How I Wrote My First Thriller Novel

playing-god-storyboard-e1448536734500.jpg

As an avid reader, I'm always interested in what happens behind the scenes with the author's writing process. Here's how I plotted and wrote my first novel, Playing God...  

June 25, 2011 – The Storyboard (see image above) –  Have you ever wondered how an author plots a story?  Here’s an example of my current storyboard for Playing God.  It looks like a menagerie of colors, but each post-it note refers to a character, a scene, an emotion, or location.  Each rectangle of the grid stands for a scene or potential chapter.

Here’s my map for the story, so far.

Story Map
Story Map
Post-It Key Codes
Post-It Key Codes

These post-it’s are my “key” to the storyboard.

June 30, 2011 – This week included the Plot Sketch (barebones story/character arcs), Character Setting Sketches, and General Setting Sketches.

Setting Sketch
Setting Sketch

Setting Inspirational Photo

July 2, 2011 – The Summary Outline is finished!  This is a 20,000 word summary of the story from start to finish.  This “outline” includes a few paragraphs describing what happens in each scene, bits of dialogue, random description, and plot points.  This is a work in progress.  I update it as the story morphs into a living creature (well, almost).

July 9, 2011 – Majority of research for the novel is complete.  Since I am “writing what I know,” I have actually been researching this book for the past 20+ years.  Of course, there are other issues that I still needed to research.  I cannot be an expert in every field. :)

Gypsy Church Research
Gypsy Church Research

Researching the Romani

July 16, 2011 – I completed the last two days of my research.  These days were critical to reshaping my novel, especially after I uncovered one piece of information.  I felt like a nosy journalist scouring the internet for the real identity of an author who wrote a controversial book under a pseudonym.  I found out his “real name.”  Then, I had to locate his contact information.  I found him through his employer, and I sent him an email.  He actually called me back!  It pays to take a chance.

Here’s a disgusting (but fascinating video) that I found while researching.  Watch at your own peril!

July 24, 2011 – Finished my Formatted Outline.  I collated all the research, outlining, summary, plot sketches, setting information, and character histories into a capsule for each scene.  This ensures that I have all the information to write each scene – from the clothes each character wears to the research for a medical procedure.  All the scene capsules together erect the backbone of my novel.   Now, I need to “make the story purty.”

For those of you who like creepy books, here’s the latest resource for my story that arrived in the mail yesterday.  (I even reached out to the author for an interview.) Don’t make any conclusions, yet!

If We Can Keep A Severed Head Alive...
If We Can Keep A Severed Head Alive...

August 1, 2011 – I completed my entire first draft of the novel.  I read through my formatted outline, filled in plot holes, updated scenes, and added missing details to the story.

August 14, 2011 – I read the entire story through for consistency and revised all 50 chapters as best I could.  Now, the story simmers for the next two months in a drawer till I’m ready to redraft. On to the next project...

2016 Update — This book has been "simmering" for the past few years, and I'll be going through the revision process in 2016. Will be interesting to see how my perspective has changed since writing the first draft of this book.