A peek at planning my next novel
With my new website freshly launched, it seems appropriate to focus on another source of novelty: my current work in progress.
Even as Magic’s Daughter is being released, chapter by chapter, on the Radish app, I’ve been dedicating copious pockets of time to planning my next book. Back in June, I hinted about this next project—code name: Sir Larpsalot.
Now I’m ready to dish on the details.
But before I do that, it bears mentioning that I am using a new (for me) technique for planning this next book. It’s called the Snowflake Method, and I stumbled upon it by accident months ago. Randy Ingermanson’s systematic process for planning a novel appealed to me because a) I love structure and b) I was already doing several of these steps organically, if not sequentially, for past projects.
You can learn more about the Snowflake Method at advancedfictionwriting.com/articles/snowflake-method, but here’s the gist: you start out with a very broad idea and over the course of 10 exercises, refine it into a fully realized novel. (Yes, it becomes a beautiful and unique snowflake.)
So it probably makes sense to start with Step 1, right?
Before an author can start planning his next book, he needs to have a worthy idea. If I’m going to give you a candid peek at how I’m making this book, from inception to publication, I have to start at Step 0—or even subzero.
A false start
Initially, I had a very different idea for my next book. The working title was “Changelings,” and it was something that had been rattling around in the back of my mind for years. In 2014, I started jotting down a few notes, though I fought valiantly to stave off the project while writing If Sin Dwells Deep and If Dreams Can Die.
Several changeling characters—all of whom secretly had faerie blood—popped into my mind, but all I could afford to do was record an idea here and there. Creating full-fledged character profiles would’ve undoubtedly led me down a rabbit hole, and I knew myself well enough to realize that I couldn’t write two books at once.
When I wrapped up The Soul Sleep Cycle, I fully expected to jump into Changelings.
And I did.
In January 2019, I started researching all things fay, scouring tomes and online articles to learn more about folklore, fairytales, and the belief that faeries sometimes replace human infants with their own offspring. After researching throughout January and February, I spent most of March engaged in world-building activities.
Then I fizzled out.
Even though I knew a few of the characters and had a solid foundation for this new fantasy world, the idea failed to spark a story that excited me. The direction was too big or maybe just too heavy. After writing a complex series like The Soul Sleep Cycle, I craved something simpler, self-contained, and light-hearted.
Fortunately, I had another idea in my back pocket.
Full speed ahead
Once upon a time (circa 2017), I collaborated on a comic book. The team disbanded before we could produce our first issue of what would have been a sequence of one-shots. The second issue was going to star Sir Larpsalot, a live-action role-player (LARPer) who gets pulled into a foreign world that puts all of his fantasy knowledge to the test.
I had the entire issue mapped out in my mind, but because I lack the ability to illustrate what I imagine—and therefore couldn’t produce the comic book alone—Sir Larpsalot’s epic seemed doomed to being another false start.
But when I needed something to replace Changelings, I found myself wondering whether I could transform the Sir Larpsalot story into a YA novel.
What if Sir Larpsalot’s friends—his fellow larpers—came along for the ride?
The idea started to snowball, and the more I thought about it, the more I loved the idea of writing a YA portal fantasy that could riff on fantasy and gaming conventions (especially since my family and I have been swept up in the current D&D craze).
Not long after brainstorming Sir Larpsalot’s comrades-in-arms, I came across the aforementioned Snowflake Method. The implied efficiency for planning a novel intrigued me, so I committed to following the process with a goal of completing the first draft by the end of 2019.
The first step
Step 1 of the Snowflake Method is to write a one-sentence summary of your novel.
A single sentence. How hard could that be?
Find out next month!
I hope you’re as excited about this behind-the-scene look at the creation of my next novel as I am. I’m also terrified because I’ve never let anyone peer over my shoulder while plotting and brainstorming.
Maybe you’ll find it fascinating to learn how an idea becomes a book.
Maybe it’ll be boring as heck.
What I can promise is that it will be informative and honest.
I’d love to hear any thoughts and questions (and encouragement?) below!