From Idea to First Draft – part 2 – idea

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.

1. Idea.

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.

To recap:

1. Story on the side.
2. ~*~*~*~ Fun. ~*~*~*~
3. Questions???
4.  Day . . . dreaming.
5. Conflict! (Or else.)
6. Story on the side + commitment = true love?

part 1
part 2 – idea
part 3 – worldbuilding
part 4 – characters
part 5 – plot
part 6 – emotion


From Idea to First Draft – part 2 – idea — 6 Comments

  1. This post is awesome! I might have read one of the previous posts before but need to go back and start from the beginning. I’ve got an idea, it might be nothing, it might something, but it would be interesting to read them anyway. I’ve also got a friend who might find these helpful, so I’ll be sure to share them with her :)

    • Thanks! I know others will look at this and be all, “Wait, that’s not how it’s done!!” but that’s the beauty of writing. As long as you get a book written eventually, you’ve done it right. :)

  2. Pingback: From Idea to First Draft – part 1 | Jodi Meadows

  3. Pingback: From Idea to First Draft – part 3 – worldbuilding | Jodi Meadows

Leave a Reply to Rebecca Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.