Wednesday, September 14, 2016

How Do You Start?

Sometimes, the hardest question for an aspiring novelist to answer is, Where do I begin?
For me, the beginning is usually a single scene that pops out of my head. We call it the PREMISE. It starts with the question What if…

In the case of my novel, SECRETS OF A TWEENAGE DEMON HUNTRESS, the question was What if Dean Winchester, the character from the television series SUPERNATURAL, was a twelve year old girl? Like Dean, her father hunts demons and monsters, and expects her to follow in his footsteps. Where most parents want to shelter their pre-teenage children from the horrors of the world, this parent exposes the main character to a terrifying secret, that is, that demons exist. Then WHAT IF Dad went missing, and no one was looking for him? Would she be brave enough to untangle the mystery of what happened to Dad by herself? WHAT IF in doing so, she encountered a demon that even Dad never fought? WHAT THEN?

Suddenly, I could envision the whole opening scene of a new novel. That’s how I begin. The next steps are to get this idea into an organized framework.

I start with the NOVEL OVERVIEW. Even if I plan to change it later, I create a title. It doesn’t have to be accurate or splashy, it just needs to exist.

Then I get specific about how I plan to express this character. What point-of-view will I use to write the story. Will I use past or present tense?

From the beginning I ask myself WHY do I want to write this story? WHAT message do I want to convey to my readers?

I decide the geographic location of the opening scene for the story, the historical period in which the action takes place, and the time of year (and weather conditions) for the opening scene. I decide on the culture of the main character and the surrounding community. In the back of my mind, I assign a genre for the novel because that’s part of the framework, too.

Then I write a paragraph that summarizes the HOOK, that opening scene that inspired the entire story. More times than not, that summary paragraph will become the back-of-the-book pitch. Whittling it down to two to three sentences gives me a 25-30 word teaser.

At this point I’ve established the traits of my main character, decided on an initial setting, written a premise, and developed the hook, or opening scene, for my story.

Now I’m ready to begin.

With just over six weeks left before the start of Nanowrimo 2016, are you ready?
All of the brainstorming exercises described in this blog series can be found in my Scrivener template on Google Drive at
For non-scrivener users, Personal Noveling Assistant (PNA) pages are at

For more about my stories, check out my author page at

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