How 90 Days to Your Novel by Sarah Domet Helped Me

How 90 days to your novel helped me

I recently read the book 90 Days to Your Novel by Sarah Domet while taking an online writing class through Writer’s Digest University. I read the book over 12 weeks and submitted 12 assignments to my instructor who critiqued my writing.

90 Days to Your Novel is filled with valuable advice on every stage of the writing process. In the first 2 chapters, Domet talks about the different types of outlines you can use for your novel, and she talks about the scene: its purpose, its parts, and the different types of scenes. I found it very helpful to think of my novel as a bunch of scenes.

After you’ve read and digested all that, your work begins. The first 3 weeks are split up into days. In the first 21 days, you will have assignments such as writing with your senses, choosing your POV, and plotting your novel by grouping them into Acts I, II, and III.

The following 9 weeks are spent assessing your scenes worth, crafting intriguing characters, using emotion and action, and writing and editing your draft. Each week you have specific assignments, and it’s important that you allow yourself enough time to complete the assignments.

For my class, instead of completing every assignment in the book, I focused each week on the assignments due for my class. When I finished the class, I had the first 15 pages of my novel written, the Climax Scene and the last scene, as well as scenes in Act 2 and Act 3. I probably wrote about 30 pages of my first draft when I finished the class.

30 pages isn’t a lot for a 200+ page book. But if you’re like me and spend months planning and still never feel ready to start writing, you can probably understand how helpful a deadline can be. Because of the class and the weekly assignments, I was forced to write whether I felt ready or not. As a result, I have 30 pages of my book written when I may have gone another year without starting the draft. Possibly the biggest thing I learned from that class is I may never feel completely ready to start, but eventually I do have to start. You can spend years planning and never write. And if you never start writing, you will never have a book written.

That being said, if you read through Domet’s book and completed every one of her assignments, you could have a complete first draft in 90 days. Just remember, you have to write. That is the only way you will ever be able to publish that novel you always dreamed about writing. So stop sitting there dreaming about it and go write it!

Creating Character’s Physical Description, Part 2

Last week, I talked about creating your character’s physical description. It’s a struggle for me to make sure all of my characters end up looking different. I shared with you that I discovered I could fix that problem by exploring Pinterest. By using photos of actual people, I was able to look at a face instead of trying to visualize one in my mind. The pictures makes it easier for me when it comes time to write the story.

So, you’ve explored Pinterest and you have a board filled with every character in your book. It may be easy to keep track of which character has a scar on his left cheek if you only have 3 characters, but what if you have dozens of characters and 5 of them have different scars? It’s time-consuming and often frustrating to dig through binders or Pinterest boards to try to figure it out.

I am writing a series made up of 6 books, which means I have a lot of characters to keep up with. I needed a way to quickly reference which character had the scar. I found that a spreadsheet works best for me.

Below is an example of the type of spreadsheet I use. I simply list all of my characters down the left side and list all the options on the top. I then fill in the boxes as necessary.

Character Description Spreadsheet Writing Tips

I found this method also works great for character personality. You can list faults, occupation, important background information and whatever else you may need.

You can be as simple or elaborate as you want with this method. I have separate spreadsheets for main characters, supporting characters, and minor characters. For each group of characters I have one spreadsheet for physical appearance and one for personality. Then inside each spreadsheet I have multiple categories. Everything from hair color to hobbies.

(Side Note: I have my Xs color coded, green for males and purple for females. It makes it easier to see whether all my female characters have blonde hair or if all my males have green eyes.)

The possibilities are endless with this method. I love it because it is easy to tell at a glance which main character likes sailing and which minor character has a fear of water. No more digging through documents to find out that little piece of information I need. I simply open this one document, find the character, and follow it across to the information I need.

I would like to note that I still use a character questionnaire for each of my main characters. I use the questionnaire for a more thorough and in-depth look at my characters, while I use a spreadsheet to easily access any of the physical or basic personality information I may need while I’m in the middle of writing my first draft.

I hope these ideas help you as you create your unique characters to populate your story. Keep writing!

Have any tricks you’ve discovered to help you keep your writing organized? Share by commenting below!

How to Use Index Cards to Outline Your Book

So, I haven’t posted in quite a while. I do have a few good reasons though. I’ve been busy with my photography blog, A Moment to Capture, posting photos and looking for opportunities to take more pictures. I have also been working on a medieval novel that I’m writing. Well, I haven’t started the actual writing process yet. I’m still in the planning and outlining stages, but I’m hoping to move on to writing my first draft soon.

