Elizabeth also keeps a very entertaining blog, Mystery Writing is Murder, where she regularly shares advice on writing.
You've Got a Book Idea: Now What?
Your novel starts with a germ of an idea. It doesn’t matter where the concept came from—you’re sure it’s something you can create an entire book around. What’s more, it’s something you’re excited about and the words are spewing out on the page faster than you can pin them down.
But…where do you go from here? That depends primarily on the type of person you are.
The planner: Do you like to make lists? Do others consider you Type-A? You may want to try the outline route. The planner’s tools:
- One of them is a mind-map. You can get a free mind-map at FreeMind. With a mind-map, you can create a plot tree and connect your ideas and concepts with subheading branches.
- Another quick idea to determine your plot direction is to write back cover copy for the new project. If you sketch out one yourself, it can help you identify your main conflict right off the bat. Veronica Heley explores this concept more when she guest blogged on So You Wanna Be Published.
- You can also write out your standard outline—either chapter by chapter or scene by scene.
The Ad-Libber: Do you like to make things up as you go along? Would a structured outline for your book make you feel constricted? You should just write. The important thing is just to start creating the first draft. It doesn’t have to be perfect or even very good—that’s what revision is for.
The Middle of the Roader: You don’t do well with too much planning, but too little planning also trips you up? Try writing mini-outlines. Just map out what you want to accomplish for that particular piece of dialogue, or that particular scene, or that chapter. You have some direction and an idea what you want to cover, but it’s not an overwhelming and restricting plan, either.
Questions for all types of writers to ask themselves:
What’s the big conflict in your story? Without conflict (either internal or external), there is no plot at all.
Who is the protagonist? What makes us care about this person—what sets them apart? Are they sympathetic to the reader?
Who is the antagonist (the antagonist can also be society at large, the protagonist’s own inner demons, etc.)?
What will be the big turning-point moment in your plot? What causes this turning point? How is it resolved?
And finally, how much time can you realistically devote to writing every day? The important thing is to make a workable goal and not one that will set yourself up for failure. My original goal was a page a day, which I was able to successfully accomplish. Yours could be as little as ten minutes a day. As long as you write daily, you’re working toward completion of your goal…and the seed of an idea you first got becomes a novel.