It’s time to write your novel!
You’ve had it at the back of your head for years, maybe decades. It’s based upon a bit of trivia that only you know. Maybe when you stayed at that hotel in Dubrovnik back in the late 80s, two of your fellow guests would go on to become respectively a notorious war criminal and an Australian soap star. In real life, they never met – but you thought, hmm, what if … ? And from that came the idea for a sizzling tale of love and passion set in a country tearing itself apart.
Obviously, all names will be changed; you’re not stupid.
Whenever someone has asked you what your novel is about, you’ve said, “sex and scandal in the Croatian war of independence!” And now you’re finally getting it down. Words flow from your fingertips to the screen as at last you bang it all out, wondering why on earth you never got round to this earlier. Well done!
And then it slows down, and stops. You’ve got the inspiration out of your system. All those key scenes are committed to paper. But … they are just scenes. How do you link them all together? Where did the story go?
You’ve probably omitted two key stages of the process. Now is the time to sort them out.
The first is the chapter outline: not the same as the plot. An outline helps you plan the flow of the story. You see how to introduce the characters and link all those scenes together. You can spot where the tale is likely to lose momentum. You can tell exactly where you are in the narrative arc. This is also where you notice themes emerging – again, not the same as the plot – and that can guide your writing, because this is where you make an amazing discovery: the novel isn’t actually about the Croatian war at all. It’s about your protagonist’s healing from the loss of her sister at an early age, becoming like the man who took her life yet at the crucial moment regaining her humanity to overcome him. The perspective on the war is the novel’s unique selling point and it won’t work without it – without it, it’s just another blah spy thriller romance thing – but that is not what it’s about.
So, you have your chapter outline! Start writing …?
Well, no, one more thing. The character outline.
But you know your characters! You’ve known them for years! Actually, if you haven’t outlined them properly then you will find they are only passing acquaintances.
A character outline serves two purposes. One is to help with sheer continuity: your blue-eyed blond in chapter 3 isn’t suddenly a brown-eyed brunette in chapter 11. More important is that it helps the author get to know their characters in advance, so that as each scene unfolds on your screen you can make them perfectly at home in it. The hardened street thug will be fearless in some situations that would turn others to quivering jelly, but petrified in situations that others handle with aplomb. The utterly career driven businesswoman doesn’t suddenly find herself tongue-tied in an argument based on facts but might come completely adrift in a situation requiring emotion. A character description doesn’t have to go on for pages – in fact it’s more helpful if it doesn’t, because people themselves can be quite contradictory. A simple one-liner – “People often think James is stupid; he finds it very useful when they do” – can be all you need.
If this is all sounding like too much work for your great idea then don’t worry – that’s what we’re here for. Ghostwriters don’t just ghostwrite. We can help plan and develop to make your plot work on paper. The process of writing your book doesn’t have to either/or; either 100% you or 100% us. As long as that 100% gets put in, we can divide the roles to whatever proportions work best for you. If your idea wasn’t a good one then you probably wouldn’t have held on to it for so long. Now is the time to let it see the light of day.