Tuesday Craft: The First Step

I’m feeling very unprepared in comparison to Tessa & Brenna’s story start methods. They ask all these deep questions and are very logical and me . . . yeah. This is how it goes for me.

1) I get an idea. There are two sorts of ideas. One is small i idea. That’s the “that would be cool if someone wrote about . . . ” idea. Then there are big I Ideas. That’s the “it would be cool if I wrote about . . . ” Idea. Once an idea gets a capital I, I know it’s going to get written. I haven’t abandoned a project in years. Ideas are normally plot-driven rather than character what-ifs.

2) The Idea gets a working title. Gotta have a working title. Elapsed time since #1: 1-3 hours.

3) I sit at my computer with my Idea, newly named, and write a one paragraph plot summary. It’s what the back of the book would look like. Elapsed time since #2: 5 minutes-3 hours.

4) I turn the summary over in my head and try and figure out what sort of people would get themselves into this sort of mess. The goal is to figure out a great ending scene. I don’t care at this point how the characters get there, but I want to know how the back end of the problem looks. Elapsed time since #3: 1 day to several weeks (usually while I’m working on other projects).

5) Now I desperately need to know the characters and I need to know roughly how they get there. I figure out what the mood of the novel will be and burn a CD of songs just in that mood. I listen to it exhaustively while I lay on the carpet and brainstorm about possible scenes and character flaws and ways to get to that end I’ve already dreamed up. Elapsed time since #4: 1 day to 1 week.

6) I write a two-page synopsis. It’s really rough and probably really wrong, but it gives me a rough road map. Elapsed time since #5: 1 week to 3 weeks.

And then I’m off. Whooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.

This process is still fresh in my mind, since I’m just about to start a new Sunday novel (a novel not under contract that I only let myself write and brainstorm about on Sundays).

13 thoughts on “Tuesday Craft: The First Step

  1. Okay, this has officially made me motivated to start thinking stories through before going off half-cocked. It sounds especially useful, because it’s not like outlining–or at least, when you say it like this, it’s tricking me into thinking it’s not like outlining 😉

    But more importantly, it involves lying on the floor, which is highly conducive to thinking.

  2. I could never be a good outliner. For me, planning/ outlining is more like setting “rules” or boundaries that the story bounces around inside rather than telling it where to go. Wait — that doesn’t make sense.

    I just want to plan just enough to not get stuck. I used to write a ton of stuff until I hit 20,000 words in, and then I’d get stuck. I don’t want to ever do that again!

  3. I don’t know why it took me so long to come and ‘watch’ over here. 🙂

    You already know that I agree with you on the title thing – I need that working title to get started every time.

    But I start with characters – not plot. I focus in on the character(s) and then gradually widen the cameral lens so I can think of situations to put these people into. Usually, something fundamental about the character helps decide what the particular plot points/goals will be… At least on the personal level.

  4. I think it’s so weird that everyone else seems to start with characters when I consider my fiction character-driven! I think I’m just a weirdo on that front!

    And I’m glad to see you over here, Karen! (still excited? :D)

  5. You’re no weirder than all other writers… We’re just weird… But in a good way! 🙂

    And yep! Still sooo excited. I did a guest blog today (check out my LJ for the link if you get time.) I’m swearing off google chat for a while, just in case you noticed I’m not around so much – I’ve decided I’ve been getting too sidetracked by it… 200 blogs on LJ is keeping me busy enough. Haha…

  6. Sunday — Sunday is my blog reading day. I’m just a week behind because of being out of town this weekend. But I’ll reconnect with (yes, way too many) blogs on Sunday!

  7. That’s actually a really good idea – one day a week for blog-reading. I don’t think I’d have the willpower though… *g*

  8. It’s really hard! Because you know exciting things are going on — but I swear, if you take a half hour a day to read blogs — add it up. It really does.

  9. But good friend. It evens out. 😉

    Now I’m outta here! Gotta get me some fireworks!

  10. I can’t believe I’m the only one to come up with this concept! But it works great for me.

  11. Most of the time my ideas are plot driven, now I think about it. I think my characters develop once I know what’s happening to them, instead of the other way round. Though at the moment I’ve got this character sitting in a corner with her knees scooped up to her chest, and I have absolutely no idea what her story is. It’s kind of scaring the hell out of me, actually.

    Your post was interesting. Thanks. 🙂

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