Someone asked me if I would do some blog posts on writing. Since some people who read my books have told me they are either thinking of writing or are in the process of writing their own books, I though this topic might interest enough people to make it worth making a series of blog posts.
So you have an idea for a story. Where do you go from there?
1. Expand your idea to get a better feel for the story that is developing.
Start looking into possible scenarios that could develop in your story. This is a brainstorming session. Everything is on the table. Ask lots of questions. Let your imagination run wild. If you write them all down, you won’t forget them later, but there are times when no pen is handy (like if you’re driving on the interstate). So what I try to do in these situations is play the idea out as a movie in my mind to help me remember it.
Let’s say this is my idea: I want to write a story about a married couple who are seriously thinking about getting a divorce, but they hesitate to because of their daughter.
From there you brainstorm smaller ideas to go with this main one. Like this: Perhaps, the husband is a work-a-holic, and the wife feels neglected. Maybe she was tempted to cheat but didn’t, but maybe he believes she did. (Why? That would have to be developed in the story.) So at the moment, they’re separated as they try to figure out what to do.
Okay, so you have a few ideas. These ideas are not set in stone, and you don’t have to have all the answers to all your questions. It’s actually good if you don’t because these ideas may change as you write the book. What this does is gives you a brief sketch of what you’re working with.
2. The next thing you want to do is pick a beginning point.
What will your opening scene be? I suggest actually writing the beginning scene out. It doesn’t have to be complete. It doesn’t have to be completely fleshed out. All you’re doing it getting an summary of what happens. It should be at least a few hundred words long so you get a good grasp for it.
The reason for this summary is to help you set the tone for the rest of the book, and from it, you might come up with other ideas you hadn’t considered before.
For example, let’s use my idea. I’ve decided the husband is going to be driving in the rain on a deserted winding road. He has to periodically slow down because of the storm, and there is an occasional lightning bolt in the sky and thunder rumbling, which makes him jump. He’s running late from a business meeting, but he is in a hurry. He’s on his way to pick up his daughter who has been staying at a friend’s house. He will have her stay with him for the weekend. He’s anxious because he’s running late, and he feels guilty, even though it wasn’t his fault the meeting ran late. When he gets to the house, he doesn’t see any of the lights on, and it looks as if no one has lived in it for years. He pulls out his phone to make sure he got the right address. He did. Since no other houses are on the road, he gets out of the car and ignores the rain as he goes to the front door. He knocks on it, the door opens, and we fade out. The next scene will be with the wife. (Yep, I cut the scene off intentionally to make the reader want to keep reading to find out what will happen to him.)
3. Now pick an ending. This can be vague.
In romance, you know the ending. The hero and heroine end up together. This is a must for romance readers. If the story doesn’t have a happy ending, it’s a love story. It is not a romance. I specify this only because there seems to be some confusion among writers unfamiliar with the genre. Do not classify your love story as a romance unless it has a happy ending where the hero and heroine end up together. Anything else will piss off your audience.
In other genres, you can have a happy or sad ending. There might even be some twist at the end that the reader doesn’t expect.
At this point, your ending might read something like this: The heroine finally has the long awaited baby. Or this: our team of heroes defeat the bad guy and save the day. Or maybe even this: I don’t know, but I want it to be a happy one.
Something should be in mind to give you a direction to aim for while you write the story.
Next time, I’ll continue on with taking your story idea and picking the appropriate genre for it.