Background Tasks: Doing Your Homework

A lot goes into the planning of a piece of writing, whether fiction, or non fiction. It’s good to have your facts straight. You may work in a different manner. You still have background tasks you need to complete before you can begin the actual writing of a novel. It’s important to know what you need to do before you do it. If you don’t, you will soon find yourself in trouble. I usually start planning my novels with a logline and beat sheet. Of course, you can dive in and start writing, if that is your process. I find it easier to do a bit of research before I start. That doesn’t mean I don’t have to check my facts, I do. I prefer to do it ahead of time. I find it easier.

The log line is a single sentence or two that sums up what the story is about. The log line for my novel, *Moonbeam, Mistletoe and Murder* is the following. Merlin and Moonbeam travel to Massachusetts to visit Merlin’s aunt for the holidays. Once there, they must prove her innocent of murder. The beat sheet indicates the beats of a story and where they need to fall to control the pacing of the story. Once I have those complete, I move on to creating what I call a project sheet. This document lists the log line, the premise, and all the project milestones. It also includes all the other steps I need to complete over the course of writing and publishing a novel. Itit is a detailed list of the work I need to complete before I can write one word of the story. I use the project sheets to tell me where I am in the course of completing the tasks. It helps me to be accountable for the tasks. Character charts and suspect sheets are next. Character Charts are more like sketches of a character’s basic characteristics. These include appearance, personality and such things. The suspect sheet is a tool I created for my mysteries. They add details to certain characters. They are lists of the character’s motive, alibi and other details surrounding a crime in the novel. I also do research on various aspects of the story. This would include setting up the crime in a mystery. It also includes creating an imaginary world for science fiction or fantasy novels. Once I have all that, I take the beat sheet and work out the plot from there.

I create a file in Scrivener for the project and put all the notes I create for the project into it. If you don’t use the Scrivener software, create a file folder in your computer, or file cabinet. You can also put these things into a binder or on index cards if that’s how you work. The point here is to put everything in one place and organize it so you can refer to the notes if needed. Once you do that, you are ready to begin the work of writing the novel.


I am not one who is comfortable talking about myself but here goes. I enjoy writing, family history, and reading. I decided to do this blog because I wanted to try something new. I decided to make it a weekly blog because I wasn't sure that I could keep up with a daily one, and monthly seemed like I was writing a magazine. I think I did ok with my choices. You'll notice that there are not a lot of graphics on my site. That's because there are graphics plastered everywhere on the Internet and those sites sometimes take forever to load. This blog is a place where you can kick back, relax and be ready to be amused. At least I hope I willbamuse you. This blog is on a variety of subjects from my ficitional cat agency, the FFL, which is monthly, to instructional blogs to editorials, which are my opinions only. I admit that I don't know everything and could be wrong -- I frequently am. Now, stop reading about me and read what I have to say!

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© Lisa Hendrickson and Pebblepup's Writing Den, 2010-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Lisa Hendrickson and Pebblepup's Writing Den with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
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