Welcome to the first blog post in the series The Path to Publication. Our series will start at the beginning of the novel-writing process, and end with querying. For the sake of this series we’re going to assume that you have never published a novel before, but that is your ultimate goal with writing a novel. I’ve broken the steps into baby steps, so we can cover certain area more thoroughly. A new step in the Path to Publication will be posted every Monday.
You may be wondering why I didn’t start with finding the idea to write. Because only you can come up with your idea, no one else can do it for you. I hope this first step will be helpful.
You have this nagging itch, this flash of inspiration, a story idea so brilliant you know you have to write it. You pick up the pen to start your novel—Wait! It’s great that you have your story idea, but now you need to test it, to see if this is one you can work with for however long it takes to write and re-write.
Trust me, I’ve been in that situation before, but it led to three months, 110 pages, a very exhausted writer, and half a novel that I didn’t have the heart to keep writing. I had outlined, I had prepared, but none of it seemed to work. I thought it might be a passing feeling, so I let myself have a break. When I came back to the story, I was no better off than I was before. I saw my novel with fresh eyes, and it was awful. After I cheered myself up, I tried to re-write it. That still didn’t work and I gave up on it. I tried another story, and another, but none of them seemed to work.
Then I came up with one more idea. This time I was very cautious, knowing what had happened the last four times. I knew that I would probably give up on this one too. I really wanted to give this idea a try, though, so I picked up a pen and brainstormed. And what I got was the assurance that, even though I had no guarantee that I would stick with it, I had a better chance than I had with all the others. So now I am going to share these tips with you, in the hopes that these few exercises will help you find the best story for you to write. (It might be a good idea to do one of these exercises a day, to see if you still like it the next day.)
1. Write down what you know about the story so far. Look at it. Is this what you want as your first published novel? Do you want your name on the cover? If so, continue onto step two.
2. Write a page of the story. How did it feel writing it? If you felt like you would rather be cleaning your house, maybe you should try to find another story. On the other hand, if you loved writing it, if the words flowed effortlessly from your pen, this might be the story for you.
3. Brainstorm your idea. Add what ifs and characters, relationships and themes, character names and possibilities. Do they work? Do they add up to a great premise? If so, move on to my third and last step.
4. Write a list of all the conflicts. What good is a story without conflict? Add antagonist, internal conflict, and awkward situations.
(Don’t forget, you don’t have to include all you brainstorm in your novel.)
Does all of this seem to work? You might have a novel! Also think about how you’ve been feeling the past few days as you’ve been writing. Have you felt ecstatic with what you’re writing? Or only so-so? Weigh what you like about the story with what you don’t like.
If you still aren’t sure, ask some questions about the idea and brainstorm some answers. For instance, in my WIP (work in progress), a fantasy, my MCs (main characters) have special powers, but I didn’t know how they got them. I tried to answer the question, and not only did I come up with some pretty juicy answers, but I also had a clearer understanding of the story itself.
Have you decided you are going to keep your idea? Then come back next week where I’ll have a post on pre-outlining. If you have decided not to keep your idea, don’t worry. Just keep on trying until you find the right one!
(If you want to read my new post on my other blog, here’s the address: http://lovingthewrittenword.wordpress.com/2014/06/30/monday-book-review-escape-from-mr-lemoncellos-library/.)