The Before Draft Zero Series:
This week I’m diving back into my plotting advice. In Before Draft Zero (Part 1) I told you all about the Story Anatomy worksheet, chapter breakdown and 3 act outline I fill out at the beginning of each draft. That’s just the tip of the plotting iceberg!
Next on my list of plotting, is to create a temporary/messy query letter. This is just to show me where I want to go and what I believe my story to be about. It also helps to remind me when I get stuck, of where I wanted my book to end up. (It also doesn’t hurt to have a head start if you’re wanting to query after all the revisions and stuff are done. Nothing’s worse then starting a query from scratch AFTER you’ve written the entire book and all the sub-plot’s are rolling around in your head being confusing…).
My basic queries usually go something like this (Credit goes to the Pub(lishing) Crawl blog);
Enticing lead line. Perhaps two lead lines to accurately convey mood and tone.
A sentence or two about setup so we can care about the characters and/or stakes. The “but when” setup, or the sentence identifying the inciting moment, when all is about to change.
Describing how the inciting incident sets the protagonist on a journey, whether physical or emotional or both. Imply the story question here.
An intriguing closing line, usually more factual and to the point: information about genre, style, and/or potential audience. (E.g. Hilarious, witty, and occasionally heart-breaking, This Book will appeal to fans of Known Writer.)
You can go more in-depth with writing a query letter using my post of Writing a Query Letter.
While I’m StoryMapping, I usually keep an Excel Spreadsheet open with Characteristics for all of my main characters. If you’ve done the Story Anatomy worksheet at the beginning, like I do, then you already have a fair idea of who your main cast is.
Here is an example of my Character’s Spreadsheet;
As you can see, it’s just a simple questionnaire to help weed out the small details that help to flesh out a character. Most of the stuff in these spreadsheets never actually make it into the actual writing in my books, but having that knowledge behind you while you write that character, helps to make them feel more real and believable.
ALSO! Flaws are one of the most important parts about creating a character, something that is never directly worded in a book. If your character has flaws, they are human. Real. So don’t forget to put some real thought into what flaws your character has and make sure it ties to the plot.
Next! I fill out a document with everything I know about my world. This doesn’t just apply to Fantasy either. Contemporary novel settings are just as important as their created counterparts. Luckily, I have a handy questionnaire for world-building as well! Here you go;
Next I’ll dive into putting all of this together so we can start drafting!