Ready to write your novel and looking for a method to guide you from outline to publication? Look no further, Novel Factory has devised a sixteen step method to help you from planning to publication.
Write out Your Premise
All stories begin with a premise, and this method begins no differently. Novel Factory stipulates that your premise should include five important elements: a character, a situation, an objective, an opponent, and a disaster. Write out something for each element then, if you can, squeeze all of those items into one sentence.
After composing your sentence, elaborate on each element. Give your main characters names, ages, and professions to give them a bit more depth. Thoroughly describe the situation including date, place, severity. Elaborate on your main characters objectives, clearly outlining what they want and what drives them, whether it be love, money, family, etc. Definitively state the protagonists opponent including what category it falls under. Categories can include another person, an organization, a force of nature, etc.
Finally, you’ll need to design a disaster that follows your characters and creates suspense for the reader. Your disaster description should include who is involved, what is at stake, how many outcomes are possible, and any other details necessary.
Once every element is in place, write a paragraph including these five items.
Transform Your Premise into an Outline
After a premise, you need an outline. Novel Factory doesn’t have many stipulations for this stage, but whichever outlining method you use, you should include settings, events, characters, and a final outcome.
Novel Factory recommends dividing your events into three acts. Act 1 should include an introduction, call to action, and entrance into conflict. Act 2 introduces other characters, presents an initial challenge, and includes temptation for the protagonist to stray from their goal followed by a moment of darkness and uncertainty. Act 3 concludes with the character re-emerging as triumphant, engaging in the final battle, then returning home.
If you wish to break your novel down into even smaller scenes, keep going. There are hundreds of ways to outline your book. Whether you prefer to simply use a complex timeline or write a series of synopses, anything will work with this method.
Bring Out the Characters
When characters emerge on the scene, their entrance alone clues the reader in on their personality. Novel Factory recommends you play around with settings and mood when rolling out a new character to showcase how their presence affects the story.
Novel Factory recommends playing around with character intros by writing a “gameshow introduction” and using elements from a “character interview”.
To write a gameshow introduction, begin by writing a few short sentences that display the most important qualities of your character. Using powerful verbs imagery, spice up those sentences until you have roughly a paragraph that brings your character on stage with show-stopping flare. Your character’s introduction should turn heads and immediately ignite the reader’s curiosity.
Combine this ostentatious intro with details from an in-depth interview of your character. If you were sitting across from your character right now, what juicy questions would you ask them? You don’t need to squeeze out every detail of their life, but dig for the interesting stuff as if you were going to betray their secrets in a flashy exposé later on.
Between your interview and introduction, you should be able to dream up a few impressive ways you could bring new characters on to the scene. Brainstorm a few ideas then implement your favorites!
Compose a Book Jacket
Write out a short synopsis of your story that might appear on the back of your book. A simple paragraph will do. Include the main character, the antagonist, whoever/whatever that may be, and the character’s main objective. Have fun with it, and write it in a way that will snatch a reader’s attention. Don’t overthink this step or concern yourself with too much detail.
Elongate your Book Jacket
If you like your book jacket, now is the time to expand upon it. Your goal is to develop a synopsis that lasts for a few pages and covers all the events within your story starting with your concise summary.
The best way to begin expanding on your book jacket is to take a single sentence from the paragraph and fragment that sentence into many more detailed sentences. Continue this process for every sentence in your single paragraph until you have two whole pages.
Read through those pages refining your summary with a few edits. This long summary should be pleasing to read, and not just a rough list of events. Feel free to share it around for feedback! This comprehensive summary should be thorough enough to guide you through your rough draft.
Develop the Goal-to-Decision Cycle
The Goal-to-Decision Cycle is a six part action sequence that breaks your novel down based on character emotion and action. You should be able to follow the main action of your novel through this cycle and see how the characters’ emotions fluctuate from beginning to end.
The first step in this sequence is outlining the character’s goal followed by the conflict that character is going to face. While facing this conflict, a disaster erupts that halts the character’s progression towards the goal. The character has a reaction to that disaster which causes them to face a dilemma, often involving a choice. Then they must make a crucial decision that will lead to the conclusion.
In shorthand, the Goal-to-Decision cycle consists of goal, conflict, disaster, reaction, dilemma, and a decision.
While the character is going through this cycle, they phase through “head and tail” scenes. Head scenes are much more action packed and feature the character encountering conflict and fighting disasters. Tail scenes are more emotion filled and reflective. These scenes feature characters reacting to conflict, facing dilemmas, and contemplating what to do next.