It was while I was outlining my story that I had the idea for this post. I want to show you how I outline my stories.

Outline Your Novel Using Index Card

This is a picture of my story outline so far. Yes, every one of those white rectangles are index cards.

Now, I know some people are all about completely outlining their story before they begin, while others just want to jump right into the first draft. No matter which method you prefer, you might find this helpful.

I used to outline all of my stories on my laptop. I would use a typical word processor to create a traditional outline. If you use this method, you might have realized it can be difficult to view your outline as a whole. It also isn’t the easiest thing to use when rearranging scenes and then trying to check if the new arrangement works.

In 90 Days to Your Novel, Sarah Domet covers several different ways you can outline your novel as well as their pros and cons. I chose to try the Index card method.

The layout for each card will look something like this:

Setting: Small Village

Characters: Belle, Gaston, Lefou

  •  Belle returns a book to the library and gets a new one
  • Gaston is determined to marry Belle and tries to win her with his “charm”
  • Everyone in the village thinks Belle and her father are odd

Goal: To set up who the characters are and what they want

At the top, you list the setting for that scene. You can be as vague as “small village” or as specific as “Belle’s Cottage”. It all depends on what you prefer. Or, in my case, it depends on if I have a specific name for the location. In my outline, a lot of my cards just say “castle”. I know the scene will happen somewhere in the castle. I just don’t know what specific room yet.

Then you list all the characters in that scene. Now, I do not include background characters or minor characters that don’t even have a name. I list all my main and minor characters that have a specific role in that scene. If you feel like adding every single character in your scene, go right ahead.

Then you list a few major points in your scene. The size of your Index card will determine how many points you can have. If you don’t have enough room for your entire scene, just continue on another card. I’ve had to do this a couple of times. Just like the setting, you can be as vague or specific as you like. I tend to be more general about my points then get into all of the details during the writing process.

Finally, you list the goal of your scene. This is something that I had never thought about until switching to this method of outlining. Sometimes it’s difficult. You might have to spend a few minutes racking your brain for a reason. I know I had to do this many times. If you can’t come up with a good reason, chances are that scene doesn’t need to be in your story.

So, what are the cons of this method?

Using Index cards has the potential to get very bulky. If you are creating a 1000 page book, Index cards might be overwhelming. If you’re writing a short story or novel, you probably won’t have this problem. I don’t have this problem right now. I also use an Index card holder with alphabet dividers, which is great if you’re working on multiple stories at once. This can help if you’re struggling with bulkiness but still want to use this method.

Another con is that it’s on paper, so you don’t have any sort of backup. If you lose a card or spill coffee all over it, it’s gone. To fix this problem, I type out my outline on my computer. Now, it might sound like that’s just taking me back to my old way of outlining. It’s not. I use my Index cards for all of the outlining. The purpose of typing it out on my laptop is to ensure that I do have a backup should anything happen to the cards.

To some of you, this may seem like a lot of work. Personally, I don’t mind spending the extra time. Outlining my story and making sure I have a back up is very important to me. Just keep in mind that this outline won’t be for everyone. And that’s perfectly fine.

By now you might be wondering, are there any pros to this method? Yes, there are.

As you can see in the picture above, I have all of my cards laid out on a table. This gives me the ability to look over my entire story and easily locate specific scenes. No more scrolling through page after page on my computer.

I can leave gaps in between the cards, which shows where I have gaps in my story. This is great if you are a visual person. It actually motivates me. Seeing gaps makes me want to brainstorm and fill them in more than the word “gap” on my computer does.

My personal favorite is that it gives me hands on interaction. I can rearrange scenes with my hands. For some reason, it’s fun for me. It gets me thinking “what if…?”. What if I move this scene over here? What if my villain does this after my hero does that? “What if…?”, however daunting, is crucial to creating a great story.

Plus, keep in mind that you can customize the template for the card any way you want. The template for the Index card was the way Sarah Domet presented it, and it’s the way I use it. Change the order around, add information that you need, take away things you don’t. Just experiment with it and see what works for you.

If you have any tips or tricks for outlining your story, please let me know! I’m always looking for ways to help me organize my story and make the creating and writing process easier.