Preparing to Start Your Next Novel

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

For the last six months, I’ve sworn that I will be starting my next novel in February. In the meantime, I’ve been tackling oodles of projects, from writing short stories to submitting them, as well as continuing to send Kyresa to various appropriate markets and agents. I knew I wanted the “board clear” when I began writing my next book, so that I could wrap all my focus and determination around crafting my next piece. The truth is, the tale has been bubbling around a bit in my head for almost a year, but having had Kyresa go on for so long, and then having had a full length side project I wanted to tackle first, I needed some time to let it all simmer.

All the same, I’ve been so immersed in these shorter pieces for the last few months, I felt a variety of sensations upon discovering that February starts this Friday: a bit of terror, a lot of anticipation, and overall, a genuine sense of excitement. Fortunately and by fluke coincidence, I’m going to end up with a large chunk of time to write on Thursday, which in turn gives me the opportunity to close up shop on the shorts until I resurface from the first draft of my dark fantasy novel. This means I can wake up Friday to my blaring 4:45 alarm and dive right into it, without any hold ups of what if or but I didn’t or oh I meant to…. Pretty convenient timing, if you ask me. Phew!

So how do I prepare to start my next novel? It’s a great question, with many answers depending on the writer you ask. For me, preparation meant finishing other projects that would eat at me if they weren’t complete. It meant reviewing the [extremely incomplete] rough outline I wrote a year ago about my plans for the book. It also meant bolting upright after a dream at 3 a.m. one night in late December, running to the computer, and frantically typing the first two paragraphs as my protagonist said them to me in my sleep. (Yes, this really happened.)

But I imagine that on Friday, when I sit down to start, I’ll actually be doing much more prep work. Kyresa was less about outlining for me; this was instead something I did after the fact, a way to organize my thoughts and figure out the point of each chapter and where I could move things around. For my next, as-of-yet untitled work, I intend to have a little more of a plan before I launch. I prefer to not know the end when I start, but to at least know a few bumps along the road. If I were to sketch out my narrative arc this Friday, it would probably look like a rocket shooting straight into the sky, waiting for a reason to come back down—and that’s okay with me, for now. While I’ll need to flesh out some more key events, I’ll also write some character sketches to get myself pumped up, and bookmark various informational websites that I’ll need to reference along the way (note: I’ve been fascinated with Russian names, lately, so this will indeed come into play).

In short, if you asked me what I do to prepare for my next novel, I suppose my answer would be, “Type up some quick notes, cross my fingers, hope for the best, and then turn into a shut-in and let it all flow!” 🙂

But what about you?

How do you prepare to start a novel? Do you start on a lam, or do you plan out extensively before you launch, using research, characters sketches, and detailed outlines? What gets you motivated and ready to GO?

Please share your thoughts below!

About Eva Rieder

Eva Rieder is a speculative and contemporary/mainstream fiction author. By day, she masquerades as a high school Math and English teacher. Though she adores teaching and her students very much, when Eva returns home she reglues her fingertips to the keyboard to pursue her alter ego’s destiny. She currently lives and writes in Northern California with her two keyboard-savvy cats. View all posts by Eva Rieder

6 responses to “Preparing to Start Your Next Novel

  • melanie conklin (@MLConklin)

    I love it! I don’t fully outline a novel before the first draft, but my process has recently evolved to include journals. I collect some random thoughts in my journal as I’m preparing for a new project (which means reading a dozen books in that specific genre), and then I write the first draft. After beta notes come in, I journal all of the answers to the big questions my readers had. The journal gives me plenty of space to babble and weave my way to an answer. Then I revise, once the journal is chock-full of answers. I’m about to start a YA project this month, so I’ll be writing right along with you, E!

    • Eva Rieder

      Hurray! We can have our own Nano together! 🙂 Journals are a great strategy—I always think that, but end up scratching notes on yellow legal pads or creating files of notes on the computer instead. Perhaps this round I’ll give it a whirl. Thanks for sharing your strategy, Melanie, and I’m excited we’ll be writing “together”!

  • Jessica Vealitzek

    I usually have a thought in my head and I let it simmer there for awhile, sort of testing it to see if it’s really a story I’m interested in writing. I can usually see a lot of it–all the main themes, even possibly the ending, though often my story changes as I write–right at the beginning. I get all those thoughts out in some completely disorganized form, and then I start writing.
    Good luck tomorrow!

    • Eva Rieder

      Thanks, Jessica! I do feel somewhat disorganized about my strategy as well (which is funny, since most of my friends and colleagues think I’m really organized), but I like the metamorphosis of an idea over time. I do think I’m going to attempt more of an outline strategy, at least loosely, but I guess I’ll find out in the morning. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your strategy!

  • Katie Checkley

    I can relate to this. I’ve had an idea for my second novel floating about my head for a year and half now and I’m yet to write a second word of it. The reason? I’m still trudging through my first novel! I feel like the second I’m able to begin this second novel, I’m going to have that lost in the woods feeling all over again. Ah, but that’s the beauty of it, isn’t it?

    • Eva Rieder

      It sure is, Katie. Terrifying, daunting, yet exciting! I’m still working through an attempt at an outline, but am getting more pumped by the hour. I’m thinking the words should start flowing on Monday…Keep plugging away at your book! Can’t wait to hear about it, AND your next one! 🙂

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