Before the Story Begins . . .

For any author, the starting point of a novel is a big decision. Do you start before the beginning, at the beginning or after the beginning? And how do you decide?

For my fourth novel, Look the Other Way, I’m trying something new. I wrote 20,000 words of the story. With 20,000 words on paper, I have a good idea who the characters are.

The characters come to life, but not fully at this point. Next, I write character synopses that include the basic details, but also the story of the character’s life up to the beginning of the novel. Each synopsis ends up being three to five pages.

The synopsis format is informal. Point form will do. I don’t worry about typos or grammar, but I do get to know my characters.

This process helps me decide where to begin my novel. It’s a creative process. As I write each synopsis, I keep a separate document open that contains plot points or ideas. By the time I have all the synopses written, I have the full novel outline done too.

From this process, I somehow know where the starting point should be and what the inciting incident is. I chose the point that will drive the characters through the story. Too early, and the scene’s aren’t needed. Too late, and an important scene might be excluded.

Next comes scene writing.

Everybody has a different process for writing a novel. What’s yours?


6 thoughts on “Before the Story Begins . . .

  1. To describe my haphazard story planning as a process might be presumptuous, 😉 but what I do is start writing the backstory and characters in prewriting. That ends up being at least 10k words, but usually more. By then, I’ll have some scenes to shuffle around to build a framework for my story. I like to sort those out in Scrivener and this is where I usually come up with the best place to start the story.
    With the current WIP, I was able to write a short story synopsis in nine critical sentences (using Larry Brooks’ story engineering principles), and catch where the turning points in my story might be, so that was helpful to me as well.
    After that, I usually have enough momentum that I can’t stop myself anymore, and I’m off and writing!
    I love reading about other writers’ processes! 🙂


  2. This is a fascinating topic. I’m still figuring mine out! I have a few books on writing and Kristina, your process is the most specific I’ve seen–very helpful.


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