5 Resources for First Drafts of Novels

Need help on the first draft of your novel? Here are some great resources.

  • Planning or Outlining: Many revision techniques found here can also be invention techniques for those first drafts. As I’m working on my first draft of a new novel, I’m finding that many of the same techniques are helpful.

    For example, spreadsheet plotting works equally well as a revision technique or as an outlining technique for the first draft.

  • Subplots: I searched through all my how-to-write books for tips on subplots and finally found a whole chapter in Robert Kernen’s book, Building Better Plotsplots. He does a great job of laying out options. I’m choosing to contrast with a slightly comic (I hope!) subplot.
  • Characters: While there are many great character books around, I still go back to John Vorhaus’s The Comic Toolbox: How to Be Funny Even If You’re Notcomic. I know it’s about comedy — and it does help you be funny. But I read it mostly because it helps me develop characters better and faster than any other resource. Since I’m hoping my subplot will be a bit of comic relief, I’m using his plotline for that subplot, too.
  • Narrative Arc: CD player in my car. One of the best things I’m doing right now is listening to a long series as a Books-on-Tape. Right now, it’s Garth Nix’s Sabriel, Lirael and Abhorsen trilogy. I read them long ago, but hearing them one right after another brings the overall narrative arc into much better focus. I did this a couple years ago with the Dark is Rising series and it was fascinating, too, to hear them all in relatively a short space of time.
  • Emotional Arc: In Emotional Structure: Creating the Story Beneath the Plot dunne, Peter Dunne lays out two great charts of how the emotional arc intersects the narrative arc. I have a column in my plotting spreadsheet for the emotions of the scenes, so I can monitor the emotional arc while I’m planning, too.
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