DREAM – Yes, lie on the couch or under a parasol and sip wine! Put up a ‘Do not disturb’ sign at your ‘space’ station because you want to fill your universe with ideas – well, at least a page! Don’t worry, they don’t all come at once and you’ll be able to build on them later but you have a stock.
SCRUB – For want of a better word, yes, take a pen, a rubber or, use your fingernails if you have to – scrub out anything on that list which doesn’t excite you or your main character. You have months ahead creating and shaping your work so you want your material to keep you engaged, consumed even.
PIN – Playtime! Take some magazines and cut out pics or print of images to use privately from the internet. Visual or written down, your characters and backdrop all need their own identity. A fun way to do this is to create a pin board with photos of each character and their dates of birth, bios and physical descriptions underneath. Then add each character’s traits and conflicts; internal and external. You will begin to get the bigger picture. Then you can do the same with locations, buildings, rooms, clothes, cars – anything which will be useful to your descriptions.
SKETCH – Yes, more fun! Some writers like to use a storyboard – but at least make a timeline and list your major scenes, on cards, on paper or, on excel on your computer. Once you have a framework you can attempt your story outline and a synopsis. Smaller scenes will begin to take shape.
DIP – Into your pocket – Oh joy, buy books, go to the library, meet experts, or to the location your book is set – Whatever theme or concept you’ve chosen, it needs research. Ok, so we can’t travel back in time for a period novel but we can certainly soak up the vast information on line and from books, papers etc. Try to do a research trip to your location. This is my favourite! There is nothing better than absorbing a setting and all it can bring to your novel. Even period novels, buildings are extremely characterful and help to set mood and, museums are great for costumes and artefacts.
DUCK – Out of everyone’s view – having carried out the groundwork, the real fun begins! Tuck yourself away and get started. Write, write and write. Anywhere, in your ‘special place’, at the kitchen table, on the train, with a notebook, laptop, desktop. Whenever you can grab those moments. Yes, you will get stuck, you may need more research, yes, you will be distracted, and yes, you’ll have a job to go to. Give yourself small goals. Make it as fun as you can for yourself. The key to all this is to complete the novel. Nobody, to my knowledge, can read a blank page!