Before you start anything, do this!
Decide these three things:
1. Beyond the general genre of fantasy, what world you want to write in? Are you working within the world of espionage (think Etiquette and Espionage), Assassins (The Assassin's Blade), Witches (The Line), teenage high school drama (The Vampire Diaries), technology (Mortal Engines)?
2. What is the big goal that needs to be accomplished? Does the hero need to stop a bomb, get the girl, assassinate someone, etc?
3. Why? What horrible thing will happen if the hero fails to accomplish the goal? In other words, tell me why I should care.
4. -Optional- Adding a deadline or a ‘ticking timer’ usually helps push the story along and hook your readers till the very end.
These three things are imperative to a story line. Without them, you don’t have a story. You can’t even make a short story without these basic elements.
Do the prep-work
If you want to write a novel quickly, with minimal hick-ups (ie major story structure problems and redos), take the time to really develop your outline and do the prep work.Not everyone loves working with an outline, but I freaking love it.
I consistently had major story structure issues before I changed the way that I did my prep work. After reading 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love by Rachel Aaron, I changed my methods and it did wonders for my writing speed, editing speed, and the overall quality of my writing.
Prep-work: The outline
DECIDE THE STRUCTURE OF YOUR NOVEL
1. I start my novels on ‘the day something different happened’
2. Introduction Phase- I have a set up phase that lists the major goal, introduce all main characters, and show the time constraint
3. Game changer
4. Things get worse phase
5. Game changer
6. We might have found a way out of this mess…. Proactive Phase
7. Game changer
8. Final battle phase, conclusion, carry out plan
9. Story ending
a. Resolution – this is the period after the final scene that shows the main characters reaction to everything. This can be happy, relieved, or mournful, but it gives the reader (and the characters) time to adjust to all that has happened.
Now that I have the basic skeleton of the story, its time to fill it in more. Here are the steps I take to create my outline:
1. I make sure I have answered my 3 questions (What’s the world I want to write in, What is the goal/mission that has to happen, What big bad thing will happen if we don’t accomplish the goal)
2. –Optional- Create my working title
3. I list out 2-4 main characters, 1-2 Antagonists, and as many power players as I know I need at this point. I answer my character questions (listed below).
4. I write the ending. Then, I write the beginning.
5. I fill in with the scenes that I already know. This usually goes pretty quickly.
6. I do my setting and world building work (see more below)
a. Build my world
b. Create a map
c. List systems
7. I fill in the holes until I get stuck- I’ll take note what I don’t know yet
8. I create a timeline (list relevant historical information)
9. I make a scene list
10. I summarize chapters and do a “boredom check” . ie. If I was a reader, would this section be boring? I’ll add and cut sections as needed
11. I list my resolution
12. I start writing!
Prep-work: Believable characters
Characters have dimension. Almost all people in the world have likes, dislikes, and dreams. We’re almost all are or have been bitter about. What are our flaws? Think about these things when you write about your characters. It's not really important to go through all of the steps with minor characters, but with major ones, like Dumbledore, for example, can be very useful and make your story and characters more believable.
Answer these character questions for each antagonist, protagonist, major characters, and power players (think President Snow from Hunger Games):
• What is their name, age, description, quirks?
• What do they like?
• What do they hate?
• What are their goals? What do they want more than anything else in the world? What happens if they don't reach them?
• What’s stopping them from getting what they want is…
• What is the emotional goal of the character? (how do you want the character to grow, develop, deterioate, etc.)
DON’T FORGET ABOUT YOUR POWERFUL PROBLEM OR FOE
Every story needs opposition. Whether that is a volcano that might erupt and wipe out a village or an insane villain trying to overthrow the government, opposition cannot be forgotten. If it is a person, make sure you are really clear about his or her motivations, urges, and flaws. It is really understand to understand the ‘why’ of what the villain is doing and letting the reader in on this, bit by bit, can draw your reader in and invest them in the story.
Prep-work: World building
World building is a very important part of writing in this genre. Even if your characters are going to be on earth during real life, the fantasy genre requires infers that there will be some "rule changes". World building means slowly unfolding those rules so that the reader is on the same page with you.
Save yourself a lot of editing by deciding most of this before you start writing.
CONSIDER THESE THINGS:
• Decide first, are you creating an entirely new world or is your novel set in modern-day earth?
• Is there a government in place? What is this look like? (Go into more detail if this is going to be an important part of your story, otherwise the basic understanding of what this government looks like will suffice.
• Are there laws or anarchy? Who upholds the laws? What kinds of punishments are expected for rule breakers?
• What biases, religions, or social taboos are there?
• What do people need? What do people wear? How do they buy things? Think about a typical day in the life for people in this world.
• In your created world, consider adding regional differences- culture, skin tone, religion, food, accents, etc., based on where the location is.
