An incarnadine clue . . .
1. Working Title -a title sets the tone. The words may change, but it is essential to pin down the general ambiance of your book.
2. Kernel Sentence & Pitch Combo (the big SO WHAT. In other words, why I am writing this? How is it different? What is my golden hook?)
3. Synopsis - I know it might be tempting to write the synopsis AFTER you have finished your manuscript, but this initial step cannot be skipped, ever. Even if significant details change later on, having a solid idea of the plot's progression and how the characters evolve over the course of your story before you commit major ink time to it is crucial.
4. Character Profiles (for everyone, major, minor, even animals.)These include the physiology, sociology, and psychology of each character. See my previous post for greater details.
5. Master World File - The landscape of my world-geological, political, economic, magical, etc. This step outlines all setting details, histories, and important terms, etc. It also establishes the story's boundaries. For example, the consequences of magic systems (I learned this rule when I had the good luck to take a creative writing class from Brandon Sanderson at BYU). Massive power is boring without a clearly defined consequence for using it. Imagine Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood without the Law of Equivalent Exchange!
6. Chapter Outline - Honestly, this part takes me the longest. Each chapter is its own microcosm of evolving characters and events that must thread seamlessly into the next. Correctly weaving all these shining beads of thought together is a process of trial and error. Mostly error, but eventually, after much random pondering, sounding off ideas with friends and family, and late night scribbling . . . I get it! The working blueprint. A lot of this information won't make it into the actual novel. The reader will only see the tip of the iceberg. The foundation must lie beneath the page, within me. I must admit there is a certain keen satisfaction that comes when I can hold the luminescence of a new world in my head and play grand high creatrix of destiny! My WIP has gone through these initial steps. Now comes the hardest part - fitting ink and syllable to the dream. Time to blast some M83 music to accompany the tap of my keyboard.