Diane Sherlock, good friend and my co-author of Write to Be Heard, posted an interesting article a few weeks ago. In it, she looks to Genesis for the biblical account of creation, and finds three clear steps: separation, organization, and naming.
If I may be so bold, I’d like to add to her thoughts a bit on this. And, if you haven’t had a chance to read her article yet, you should do that now. You may want to bookmark her blog as well. She has some great insights.
Separate: On the first day, God separated the light from the dark. In the first days of writing, we separate good ideas from the bad. We explore which ideas will have a place in our novels, and those that won’t. Which will fit our themes, and which are better suited for another work.
Organize: On the second day, God created the sky. He organized the water into two levels, one above, the other below. Once our ideas have formed, we need to figure out where they’ll come in the novel. At what point will your character have his or her epiphany? When will the climax occur? Do you have plots within plots? When should you reveal the skeleton in the closet? Should you relay the story chronologically? The organization of these details can have a profound impact on your story or novel.
Naming: After creation and organization, God ascribes names to what he’s created—light and dark become “day” and “night.” The vault separating the waters He called “sky.” Of course, the most obvious things in our novels that require names are our characters. However, we also have the task of naming towns and streets, cities and continents, perhaps even worlds if we’re writing science-fiction or fantasy. Names are very important. Lastly, you’ll need to name your novel or story. I’ll suggest that you come up with the title after the story is written. You’ll have a better idea of what themes played out, which ideas are the strongest, and you can select a title that serves the work, rather than the work serving the title. Hope that makes sense.
Incidentally, one of the first jobs God gives Adam is the naming of the beasts of the field and the birds of the air. A cool job, to be sure. As writers, we should take our job of naming seriously as well.