Novel Preparation 101 with Guest Author DiAnn Mills

deep extraction by DiAnn Mills

Novel Preparation 101 by Guest Author DiAnn Mills

We writers have habits that help us organize and get started on new writing projects. Today I’d like to share with you how I assemble my thoughts and preparations before writing chapter one, line one of a new novel.

Some writers are careful outliners. Some are seat-of-the-pants writers. I’m an organic writer, which means everything in my story rises out of the point of view character. The character charts the map not an outline. But some things I must know before I can begin.

  1. Idea! Oh, these come from so many different places—from a movie, a current happening in the news, overheard conversation, a what-if from everyday life, and dreams. In Deep Extraction, I learned a pacemaker is one of the easiest devices to hack into.
  2. Prayer. Not sure about you but if I’m not onboard with God, then my story will fail. He is the author of creativity and my source of inspiration.
  3. Premise. This is what guides me to brainstorm a story. For example in Deep Extraction: What if a female FBI special agent learns her best friend’s husband died of a heart attack. But now the investigators believe it was murder, and her best friend is a person of interest? What if the female FBI agent is assigned to investigate the murder?
  4. Character. Who is the hero or heroine of the story? Why would working through the premise and storyline (plot) be difficult for him or her? Why would this character be the only person who could walk through this story? What are the character’s weaknesses that make this journey necessary? What motivates my character into action? What happened in the character’s backstory that shaped who this person is in chapter one?
  5. Characterization sketch. This is a continuance from question number four above. The most important part of any story is the character. A powerful story is one in which the writer knows the character inside and out. We live with the character, breathe, suffer, rejoice, embrace truth, run, and the list goes on. A complete characterization sketch should be completed for every POV character. If you’d like mine, email me at for a copy.
  6. Setting. Where is the best place to set the story? What setting forces my character to change and grow, catch the character unaware, and generally make life miserable?
  7. Research. This covers a lot of ground from the character’s occupation, the problem or goal, setting, and dialogue per the character’s personality and background.
  8. Summary. I don’t like writing a synopsis because I realize from the onset my story will change during the writing process. Yet my editors need an idea of where my characters are going and why. So it’s important for them to have a foundation of my story.
  9. Spreadsheet. Yes, writers, I create a spreadsheet that I will use long after the manuscript is turned into my editors. I have columns titled: Chapter, Scene #, short scene summary, blog ideas, contest ideas, Facebook post, Giveaways, Hashtags, Pinterest Board, Speaking Topics, Tweetables, Video, Images/Memes. I use only the first two columns during the writing process, and the others are completed during the final line by line editing to help with promotion/publicity efforts.

Once I have these things complete, I’m ready to place my fingers on my computer keyboard and create. What about you? How do you ready yourself to write?


DiAnn Mills

DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She combines unforgettable characters with unpredictable plots to create action-packed, suspense-filled novels.

Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. Firewall, the first book in her Houston: FBI series, was listed by Library Journal as one of the best Christian Fiction books of 2014.

DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. She is co-director of The Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference with social media specialist Edie Melson where she continues her passion of helping other writers be successful. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country.

DiAnn has been termed a coffee snob and roasts her own coffee beans. She’s an avid reader, loves to cook, and believes her grandchildren are the smartest kids in the universe. She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas.

DiAnn is very active online and would love to connect with readers on Facebook:, Twitter: or any of the social media platforms listed at

DiAann Mills excpect adverture



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1 Response to Novel Preparation 101 with Guest Author DiAnn Mills

  1. maryjalford says:

    DiAnn, thanks so much for joining us today. I’ve learned a lot. I definitely want to be more detailed oriented. Myself, when starting a book, I begin with a story idea that includes one of the two characters in mind. Then I build from there and embellish on the details of the story and setting and then I’m ready to write.


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