I've always thought of myself as someone who just wrote without doing much planning first. But, lately I've noticed there are five things I've got into the habit of getting straight in my head before I start to actually write a story - in no particular order.
1. Word count of the first draft. If I don't have a word count in mind, I tend to go off on tangents. If I know I have 15,000 words in which all the things I want to happen need to happen, it keeps me on track and focused on the main points of the story. I often end up coming back to put in details, emotions, and whole scenes, but it's easier to write short and add later than it is to write long and have to cut and tighten all over the place.
2. Who's point of view. For shortish stories I like to pick a character and stick to their point of view all the way through. If it's longer or neccessary in a short, I like to have the point of views balanced about evenly. Ideally, it's great to know at which points in the story the pov switches are going to occur too.
3. How many chapters and what needs to happen in each one. Again, this is about keeping my focus. I also like to put a little mini hook at the end of each chapter - if I can't find an appropriate hook in close to the right place, I start to worry - something interesting should be happening at some point!
4. Character names. Characters don't gel until you give them the right name. I had this with a character recently - I went through two drafts with him being a Cody and he just wasn't right. I converted him to a Matt and snap - he clicked perfectly. (By the way, Matt is in Gaydar, Cody has been reincarnated into a character in another book - a character that suits the name much better.)
5. Title. I don't like to start a story without knowing what the title can be. I don't know what to call it in my to do lists, I don't know what to label the files and it messes with my whole system. I also find the title sets the tone, and I like to mention the title somewhere in the text. But yeah, the main thing in the admin one.
And there it is.
It all sounds very organised, but it's not actually like that. As often or not I miss out some or nearly all of the points on the list. But at least I have a theory I'm working on - that's something :)
(I may well expand this post tomorrow since it's almost midnight and this was a bit of a last minute rush.)
Contracts were filed on Gaydar and In the Heat of the Moment. They are officially accepted. Gaydar has also been edited and submitted to final.
Still writing Fair Play - Getting towards the last chapter of that.
Still editing Sealing the Deal - It's grown from a short into a novella, but it's coming along nicely. Still keeping my fingers crossed that it will go off at the end of the month.