One of the things I do before I begin writing a book is write what I call the “book jacket blurb,” which is nothing more than a rough summary of the novel idea much like what you’d read on a book jacket. Sometimes, I write these when the story idea comes to me, but regardless of when I write it, it’s always a starting point for me because I need something to anchor me on the story idea as I work through the writing process. It’s simply too easy to go off on a tangent when I’m writing, so I use this summary to bring me back to the story idea. I’ll read and re-read it many times over the course of writing the novel. On many mornings, I read it again just to get me into the mood of the story.
This doesn’t mean that the story can never change. It can, but I usually edit the blurb if I change the direction of the story so that I always have a focal point for my work. I like to think of it as a lighthouse of sorts.
Here’s the book jacket blurb for Grace of God:
Grace Garrison (nee Dobson) survives a plane crash that kills her parents and everyone else on its descent into Birmingham, Alabama. Her survival is deemed a miracle by the media and everyone else in the small Alabama town where her maternal grandmother, Wilma, resides. Wilma takes advantage of the singular occurrence and forms a breakaway ministry with Grace as its central character. As millions trek to Eden, Alabama to see “the daughter of God,” Wilma’s influence and power grows as her Grace of God Ministry gains momentum and becomes an unstoppable force. Beneath it all slithers the real Wilma Garrison, an ignorant bigot in the truest sense, she hides behind a facade of love and benevolence, but behind the scenes, she disparages those unlike her. Her close friends and associates look the other way as she befriends white supremacists seeking to create a community devoid of the “great unwashed,” but as Grace grows up she starts to see the world differently in spite of her sheltered life. When a new boy, Dylan, moves to town and attends her private high school, she learns that there are other ways to view “the world according to Wilma.” The passing of John McDermott, the man who rescued her from the plane crash, sets Grace on a collision course with Wilma’s true beliefs and dystopian view of the world.
This summary will serve as my point of reference as I move forward with the novel. Currently, I’m writing all of the character summaries and finishing the outline for the story arc and chapters I plan to write. I spend a lot of time planning a novel before I actually begin writing. I’ll share more of my process in the coming blog posts. This approach doesn’t work for every writer, but for me it’s how I manage a project, and so far it has worked well.