By Courtney Willis
Have you ever wanted to write a book, but didn’t know where to start? I’ve had a few people ask me recently how one goes about writing a fictional story, and I just tell them… how does that old adage go? You don’t eat the elephant in one bite... or something like that. Writing a book is a huge project, and it’s not easy. But it can be done with baby steps, so here’s some of the preparation I go through when working on a new story idea.
1) Write out a plot summary
I know that some people use flashcards, or break the story up into acts and scenes, but everyone has their own style and you just need to find yours. I just write out short scene summaries in bullet points, and I worry about where chapter breaks will be later after the scenes are written. As I'm writing, scenes always end up being rearranged or deleted, and new content always comes up too, but I like to have some basic guidelines.
2) Make a Spotify playlist
If music is a huge inspiration for you, then this can be a wonderful help. With or without words, there is so much music available to make your own story soundtracks, and it's free. This can be music that you listen to in order to inspire scenes, or while you write to keep you in the right mindset. This doesn’t always come together right away though; sometimes it’s a slow process and I’ll find new songs that I feel match my plot or characters while shopping or driving.
3) Make a Pinterest story board
Another great resource for writers that's free, especially if you're really inspired by visuals. Here you can make your own story board, with pictures and quotes and links to important bits of information that are pertinent to your story. Find actors that you feel would match your characters, or pin places that look like your settings. Be wary though, because Pinterest is a wonderful place to kill 5 hours. It starts with the most innocent intentions of making your story better, but you can easily end up with ideas on chocolate cake in a crock pot and how you want to redesign your bedroom.
4) Meyers Briggs personality test
Okay, this is where I get a little intense. In order to portray your character properly, you need to know them inside and out, even things that won't necessarily show up in your story. So I like to take this quiz with my main characters in mind (not the whole cast, that's just nuts) to get to know them better. It will help with their thought process, dialogue, the reason why they're making certain decisions, etc. Dig around to learn more about their personality type, and it will hopefully improve plot flow and character development
Whether you're writing a historical, a scifi/fantasy, a political thriller or a contemporary romance, you need to know what you're talking about. World building, dates, facts, etc. You don't want to waste any time during the writing stage doing research, though you probably will end up doing that anyway. So read up on what you need to know, and make notes that are easy to find. It also doesn't hurt to have a list of appropriate names that you can quickly reference when you need to name a major or minor character.
This might be the hardest one: SIT BUTT IN CHAIR AND WRITE. Lots of people say “I wish I could write a book, if only I had the time.” WRONG-O. Writers MAKE time. If it’s important to you, you’ll find a way. If it’s not, you’ll find an excuse. Don’t let fear of writing something crappy stop you – everyone writes a crappy first draft. Even JK Rowling and Stephen King. Even your favorite author. They sat down and got their story on paper, because you can’t get to editing or publishing without taking that plunge. No one can tell the story in your head but you, so if you want it out in the world, you’ve got to put forth the time and effort. But you CAN do it.
And there you have it! Not perfectly laid out rules for everyone, but a rough sketch of what works for me. Let me know in the comments what methods you’ve tried or what stories you’re working on.
Until next time, book enthusiasts <3