Create a Map
for the settings that are especially important for your story and where the reader will visit often. You'd be amazed how difficult it is to remember where someone's room is in the house compared to other important characters. Little details like that can mess with the accuracy of what you're trying to create if you mix them. Most of my maps involve a scrap of paper and a few minutes of scribbling. Sometimes, I’ll add a few notes on the side if there is something important to remember.
Prep-work: Define the Magical System
⁃ If your book has magic, what are the ‘rules’ of magic? Does everyone have magic? For those who do, do they only have one specific type of magic? How does someone get stronger magically? Can they lose their powers? How?
⁃ What limits their powers? (Think: Kryponite for Superman)
⁃ Is the magic based on nature or mimic nature in some way? (Think: The Last Airbender tv show, Sookie Stackhouse Vampire Novels, The Line Trilogy)
⁃ Is there a scientific source (Think: X-men, Spiderman, Fantastic 4)
⁃ How do you learn magic? (Does great-grandmother teaches you or do you experiment on your own? Do you go to school?)
LIMIT THE POWERS
Remember to limit the powers in some way, especially with your protagonist. You can get away with the illusion of your protagonist having overwhelming power (Think of the world destroyer in Star Wars) if you have one small flaw, but rarely can you do that with your protagonist. If your protagonist has it too easy, then the story threatens to be boring. But, like for example, in order, magic, in general, is limited by the need to use a wand, and memorize spells, and practice them, in order to be better, the story is much more believable and people can empathize with the characters that the reading, especially if you watch them grow and get better over time.
Be Serious About Your Writing Habit
The muse rarely writes novels, but discipline will every time.
Small habits, done daily, can accomplish big things. Set regular time aside to write. I found, what works best for me, is a system. Right now, I have a day job so I build my writing time into my work schedule.
6:15a-7:30a I arrive early to work. I go to my predesignated spot and write (or edit)
until work starts
7:30a-12p Work at my day job- I have the luxury of eating at my desk, so I eat my lunch while working to free up my actual lunch time for writing
12p -12:55p Writing (or editing) time
12:55p-1p Plan what I will write next
1p-4:30 p Work time
Bam, two hours of writing done just by going to work. The habit is now automatic. My brain automatically snaps into writing mode when I go to my writing spot, throw on some headphones, and turn on my favorite music playlist.
It’s my responsibility.
Re-framing what I am doing helps me stick to my plan. Instead of looking at it like work (as it often seems like) or play (it can sometimes be really fun), I look at it like a duty. I imagine parents feel like parenting is a duty. Sometimes it is fun, sometimes it is work, but always they are expected to show up because they have a duty, a responsibility, to do so. I feel my stories are important and the world needs them.
Think about it, what if J.K. Rowling, or whoever your favorite author, decided not to show up and write. Authors can change the world and if you want to be one of those authors, you have to show up and do the work. You owe it to your seedling story to help it grow into something real.
Writing a book isn't easy, but it's very doable. There's a lot of great guides on how to write, but it really comes down to "butt in chair time.” Ask yourself, how badly do you want this? If, in a year from now, you are no closer to your goal of writing a book, how would you feel? Drop the excuses and start today. Take this opportunity to move forward with your dreams! You can do it! The world needs to read your story!
If you want more details on developing your outline and doing your pre-work, be sure to check out 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love by Rachel Aaron. I can’t recommend it enough!
Try any of these methods? Comment below and let me know how it went.
Angelina Allsop is an Amazon Best Selling Author who lives with her husband, Bryce, and their very old and very fat bulldog, Roree, in rural Arizona. She enjoys being outside on rainy days, reading, and of course, writing about all the adventures that happen in her head.
Her debut novel, The Dead Orphanage, now called The Unliving Chronicles, is an award-nominated Otherworld book that hit the top-selling charts in its first month. If you love fantasy adventure, mythical fantasy and young adult book then you will LOVE this coming of age adventure book! Look for the rest of the haunting series coming soon!
Fourteen-year-old Peter Green can’t remember how he died.
All he has are his pajamas, a silk tie, and a one-way bus ticket to Mrs. Battisworth’s Academy and Haven for Unliving Boys and Girls, a strange and spooky school for dead orphans like himself. But that’s all he needs: the Unliving Academy has everything, from vampires in the hallways, to monsters in the cafeteria, to ghosts in the basement.
And that’s just the teachers; the students are far stranger.
As Pete learns to fit in with his new supernatural schoolmates, he starts to discover his own uniquely undead abilities, and even begins enjoying his life after death…but he just can’t shake the feeling that he’s forgotten something (or somebody!) important.
Somebody he left behind in the land of the living.
Somebody he loved very much.
Somebody who’s in terrible danger.
Peter Green and the Unliving Academy is the captivating first installment of Angelina Allsop’s Unliving series of young adult fantasy novels. If you like reading about fun-filled adventures, fully realized new worlds, and the most unlikely of heroes, you’re sure to love Allsop’s spirited coming-of-age tale.