? Then come back next week where I’ll have a post on pre-outlining. If you have decided not to keep your idea, don’t worry. Just keep on trying until you find the right one!
Elizabeth
(If you want to read my new post on my other blog, here’s the address: http://lovingthewrittenword.wordpress.com/2014/06/30/monday-book-review-escape-from-mr-lemoncellos-library/.)