Our “Consider While Writing” blog series is intended to help you plan ahead while working towards the final draft of your manuscript. We’ve already covered tips on how to prepare your manuscript, in a technical sense, for publication. Today we’re going to focus on some of the intangibles of novel planning. No, we don’t mean figuring out the plot line—although that’s also important—we’re talking the nitty gritty details that can help make your novel feel real…or make your audience realize you don’t know your characters and scenes any better than they do.
For our previous installments, check out our blogs on Manuscript Setup, Interior Layout, and Research Prep.
Be consistent with your characters. Write out a description for each one. Draw them if you have to. It wouldn’t hurt to make a list of their skill sets, areas of expertise, and areas of considerable _in_expertise, too. Then, stick to the plan. If you make reference to a character’s eye colour in one scene, and then the colour changes, that’s a problem. If you describe a character as a bit out of shape, and then have that same character climbing buildings and running for miles in the next scene, that’s a problem. Inconsistencies raise red flags for your readers and snap them out of your story and cause their trust in the narrator to waiver, so be prepared to commit to the traits you’re giving your characters—and keep track of them, too!
This area can be of the utmost importance, especially if there is a particular place—house, garden, area of town—that really defines your story. Map out the area, draw floor plans, plot your characters walking through the rooms of the houses. Staying true to form helps to bring your story to life; it’s much more likely your readership will become engrossed in your scenes if those scenes feel real and believable to them—if they can picture walking through the rooms, and don’t suddenly come bumping into a wall they could’ve sworn you said wasn’t there a minute ago, or making a mad-dash escape through a window that shouldn’t be big enough for them to fit through. If you like working with your hands, consider building scenes out of Lego or building blocks. The more real these buildings are to you, the more real they’ll be to your audience.
Whether your characters are traveling through town, scrambling up a mountain range, or hurriedly trying to fix a 10-course meal, timing is important. Do some research to figure out exactly how long your characters’ activities will take. Passage of time is important; it can move forward a plot line, be the deciding factor in whether a character succeeds or fails, cause life-or-death decisions…if you’re setting any scenes in an area of the world you haven’t spent a lot of time in, Google Maps is your friend. It can help you figure out how long it takes to get from Point A to Point B. Keep tabs on how long you’re saying your characters’ travels take, as well. If it takes your hero 15 minutes to walk to the grocery store on his corner, it can’t take only 10 minutes for him to get to the bank that’s a block further away.
Do you get the feeling a sequel is in order? If so, avoid burning bridges you’d like to cross again. If you wrap everything up neatly and tie it with a bow, readers may be a bit annoyed with you for trying to unravel things again; consider leaving a few ends loose to play with.
Call in the professionals. Think you’ve crossed all your t’s and dotted all your i’s? Then it might be time to bring in an editor to help you polish up your work and get it press-ready. Interested? We can help! Contact us today!
Have a tip of your own? Let us know in the comments section!
Amy Groening is a project manager at Word Alive Press. She is a passionate storyteller with experience in blogging, newspaper reportage, and creative writing. She holds an Honours degree in English Literature and is happy to be working in an industry where she can see other writers’ dreams come to life. She enjoys many creative pursuits, including sewing, sculpture and painting, and spends an embarrassingly large amount of time at home taking photos of her cat committing random acts of feline crime.