I’ve already confessed (multiple times, admittedly) that my favorite part of writing is the world-building. If I could, I would immerse myself in one world or another and build, build, build. Like Tolkien, I would know the people, their beliefs, their sense of fashion, their ethics, their language, their history. You can, I think, find a plot whilst world-building. That’s not necessarily the problem; rather, you find too many, caught up as you are in both the mundane and the grand schemes. There’s no way to know when to stop.
Those favoring character development would, I imagine, deal with a similar conundrum. You can be as thorough as you please with backstory, favorites lists, and so on, but that’s not going to help you determine that character’s future (i.e. the plotline). After all, while I may know my past, considering, you know, that I was there, and I may know my favorite color is purple, and I may even know that my dream is (obviously) to become a published author, but knowing all of that doesn’t necessarily tell me what adventures are going to lie between.
Defining an Abstract
I’ve been working on a plotting worksheet to help me find plots and characters and settings for novel ideas as they come about. No worries; we’re only going over two sections out of seven for this month. During February, March, and April, I’ll go over the last five sections. I call the whole worksheet my draft zeros, which is a term I’ve heard about the writer-web, and seemed like an apt name for what I was doing in this stage of the drafting process. Usually, my springboard is a world concept, but world concepts still leaves much to be desired in terms of settling down on something worth writing an entire novel on.
An abstract is a sort of plot sketch to help get the ball rolling while also laying parameters in regards to need-to-knows about the settings and/or characters. Think of it as a potential book blurb. They’re interesting and mysterious, and they don’t spell out the plot. It’ll do you the favor of isolating what needs to be developed from what doesn’t need to be while still leaving things open-ended enough for the intrigue that helps spark creativity for the rest of the work.
Pause! Let’s First Choose Fonts.
Before you actually start writing anything, I highly recommend starting the project looking at fonts. The fonts, to me, give the draft (and, by default, the world and story itself) character that help define it. If you want to compile your own worksheet like mine, I’d advise two fonts. The first, you can get crazy with. It’ll be for your headers, so as long as you can read it, the world’s your oyster. The second font, however, I usually choose something a little less specialized. A simple sans serif or serif font will do the trick. Spectral or Times New Roman, if it feels like a serif font kind of story (whatever that means, I’ll let you decide), or perhaps Oswald or Helvetica if sans serif is more your thing. Since the bulk of your drafting will be in this font, you want to make sure it’s a little less hectic, but that doesn’t mean you have to stick with Times New Roman, size 12.
Trust me. This may seem like a weird pitstop, but it’ll add a bit of flash to the writing itself that can make working on the draft zero that much more enjoyable.
Writing the Abstract
Your abstract here is just a tentative guess about what the story is going to be about. You can rewrite the whole thing from scratch halfway through the project, or you can tinker with it as you go, or you can leave it as it is if you think the plot is good enough and just needs some developing. Either way, in the very first stages of the drafting process, when you’ve got a whole new world to dive into or a whole new character you want to meet and flesh out, the abstract is just there to remind you what the end goal is going to be. Keep it simple. Don’t go in to too much detail. There will be time for that later. If your original spark of an idea doesn’t quite give you enough to write the abstract, that’s okay too. Consider my recent blog post about trends in author novels. You can use that to guide your abstract.
But Why Now?
There’s one more thing you’re going to need for your abstract to be complete. No doubt, your abstract is putting a sort of time-table on the events of the world you’ll be writing in. The “Why Now” subheading will delve into potential eye-rolling coincidences. So you want your two love interests to stumble into each other in the hallways to start of your book. Why are they both in that hallway to begin with? What classes are they each going to, or coming from? Or perhaps you’re writing a sci-fi novel where a rebellion has sparked. What made it flare up? What bad thing did the government body do to make the proverbial frog realize he’s in boiling water and needs to jump out?
Like the abstract, the Why Now may need to get messed with during the drafting process. It simply helps explain why things are happening now, and may even help raise the stakes by making the plot itself time-sensitive. And if a plot is time-sensitive, it is often also suspenseful, which is what we’re really going for here.
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What fonts would best describe your work in progress if you were/are making a draft zero for it?
For my WiP (which you can read about on the “Novels” page if you so desire), I chose Kaushan Script for the headers and stuck with Times New Roman for the text.