Roz Morris, author of the wonderful Nail Your novel series of books for writers, has generously offered this guest post for the Chapter Book Challenge.
You’ve got an idea, but will it make a story?
Some writers leap off the blocks the moment they get an idea. Inspired by a situation or a character or an overheard conversation, they fire up the laptop, dive on the keyboard, rattle off the pages... After a while they run dry because they don’t know where they’re going. A few might bluster through and find their mojo again, but most find it too hard. They give up, disheartened - and so a lot of terrific ideas get abandoned.
Where did they go wrong? Why didn't the idea fulfil its potential?
Usually, it was missing certain cornerstones.
Now, some writers hate the idea of planning. If that’s you, listen a moment. You don’t have to create lengthy dossiers of the story world, the characters, or the music that’s charting at the time the novel is set. Or spoil your journey of discovery by mapping out the plot in advance. But if your story does not have certain ingredients, it’s likely that you’ll lose your way.
Here they are.
Brainstorm the big picture
Try to establish these basics:
- Who are the characters and why is the story situation such a challenge for them?
- Where is the story set and does that present interesting problems or add to its appeal?
- What are the characters trying to do (their goals) and why is it worth telling a story about them?
- What is at stake if they fail?
- Why will it be a long story, not a short one?
- What could go wrong and provide plot twists?
- What three major disasters could be the pivotal turning points?
- How will the characters’ feelings about the story goals change?
- By the end, what has changed and why does that provide a feeling of resolution?
This skeleton can be expanded if you want a detailed outline, or you can use it as a rough compass and get typing immediately. The choice is yours. But this is enough to ensure that, even if you’re good at inventing on the fly, you have a frame to throw your ideas onto and you’ll recognise how to use your ideas to make a satisfying story. It will also stop you getting in a muddle because you've invented too much to keep control of. And if you've got a book that’s already run aground, you can use these questions to salvage it.
More than anything, you’ll fulfil the potential of your idea because you’ll know you have a cracking tale to tell.
Roz Morris's fiction has sold more than 4 million copies worldwide, although you won't have seen her name on the covers as she ghostwrote for high-profile authors. As an editor, she has mentored award-winning writers and her book, Nail Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books & How You Can Draft, Fix & Finish With Confidence http://nailyournovel.wordpress.com/nail-your-novel-books/nail-your-novel-%E2%80%93-why-writers-abandon-books-and-how-you-can-draft-fix-and-finish-with-confidence/ is now recommended by creative writing tutors. She is now writing acclaimed fiction under her own name - My Memories of a Future Life and Lifeform Three. She is a writer, journalist, fiction editor and the author of the Nail Your Novel series for writers. Her website is here, her writing blog is Nail Your Novel and you can find her on Facebook and on Twitter as @Roz_Morris
Comment on this post by March 7th, to be entered into the drawing for a paperback copy of Roz Morris's "Nail Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, Fix and Finish With Confidence." Winner will be chosen by a random number generator on March 7th at noon GMT. You must be signed up for the challenge to qualify.