The other day, I started blogging about how I get stories from a jumble of ideas to a first draft, but I ran out of room to get everything in because I talk a lot. At the bottom of this post, there are links to the other topics. (If you’re reading this as I post, some of the links might not be live yet.)
Before I keep going, I want to remind you that this is just the way I write and if you plan books (or don’t) differently, that’s not wrong. There’s no single right way to write a book.
This probably takes the longest. For INCARNATE, it took three years. For Sparkle Story and Broadway Story, it took a few months each.
I actually spend a lot of this time working on something else and letting the idea mature in the back of my mind. I take pages of notes — whenever I have a thought about the story — and try to have fun with it. Above all, this part should be super fun. What’s the point of having a story on the side of there’s not a lot of swooning going on?
Things I ask myself to help develop the idea:
1. What’s the coolest thing about this story?
2. What makes this story cooler than other stories?
3. What if I added . . . [insert cool thing here]?
4. Or what if [another cool thing]!?
5. How can this story be even cooler than it already is?
6. What’s my favorite part?
7. Least favorite part? (And how can I ditch it?)
This part is an opportunity to be creative. I throw everything I have at the idea, see how it fits (or doesn’t) and add/trash ideas as I think of them. Many new ideas are proposed. They battle to the death in my head. (May the odds be ever in their favor.) If this sounds like a lot of daydreaming to you, that’s because daydreaming is exactly what this is.
This is also the part where I make sure I know the main conflicts. Without conflict, there’s not much of a story, right?
Sometimes the ideas come with conflict attached, like INCARNATE: Perpetually reincarnating society . . . plus a new person. New person = conflict. I just have to figure out how, exactly.
Sometimes I have to look a little wider for conflict, like Sparkle Story: I’d been daydreaming about two people meeting by a window, one trying to hide from the other. Hiding = conflict, but not enough to sustain an entire novel, so I had to search for the bigger picture around all of that. I found it in the main character’s situation and the worldbuilding.
And sometimes, as with Broadway Story, the initial idea has pretty fierce inter-character conflict, but something bigger is still missing. It actually took me a few weeks to realize that this thing was missing, and then more time to figure out what needed to be there. I found it in the worldbuilding while I was wondering what made this world different and special.
I know writers who see characters first, or worlds, or situations. Mine are often Characters With Situations, but not always, and getting them from the initial “hey, a story!” thought to something worth writing down on a dead tree always takes a lot of patience and hard work.
I tend to use this time to test a story’s strength, too. Like lots of writers, I have a lot of random ideas. Some might make neat stories. But if I forget what it was an hour later, or write it down and see the note later and just go, huh? it’s probably not that neat a story and not worth my time. When you write a book, even if you’re a fast writer and can bang out a draft in a month or two in a fit of passion, you’ve still got a lot of work left. There’s revision (lots of revision), crit partner notes, agent notes, edit letters, line edits, copyedits, pass pages. . . . There’s at least a year’s worth of work on it and if you don’t love the story a ridiculous amount, that’s going to be a really, really hard year.
1. Story on the side.
2. ~*~*~*~ Fun. ~*~*~*~
4. Day . . . dreaming.
5. Conflict! (Or else.)
6. Story on the side + commitment = true love?