One of the things I’ve been working on lately is developing the idea for my next novel. I had such a great time writing my last project and was so pleased with how it came out that, while I want to do something different, I still want to take the magic of that forward with me.
Typically when I start a new project, I spend time brainstorming, often with a big whiteboard where I can use different colored markers to daisy-chain ideas as they evolve. After I feel I’ve come up with a workable world, characters, and a plot rich with potential conflicts, I start on an outline. I work and rework that outline for awhile and then begin the first draft.
This time, though, I decided to try something different. Before moving on to outlining, I started playing around with different characters, backstory events, and world-building elements by writing shorts. It’s been fun and also extremely illuminating.
Characters that looked fantastic on the whiteboard aren’t coming to life once they’re thrust into a narrative structure. Other characters are stealing the show. Since the novel will be science fiction, putting future technology into scenarios where it has to work and feel real has highlighted problems as well as seeded new and better ideas. Bringing events to life that are meant to be part of the novel’s backstory is helping me refine and hone the novel’s present.
Some of the shorts actually work as shorts, but plenty of them don’t. That isn’t the point, though. The point is to build and explore the ideas, improving them in advance of actually drafting the novel. This approach has afforded a low cost medium to experiment and further develop plot ideas and characters before I invest in the novel itself.