(A/N: A friend of mine recently asked my opinion on this process. I’ve been meaning to write a blog post about it for awhile, so here it is!)
At Dragon*Con 2011 I attended several writing seminars taught by two of my favorite authors, Mike Stackpole and Aaron Allston. One of the classes I took was “21 Days to a Novel,” designed by Stackpole to help new authors figure out the novel-writing process. At the time I had no ambitions to write original fiction, but thought it would help me with brainstorming fan fiction. (And I wasn’t about to turn down an opportunity to learn writing skills from the man who created some of my favorite Star Wars characters ever!)
After the class, however, I truly felt that I could write an original story. I realized that writing a novel isn’t some sort of magical process where you’re inspired from on high with story ideas. Sometimes that does happen, but in actuality it just takes a lot of dedicated work to come up with good characters and an intriguing novel idea. As it happened, I credit the 21 Days class with inspiring me to try my hand at original stories, and here I am, 6 chapters into Robber Barrons.
The process is fairly straightforward, guiding the writer through 21 steps that will, theoretically, help plan everything you need to start writing your novel. Of course, there will be some deviations based on the type of story you’re writing; high fantasies may require more world-building and independent brainstorming, for example, and short stories and novellas will require fewer steps. The process is divided into sections that include aspects such as characterization, setting, and plot. I found the characterization section very useful in getting to know my three main characters. By the end of the entire process I had a basic outline for my novel written out. This floored me because only a few days prior, all that existed were vague scene ideas in my head.
I definitely recommend this process for any new writer, as well as more experienced writers who need a kick-start with a new project. It is more than worth the nominal class fee if you have the opportunity to see Stackpole at one of his many scheduled convention appearances throughout the year. He also sells the textbook on his website.