Shiny New Ideas

Let's say that you've decided to begin a new novel. A brand new, shiny delicious novel. Where do you start?

Do you use Word or something more like Scrivener?
I've seen several posts about this recently, and as someone who's never used Scrivener--and someone who's about to begin a shiny new novel--I'm wondering if this is something I should explore. I usually just open Word, crack my knuckles, and go for it.

Do you write by hand or on the computer?
I've done both in the past. I start in notebooks, and move to the computer after a week or so, because I'm so much faster at typing.

Do you take notes first? Outline?
I'll admit that I've never done this. So I'll ask you: If you take notes, what are they about? I've been forced to outline in the past, and while I see the merit in this, it is very painful for me. Very painful.

Do you have a character or a plot point as a jumping off point?
I always have a character in mind. They begin to form with  a name, and then I start to fill them out in my head. I don't do anything as deep at character interviews or characteristic sheets or anything like that. I usually just make them up as I go. (Yes, I revise a lot afterward.)

Do you start at the beginning or write out of order?
I'm one of "those people," and I write whatever scene I have in my head. I can write in chunks, and then go back and stitch all the chunks together. I usually write the beginning scene/chapter one after I have about 60 - 80 pages of other stuff.

Do you set a goal for completion?
I always set a goal, and I always include some of my writing pals as cheerleaders. I find that this helps me stay on track, and gives me a sense of accountability.

When starting a shiny new novel, how do you begin?


Trisha Wolfe said...

Glad to know that I'm not the only one who jumps in head first with a character and says, "Go!". I dislike outlining very much. I dread the day someone asks me for one. although, I do take notes as I write for things that may have to change later. Great post! I'm inspired to write this morning =)

Anonymous said...

No outlining here (but sometimes I have scraps of notes), and I usually start with a character, a question, and often a title. I also jump around, because if I didn't I would forget my better ideas! And after hearing praise after praise, I'm thinking it's finally time to look into Scrivener.

Happy writing~

Dawn Embers said...

Some good questions. I start novels all the time so here are all my answers.

1. Umm, i use a word like program that varies. I haven't used scrivener but might try in March. Sometimes I use a web site ( where I keep some of my novels.

2. Computer. Sekrit Novel is by hand but I can't do it much because my wrist can't handle writing for longer than 10 minutes without hurting.

3. I take minor notes when I first get the idea so I don't forget but rarely do I do more.

4. I have a character and plot. I spend my free time imagining my stories in my head so by the time I start the shiny idea, I have a portion figured out though much more is discovered in the writing process.

5. Usually at the beginning. I write most novels in order with the occasional scene that comes up out of order. I have one novel I am doing one scene at a time so that one is out of order.

6. Most of the time. I like goals and if I don't make them then I re-evaluate, then keep going.

Anonymous said...

I've become a huge planner. I write a summary of the entire story and then I flesh it out into summaries for each chapter. Then I'll actually start writing. I don't necessarily write in order. For one manuscript, I started with the final chapter. I wanted a clear picture of where I'd end up. Then I went back to the beginning and wrote until that final chapter.
I really like planning though. Brainstorming is fun for me, and with chapter summaries, I'm not staring at a blank screen trying to figure out what I'm going to write next.

Matthew MacNish said...

Why does it have to be shiny? Why can't it be sparkly?

lotusgirl said...

I tried using scrivener (I have a friend who loves it and was recommending it) with my last new idea, but I'm getting to be an old dog and the new tricks of it frustrated me more than I could handle. In the end, I just wanted to get the writing down and went back to Word. The last new idea I wrote an outline of sorts on actual paper and just started in Word. I'm especially enjoying that one.

Jenna Wallace said...

I am a plotter, through and through. I use Writer's Cafe to organize virtual note cards. I once tried to pants it, but it was a dismal failure. (If interested in seeing my oh-so-geeky character spreadsheets and notecarding, go to my blog and look up PantserFail.)

Jessica A. Briones said...

I tend to work out of order, I ususally start from the middle of my story. I don't plot or outline, I tried... it's painful for me too, I like to think I have the story clear and in order in my head... Great post!

Charity Bradford said...

I almost always start with a pen and notebook writing the scenes or ideas in my head. After a while I stop to plot a bit building off what I've scribbled.

I'm currently using Scrivener--which I love!

IanBontems said...

I love me some Outlining, but haven't tried Scrivener yet. I'm tempted and maybe will give it a go for my next one (if I can ever finish the story I'm fixing at the moment).

I pretty much write in order - start to finish, but my original starting point is never the finished story's beginning.

Tere Kirkland said...

I can never sit down at the computer until I have three things, a main character, a plot, and an ending.

Everything else comes as I'm writing, but I definitely plan ahead in my notebooks. If I don't my characters sometimes detour me, but that can sometimes wind up better than what I'd planned, so it all works out in the end.

I haven't had much time for my wip lately, and I'm still not sure what happens next. I've really missed working on it!

Chrysoula Tzavelas said...

I am planning my current project extensively. I wrote an extremely detailed outline a couple months ago and now I'm revising the outline, independenly fleshing out parts I'm weak at handling in the narrative, assigning scene goals, cross-checking details and motivations and then finally I'll 'start writing'.

This is the first time I've done this degree of prep and also the first time I've used Scrivener. I've used lots of other organizational programs though. And Word. For past projects I've had a less detailed outline and bios of all the characters before starting. If I pants it I inevitably get into trouble.

Oh and so far, I've been utterly incapable of writing scenes out of order, although that may change in the current project.

Krispy said...

I usually just jump in headfirst with a character too! But I'm trying to be more methodical and organized lately. So there's more plot planning and vague outline-y notes. Most of this stuff goes on in my head though... See, still a pantser at heart. :)

Stephsco said...

I am anxiously waiting for Scrivner for Windows, as far as I know it's still in beta. Currently I'm using google documents, which I don't necessarily recommend since it lacks some features I would like to have. It's so easy to share though, so for that aspect, and being able to access it from multiple computers if necessary, is kind of nice.

I took notes before I started my current story, and I continually add to them. It's mostly larger worldview structure and details on characters that might never make it in the story, but help me to shape the characters and story.

Anonymous said...

For my first novel, I started in word and then switched to Scrivener about 60% of the way through the first draft. I've never looked back.

Scrivener totally and utterly rules in nearly every way, and anyone writing a long structured document (any book) is pretty crazy to be using a flat editor like Word.

Currently Scrivener 2.0.x is out for the Mac and fantastic. You PC dweebs (I weep for your lost souls) can use a 1.x version which is still good, but is in beta. The betas are very stable. I spent 6 months writing full time in various betas last Summer/Fall with almost no problems.

I wrote up a huge post on all the reasons why Scrivener is great, but it exceeded the 4,096 char limit so I put it on my blog. Click the paragraph for it.

Roberta Walker said...

I use Ywriter - free and simple to use. I write out of order, but often start outlining - at least for bits - about 20K words in. Revision is painful. I wish I was better at outlining and planning!