In this post I will go into more detail about Steps 1 & 2 of the Publishing Process: 1) Getting your Idea and 2) Writing the Manuscript. I will share a few of my tips and how I come up the ideas for my projects and turn that idea into a story. I look forward to hearing your suggestions for brainstorming story ideas and the process of writing.
Step 1: Getting the Idea.
This step has never been particularly hard for me as I am a creative person and my mind is always thinking of story ideas. My ideas stem from news stories I've seen on Television, My own personal experiences, influences from other writers and my own imagination. Normally I get the basic plot structure all at once and I immediate write down the outline. I then either store it in my to write folder, or if I'm so taken with the idea I jump into the story.
However from time to time I've had ideas and a general idea of plot, but can't decide the exact plot or how to make the story more innovative. I have been taking notes and writing down ideas on a fantasy book I hope to one day write, but do not feel creatively ready to pursue at this moment.
- Keep a notepad and writing utensil everywhere you go, so if you get a story idea or meet someone who inspires a character you can take note and not forget about it. Voice recorders are good to carry around as well.
- Keep a creative journal - use this to collect ideas and try to write a little every day. The more you write the better you become and more likely an idea is to come into your mind.
- Follow the headlines. Topical stories with universal themes are always good, especially if you write thrillers. Every time I see a headline that might be utilized in a fictional plot line I print out the article and write notes on my story idea. I have read this is how John Grisham gets a lot of his book ideas as well.
-Read: The more quality popular or classic fiction/non-fiction you read the more you will know what sort of stories you enjoy writing and how to better your own plot structure or construct a quality idea.
I got the idea for my novel "Burden of Proof" after seeing a television news story about the case regarding the micro-biologist blamed for the Anthrax attacks. I'm not a conspiracy theorist in nature, but I thought that the case seemed to have a few loose ends. That put forth the idea for "Burden of Proof." However I then took the real story and fictionalized it. Although the news headline was the stem, my plot is entirely different than real life events regarding the case and speculative so therefore part 2 of the idea was my own "What if..." imagination.
Step 2: Writing
Step 1 and 2 go hand and hand. How quickly step one flows into step 2 depends on your creative impulse on an idea, your schedule and eagerness to write the story. I typically have a list of about five Works in Progress or Future Projects and a time line of when I plan to work on the novel. This keeps me organized and helps me not neglect quality ideas, however if you catch the writing bug for a particularly idea and have the impulse to write it NOW - don't hesitate. Writing is often about impulse and combustion of ideas. Sometimes the ideas can wait, other times it's better to jump into a project so that the idea doesn't fizzle out.
For me I typically plunge head first into a story and just start writing. At the close of every writing day I make notes about where I want the plot to head and re-read what I've written. Sometimes I'll hit a block in the creative process. I don't get frustrated. Instead I step back, take a deep breath and reexamine the work. Don't stop writing, even if that writing is a rewrite of something you've already written or a new paragraph a day. The more you write the more progress you will gain in breaking through the writer's blockade. If you say "I'll pick this up later" 9 times out of 10 you may not.
With writing try to have a deadline. This deadline can be as short or as long as you want it to be. But having a flexible end date helps you focus on finishing the book, without feeling pressure to write clumsily just to finish the work. It also makes the process seem less daunting. If forces you to think about the plot and how you should end the story without rambling on. For me the end date varies. I usually give about two months to start and finish the first draft, but I'll admit it can take longer, but it keeps my creative mind focused.
With "Burden of Proof" I began in late September and wrote through November 2008. I took a break to edit another work before picking up the book after the holidays and finishing in February of 2009. I think let it sit a month before jumping into the long and tedious process of Editing (Step 3), which I will discuss in my next entry.