Thursday, July 18, 2013

When Is a Story Ready To Write?

Most of us novelists have new ideas churning around in our heads well before we write "The End" on our current projects. We chomp at the bit to begin the new work, for there's nothing quite so exciting and frightening as starting a new novel. It's like the first time you drive a stick shift -- in traffic!

Sometimes those story ideas have churned around for months or even years. They are ready to write. By the time we're able to put those first words down, the idea is fully fleshed and flowing like a fresh cut from our veins. At other times, however, the idea isn't quite so well articulated in our thoughts, and if we sit down to start writing, it becomes more like lying in a hospital bed while a nurse pokes us four times over just to find a vein. The idea is in there, but it doesn't want to come out.

So should we try to force it? Not really. Not that way.

Nothing beats writers block like just writing. Writing anything. Writing something. The same could be said for starting on that new idea. It might not be time, yet, to write an opening chapter. However, it might be the perfect time to brainstorm using processes that will expand those lurking scenes and ideas.

Start an outline. I would suggest using the 15 point Meet in the Middle method to brainstorm. Write the first point - how you basically see the story beginning (no worries, you're not committed yet). Then write the last point - what you think the flash bang happy ending might be. Now keep going back and forth, from beginning to end, working toward the middle. You'll be surprised at how the ideas will start flowing.

But if that isn't enough, it's definitely time to ask the Big Story Question. What is the big story question your character must resolve? What are her dreams and her fears? What themes have you noticed in your own life lately or in the lives of those around you that might find their way into your current story idea? What questions are you asking in your life that your character might ask in theirs? What do you know that your character doesn't and needs to learn? These are all good story-builders that will prime the pump to the place where you're actually ready to begin writing.

It's not time to begin the actual story until you have some if not all of these answers. You might not know the entire journey your character will take. Seat of the pants writers would make a point of telling me that. But you should have a truly good overall feel for the story you have to tell, or else you're just talking. That's my opinion. Jumping the gun on starting a story can burn you out. You're more likely to give up and quit part way through if you take off running without a goal or without knowing something of the route.

So let the story marinade. Part of the writing process isn't really the physical writing. It's the daydreaming.

Write on!
Coming August 11th from Desert Breeze Publishing
a novel of contemporary women's fiction.
When still life artist Ethan Day discovers a fantasy painting by Althena Bell in a consignment shop, he's sure he's found Ava, his wife who abandoned him and their two little girls three years ago. Finding her is one thing, but forgiveness and second chances are impeded by outsiders, and conflict between Ava's search for identity and Ethan's new faith might break the safety net he offers. 

1 comment:

Nora said...

I think that's definitely true. I have many abandoned projects (all neatly hidden in a folder labeled "Archives") that came about from not having a fully fleshed idea. One scene comes burning into your mind, and you think you've got something great...but it turns out you just had one scene!