While you are dividing your novel into the six parts of the goal to decision cycle, keep a tally of your head and tail scenes to make sure one type isn’t dominating your book. To have a novel that truly keeps the reader interested and elicit an emotional response, there should be an equal number of head and tail scenes, which results in an equal amount of action and emotion.
Develop Real-Life Personalities
At this point in your planning, your likely have a good idea of your characters’ personalities.
There are millions of different “Character worksheets” out there you can use, but if you’d rather work at your own speed, we can give you an idea of where to start.
Begin by figuring out how your character talks and thinks, even if the book isn’t from their perspective. What is their dialogue like? Where are they from and how does that affect their accent and vocabulary. What level of education do they have? Do they have an assertive or passive attitude? What kind of humor do they use?
There are so many questions you may want to ask of your character, more than we could sit and list! Whether or not you choose to use a character worksheet, sit down and find a way to organize your characters’ traits to keep them consistent.
After creating a few detailed characters, try out their personalities in a few quick writes. Test their interactions with other characters and experiment with dialogue to make them as three-dimensional as possible!
Find and Research your Ideal Locations
No matter how many locations and times you use in your story, take a moment to research and describe where your novel is taking place.
When researching, include the mood surrounding the locations in your novel. Now is the time to get your inner decorator on and think about the colors occurring in your locations. How do the colors of the walls relate to the mood? What kind of background noise is occurring at this location?
There are several small factors that go into building the mood in a location, so no detail is too small to include!
Now that your main plots are well developed, begin writing out subplots.
To keep them straight, you might try writing out subplots underneath the characters most closely involved with them. Maybe each one of your characters has their own little subplot that aligns with their goals.
Write out your subplots alone and make note of where they intersect with the main plot. Begin intertwining these subplots when you write your rough draft.
Get a Different Perspective
When writing scenes driven by your main characters, take a moment to consider what the other characters are witnessing and how that effects the scene.
When including an important secondary character in a crucial scene, even if we won’t read from their viewpoint, practice writing out a paragraph that describes what they are seeing during this scene. Consider how that affects their action and how that will impact the main character.
Writing out occasional secondary character viewpoints can also help the continuity of your novel, ensuring that some characters don’t just pop in and out of existence.
For your most important scenes, practice writing out a rough summary of dialogue and action occurring within this scene.
Think dialogue and stage directions. Include the most important statements and big actions your characters take.
Write a First Draft
So much planning has gone into your novel so far. You’ve practiced writing so many scenes and developing all of your characters. Now is the time to take it all for a test drive.
Begin writing your first draft with a minimal filter. This draft doesn’t have to be perfect, but should cover everything you’ve planned thus far, and should be an almost final tale of everything you’ve put into this novel.
A Theme with Variations
Before we begin the edits, it is time for another writing exercise!
Begin by digging through your rough draft and figuring out what themes emerge. You’ll likely find your most apparent ones that you intended to incorporate into the book, but you might also find others emerge that you hadn’t thought of. Compile a little list of these themes.
Then time for another quick write. Take a few scenes from your rough draft (or invent some new ones!) and try adding an extra dose of those themes you found. Add a few small details that cause the reader to think back to another issue covered or foreshadows one of your messages from the end of the book.
If you like how it turned out, keep it! If you hate it, toss it.
The First Round of Edits
Like most methods, this one also includes the beloved round of edits. It is completely up to you how you go about this. You may rely on yourself for this stage, or you can recruit a friend, your writing group, or a professional editor to give you a hand.
Write Your Final Draft
Venture into your final draft with a plan. Assuming you’ve made edits yourself or collected edits from a few other people, compile the suggestions and come up with a plan to implement them.
If you find that you need to make big, structural edits, it may be smart to go all the way back to your plot outline and edit that before adjusting your rough draft. Larger plot edits will take a while to implement, but you’ll find that they’re worth it!
Smaller edits won’t take nearly as much effort. You may need to just change a few names or fix a few grammatical errors. Maybe you just need to tweak a scene.
Find a Publisher!
Whether you’d like to self-publish, publish traditionally, or work with a hybrid publisher, there are so many options for you to start marketing your book.
If you feel comfortable with your final draft and feel it has received enough feedback, it is finally time to get out there and sell your hard work. Spend time researching your publication options and find something that works for your budget. With so many options, there’s a publication method for any book.
No matter where you are in your novel-writing process, the Novel Factory method is there to guide you to the next step with some helpful tips to try along the way!