After getting my first fully edited book done and out there I’ve started working on something new. I will not be writing the same way this time. This time I will be intentional about all of it.
This time I started with a question, something I needed to create an answer to in the form of a story.
The more I developed an answer to my question the more my fantasy world developed around the characters. The world, in turn, placed a mark upon the character’s lives, occupations, and upbringing. The old question of nature versus nurture.
I only know that the question came first and the story followed.
Now I’m piecing all it all together and here’s what’s flowing out of it. Consider these ideas when planning your next work. I’ve only learned how important these are through rejection slips, twitter pitches, and submission processes. These things can make your words sparkle or if not polished correctly create a dull sheen.
Plot Points- The mushy middle, I’m not talking about potatoes here. If your story falls apart in the middle because of lack of conflict or false conflict you’re going to have a problem. The middle is a third of the book and it needs just as much attention as the beginning and the end.
Darkest Moment– I’ve seen through Twitter pitch parties many editors/agents request material from the beginning and also for your ‘darkest moment.’ This is the point about two thirds through your story where all is lost and hopeless, when your characters make a choice to fight or give up regardless of the odds. Do you have a darkest moment? Yeah, me either. So this time I’m planning it to be sure it’s there on purpose and not on accident.
Mapping– If you aren’t using the real world in your story you need to map out a new one. Even if you can’t draw, do this. You create space, distance, and plot points you would not have considered otherwise. Here’s how I like to map.
Characters– You don’t realize how many characters you actually need when you first start out writing. Characters can easily become stale and cliché if not properly considered. Some stereotypes are nice to rely on but not for any recurring characters. Think of JK Rowling, she had a notebook for each character she wrote about in Harry Potter, because it matters.
Doodling– My favorite part. So I don’t have a secret here it’s just taking the time to explore different avenues you can take your story prior to writing it. This helps me because I get a better feel for the place and atmosphere of my book but I also understand what isn’t going to work and why. For this story I know I want to set it in a swamp. But that’s very generic. What kind of swamp- hot/cold climate, water/mud, wildlife, navigation by boat/land. These options will all have a direct impact on how my characters move and behave throughout the story.
Theme– While you may not know what your theme is right away, you should at least be on the watch for it. For example my new story is set in a swamp, why? Well I hadn’t really thought about it, it just occurred to me while brainstorming, which is normal. Most of us don’t give it an extra thought but build our next story level on top of it. But since I’m trying to be intentional I’m going to think it through and see if a swamp accurately reflects my story theme or if not why not.
Pinterest– I took the time to make a secret story board for this book. I searched relevant terms for what I wanted and found some concrete examples to go back to when I loose my way around that mushy middle we talked about earlier. I also have a firm grasp of character looks, new skills to reference, and plant life to draw upon as I write each scene.
What other things do you consider before you dive into a new work in progress? Do you use any special techniques to get your creative mind flowing?
A final thought for the perfectionists out there, regardless of prep work and planning, be sure to have fun with your first draft. It’s not going to be perfect, not even close, so don’t get hung up on little things. Keep moving and fix it later. I use a * to denote areas I need to flesh out or work out during editing and skip right over them. Thanks to Nicole Evens for reminding me of this.