Rebecca Graf is a seasoned writer with nearly a decade of experience and degrees in accounting, history, and creative writing.
Why Create a Mental Movie of Your Novel?
Everyone has their own way of developing their stories. If you interviewed a dozen bestselling authors, they’d all have their own unique ways. No two write exactly the same. That tells you that there is no one formula despite what the "experts" say, but their ways can be inspiring and give you ideas. For me, I have to create a mental movie of my novel before I write.
The Importance of Pre-Production
When a movie is made, the actors don’t just show up on a set and then the work begins. Most works began months if not years before the movie is actually filmed. While you might not have started years before on your book (though I know some authors who have done that), you might find yourself months before you actually write it planning it out. It might start off as a little idea that you let develop over time.
I get an idea in my head and let it sit there and go into pre-production. Typically I take the idea and dream about it for several weeks. As I try to sleep, I'll plan the story out in my head. That will turn into daydreams. In these, I see plots develop, and the story becomes more solid. I see what will not work and restructure the story. I see a new idea that settled in my head that day and work it out until it flows. It is a way to let the kinks work themselves out.
Let your mind play out the story in your head. Do it over and over. Find flaws and correct them. Find new characters and plot twists. Have fun with it. It is fun to watch your story grow and become solid.
The Planning Phase
Then there comes the planning phase. Yes . . . the pre-production phase is planning, but now we are in the deep planning. This is where you dive in deep. In other words —research time! Don’t groan. Research for your story can be fun. Seriously, I mean this from experience. I have had so much researching for a story. I can spend hours doing it as it gives me so much to help fill in and shape my story. (Note: You might find ideas for even more stories as you do research.)
You have a basic idea about your story. Filling in the gaps involves research. Most of it will occur at this phase, but some will continue through the actual writing. The research could be on the location of the story. If you have never been to that particular city or section of the world, look up climate, terrain, foods, etc. Maybe even special phrases that area uses.
Don’t be surprised if your research takes down some very unexpected paths. So many wonderful tidbits can be found that with a creative mind can become major aspects of your plot. This also means that your movie might change, but that’s okay. Your mind can shift with it and create wonderful scenes. You might even have to go back to the actions in the pre-production phase to iron our the new additions that you have. When you have a good feel for the story, you find it moving into a new phase. Now it is time to put it all into full-blown action.
Let It Roll: Lights, Camera, Action!
Now it is time to really start the writing. The movie is laid out in your head. It has been edited as you did your research. It might have changed a few dozen times. You can see it all now. Every scene is laid out in perfect detail . . . not really.
It starts off that way. You have the beginning of your story vividly displayed in your mind. You type away with only a few minor changes. Then as you progress into further scenes you’ll find your mental movie changing a bit, but the action is still going. At times it might appear as though you are seeing it for the first time as your mental movie morphs into something spectacular.
Think of it again like making a movie. You have it planned, but actual action might show flaws that were unseen before. That is when you might see that something is not possible or hard to fit into the plot. Adjustments will have to be made which might have you planning out new scenes. It is never-ending until you finish the book.
Let the Story Work Itself Out
Many times, your story will work itself out if you let it. All you have to do is play it like a movie. I recently had a story idea that I had been sleeping on for a few weeks. Suddenly, I saw that it was too boring. I looked around and found a few ideas to throw at the story and see what happened. After playing it a few times, I realized the problems and began to fix them in my mind. This took several months before I even started typing a word. Then the story flowed much more smoothly. Problems that were found were quickly fixed. Give it a try.