When I started the final book of my Crossroads trilogy, I had no idea how to wrap things up. I spent many days–weeks–researching what the Iberian Peninsula (where my main character Xhosa now lived with her People) was like 850,000 years ago, hoping if I drenched myself in the atmosphere, I’d understand the challenges Xhosa faced.
And it worked. The land–I found out–was challenging, primeval, and life-threatening in ways I’d never imagined. What I envisioned as a peaceful settling of Xhosa and her People into their new life wasn’t. Not even close.
I thought it would be
instructive interesting for efriends from Raimey Gallant‘s #AuthorToolboxBlogHop, which meets every third Wednesday of the month to share writing resources and tips, to see how I’m building the final chapter in Xhosa’s search for a new start.
I have to say, I am excited at the progress. This book, unlike the first two books in the trilogy, is from scratch. It’s not drafted, plotted, or scened and that has worried me! So to help me organize, I went to Novel Factory’s novel writing roadmap. Here are their steps:
- Write a Premise
- Develop a Plot Outline
- Complete Character Introductions
- Write a Short Synopsis
- Expand that into an extended Synopsis
- Establish a Goal to Decision Cycle
- Carry out detailed Character Development
- Research your Locations
- Complete Advanced Plotting of subplots
- Write Character Viewpoints
- Do your Scene Blocking
- Write your First Draft
- Think about Themes
- Edit, edit, edit
- Polish your Final Draft
- Submit to agents or self-publishing platforms
Notice there are 11 steps before I can start writing–and I want to be ready for November’s NaNoWriMo.
A situation I have that doesn’t work well with this approach (and will definitely cause me problems) is that while I thought I knew where the story is going, turns out I didn’t. Here’s an example of what I ran into about a month ago:
At the end of Book 2, after a year of migration, my characters landed on what is now called the Iberian Peninsula and declared it their new home. But when I researched this location as it was 850,000 years ago, I realized it wouldn’t work. So, I–like you–will have to see what my characters do when they run into the death-defying seemingly-unsolvable problems I found.
A plot piece I wove through the first two books became invalid in this location.
Happily, both problems solved themselves under the unstoppable tenacity of my characters.
I thought you might enjoy seeing my workspace:
The left-hand screen is for real-time–to keep me in touch with my 21st-Century world. The middle screen is the spreadsheet where I map out my story. The right-hand screen is my notes (about sixty pages) The thing sticking up over the middle screen is my webcam with a sock over it for privacy!
Here’s what I have done the past few months:
- I have the Premise–Step #1 of the Novel Factory’s list, and started on #8, #10, and #11.
- As I wrote Book 2 of the Crossroads trilogy (The Quest for Home), I took notes on all the plot threads that I had to resolve in Book 3. Unlike one-and-done novels (books not part of a trilogy), I have to tie up all the loose ends in this final book. I added all of these to a spreadsheet as the bare bones of the story and built out from there.
- I did a very rough story arc (Step #2 above) in my spreadsheet–only plot, no setting or character development.
- Then, I started to flesh out the plot points, build the characters, recognize actions and reactions, track a timeline (so I know when winter and summer arrive), determine the POV character, and add notes about what needed to be followed up on. By the time that was done, I had about
100 200300 rows (in the spreadsheet).
- Then, I added story details, minor characters, chapters, and scene purposes. Here’s what my spreadsheet looks like now–550 rows and over 66,000 words:
The spreadsheet has tabs, too, at the bottom to organize character details and more:
- I had planned to do a detailed character development (Step #7) on each of the main characters, to see how they fit into the plot I’d laid out, but that didn’t work. I know my characters. What I don’t know is the new situations the story will throw at them.
- I joined Kate Johnson’s Team Writer Facebook group to prepare for NaNoWriMo.
- I’m signed up for November’s NaNoWriMo. Let me know if you are and I’ll try to figure out how to connect. I think you can find me at JacquiMurray.
- I’m thinking about doing Diana Peach’s PowerPoint book trailer idea but for the entire trilogy. I’ll release it when Book 3 is ready as background on Book 1 and 2 and to encourage readers to buy the early ones if they haven’t.
How are you doing on your latest WIP? I’d love to hear!
More on my writing
Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and the Man vs. Nature saga. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice, a columnist for NEA Today, and a freelance journalist. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, In the Footsteps of Giants, Winter 2021. You can find her tech ed books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning