There's a thread on the catholic.com forums called "So you want to write a Catholic novel"
People wrote posts suggesting having an outline before writing the story, or having a schedule of writing 300 words a day etc.
I posted the following........................
So you have an outline of the book you intend to write? Here's another way.
Far from having an outline before it was written, Empress Theresa started out as a story about a girl with problems, but in the final young adult version Theresa says on page one:
“I should say something about myself. I didn’t come from a dysfunctional family, or have drug, boy, or mental problems. There are girls like me, you know. You wouldn’t think so to look at the news. I find it strange that people are interested in news about troubled girls, but wouldn’t want to associate with them.“
I was interested in the Nancy Kerrigan/Tonya Harding Olympic figure skating scandal of 1994. I started thinking. What if there was some guy who could read minds, could prove it, and convinced reporters that the figure skater was innocent of involvement in the attack after all? That might be interesting. But I didn’t believe in mind reading and rejected that idea.
I decided the story should focus on the girl and rejected the mind reading male too.
Then I thought people wouldn’t relate to an Olympic figure skater and turned Theresa into an average girl, a cashier at Wal-Mart or a waitress, who had been wronged by somebody and wanted to get revenge.
To get revenge Theresa had a special power: she had psychokinesis, the ability to move objects around with her mind, like the girl in Steve King’s Carrie. But I didn’t believe in psychokinesis and threw that out. But I held on to the revenge angle for a while.
Now, she had special powers because an alien from space associated itself with her and did things for her as she wished. But I don’t believe we will be visited by aliens and rejected this idea.
Then I thought the alien might not be someone or something from another civilization, but rather a natural phenomenon, something not alive but controllable. Now there was an interesting idea!
Then I saw that having Theresa use this entity to get revenge was no good. The Count of Monte Cristo had taken care of that theme. Dumas used the unlikely scenario of the young man finding a fabulous treasure in a cave and using his wealth to get revenge. Yeah, well, do readers actually like the Count? I rejected the revenge angle.
Then I thought Theresa would use the alien entity to make herself rich. But this didn’t seem to be something people could relate to. The popular TV show Rosanne suddenly lost its viewership when the struggling Huskstables won the lottery. The viewers weren’t interesting in watching nouveau riche millionaires.
Then I thought Theresa would use the alien entity to do good things in the world and enhance her prestige.
At this point some writers might have been satisfied. “Troubled girl acquires powers and uses them to redeem herself at last.” That’s ok. But I wanted something more than that. I wanted Theresa to be untroubled, a perfectly normal girl-next-door, who wanted nothing for herself, but overcame great challenges to do good in the world. Revenge or anything like that had no place in this story.
There remained the problems of explaining what the alien entity was and how he functioned, of how Theresa got control of him, what challenges she would meet and how she overcame them. This all took many years.
I rejected a hundred ideas. For example: I thought that a Russian submarine might pick her up out of the South Atlantic, take her to Moscow where she’d be put into prison. She’d be “put on the threadmill”, kept awake for days, to make her talk about HAL. Using the powers HAL gives her, she escapes prison. She walks East across the entire length of Russia, to the Bering Straits where she steals a small boat and makes it to Alaska. Along the way she has many adventures. There’s at least a hundred good pages in there. But except for showing Theresa’s never give up attitude it doesn’t tell the reader much about her personality. I threw out the whole Russian episode.
Once she gets control of HAL, she does many good things with him. The story is not just one story dragged out to four hundred pages. There are many stories. One situation is resolved and another begins.
Why spend so much time to write the story? I could see that a million woman would throw rotten eggs at me if I didn’t make the most of this girl. “What! Are you saying the most important woman hero of all time had [ CHOOSE ONE OR MORE: sex problems, drug problems, mental problems, insecurities, a foul mouth, emotional instability, plain Jane looks, cowardice, insensitivity, etc etc etc ] ? You couldn’t give us a better woman hero than that?”
I wanted to write a story about a character, who doesn’t come from a dysfunctional family, didn’t live on the street, was not molested or abused sexually or otherwise, didn’t have mental illness, didn’t take drugs or drink, didn’t fall in with the wrong crowd, makes no noticeable moral or social mistakes, never gets in trouble, doesn’t have unrealistic dreams, is not an opera star, actress, high priced real estate agent, politician, FBI agent, millionaire, reporter, doctor, lawyer, or anything at all but a college student, but is beautiful, intelligent, from a comfortable middle class neighborhood, has some religious belief, lives in a small Massachusetts city, and who despite all these deficiencies in the usual plot devices actually turns out to be a hero!
Theresa is a Catholic. Why? If I'm successful in getting readers interested in Theresa, they will want to know everything about her including her religious beliefs.
There are no Catholic principles or doctrine in the book. She is simply identified as a Catholic and little more is said. But, she gives a good Catholic example.