A Writer’s Process, Part 3 – Growing the Idea

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We’ve previously explored catching and evaluating the idea. The third stage of the writer’s process is to grow the story idea.

To recap:

Catching the idea

Evaluating the idea

Growing the idea

First draft

Space

Reading the draft

Revision and self editing

Critique group feedback

Rewriting or recreating

More revision

<<GO TO Critique group feedback, if needed>>

Final manuscript

If you have not already done so, write your story down idea. This gives you a focus for your story.

Characters and Conflicts

Most stories are about characters and their conflicts. Ask yourself the following questions and jot down your first thoughts.

The List

What does your protagonist want or need?

What is different or unusual about the protagonist that makes her or him stand out?

How does the protagonist handle conflict and change?

What strong emotions might come up in the story?

How does the protagonist deal with strong emotions? Love? Hate? Happiness? Sadness? Loneliness? Grief? Jealously? Joy?

What or who is preventing the protagonist from getting what he or she wants or needs?

What character(s) will support the protagonist?

Define the conflict. What would make the situation worse for the protagonist?

Will the protagonist get what she or he wants at the end of the story?

How will the protagonist change or grow by the end of the story?

Repeat the same questions for your antagonist and other characters.

Other Questions to Consider

Where does the story take place?

When does the story take place?

What is the genre of your story? What element(s) fit in this genre?

What POV might you decide to use for this story?

Who is telling the story? (The POV character)

How might the story be different from another character’s POV?

What mood might you want to create with your story?

What might you foreshadow in order to add tension and to keep the reader reading?

What are possible themes for your story?

At a high level, what are some events that might take place?

What tone might work for this story? Humorous? Dark? Cheeky? Serious? Spiritual?

At a high level, how might your story end?

At a high level, how might your story begin?

When thinking about your story idea, it might work better for some to consider the ending BEFORE the beginning. With a possible end in sight, this might open up new ideas and directions for your story, as well as give you something to work TOWARD. Try this and see if it works for you.

After your first try at these questions, wait a day or two and revisit them. Add or take away as you see fit. Trying to answer questions you might have skipped over the first time around. Add details where you can. Repeat this process as needed, until you feel ready to write the draft.

SIDE NOTE: Many, including myself, often freewrite a story based on an idea without asking these questions. What I do is use these questions after writing the rough draft to make sure that I have the elements in place to craft a good story. Try it both ways to see what works best for your writer’s process.

Challenge

Come up with your own list of questions that might be helpful when growing your idea into a story.

Question for today: How do you move from idea to story? What questions are helpful to you when you move from idea to thinking of the story? Did you think of questions not on these lists? Share them if you wish.

Best Wishes,

June

 

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A Writer’s Intuition

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As a child, you most likely learned to read before you wrote your first story. This seems to be the natural order of things when it comes to talking about reading and writing.

“Reading is the inhale. Writing is the exhale.”

–          Justine Musk, author of Blood Angel

Growing up, I read everything I could get my hands on, including our two-volume World Book dictionary and the encyclopedia. I drank words and books. Both my parents read and encouraged me and my three siblings to read. But it wasn’t until the fifth grade that I wrote my first story and during the sixth grade the teacher selected my story to read to the class. (I was embarrassed and excited at the same time.)

So what does all this have to do with intuition or building a writer’s intuition?

To be successful in anything, you need PASSION, have or being willing to obtain KNOWLEDGE, and be actively DOING.

PASSION

The passion part is wanting one thing so deeply that you’re willing to do it over an extended amount of time. The willingness to learn and to know is the knowledge part of success. Passion drives us to do research, to read, to write. By doing the work of writing (and reading) we nurture our passion. It’s a cycle not unlike the turning of the seasons.

KNOWLEDGE

We can look at gaining knowledge in two ways: learning from outside ourselves and learning from within. The world around us is your knowledge base and you’ve been learning since the day of your birth (if not before). You see, hear, touch, taste, smell the world and all it contains. You learn. The second way to gain knowledge is build upon the outside gathering of facts and experiences. This inner knowledge comes with an inner voice, what is called intuition.

A writer’s intuition is build on a lifetime of learning from the outside world, from reading the works of others, and this creates a space within you that grows your inner voice, your intuition. You don’t need to understand HOW it works, but just that it DOES. (You might not know how a computer works, but you still use it…)

If you don’t feed your intuition by reading, you are starving your inner voice and losing out on another means of KNOWING.

DOING

The final part of success is the active doing what you love to do. For writers, reading is the essential building block to becoming the best writer that you’re capable of being. Read. Read. Read. Not only will you enjoy wonderful stories created by others, but you’re also absorbing, even unconsciously, how characters are build, how to develop plots, the element of weaving in the various elements of fiction into a strong story, word choices, place and character names, how to add tension and conflict, when and how to use foreshadowing and backstory, etc. The list goes on and on.

You probably can guess the second part of the DOING. Yes, it’s the actual WRITING. Get to it.

I read all the time. I bought a Kindle so that I could do even more reading. When I write, all the outside knowledge and my writer’s intuition work together to help me see the characters, find the plot, and craft the story.

To become the writer you want to be following the three steps:

Define your PASSION

Gather / gain KNOWLEDGE

DO it.

Question for today: Do you allow for both parts of your writing life – the reading and the writing? Do you see connections between these two? Share your thoughts and experiences.

Best Wishes,

June

Do You Need a Writing Buddy?

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WANTED – Writing Buddy. Must be passionate about writing, be actively working and learning, must be honest and share goals and dreams. Most important: Keep me on track and focused. Willing to do the same for the right person.

Do you have someone in your writing life who serves as a writing buddy? If not, consider finding one.

Here are some ways a writing buddy might be helpful:

  1. Having someone that understands what it is to be a writer. Since a buddy shares your writing interest and passion, you have someone with an understanding of what you are about.
  2. Keep you motivated
  3. Keep you accountable
  4. Keep you honest
  5. Share challenges and achievements
  6. Give and receive support and encouragement
  7. Exchange ideas
  8. Exchange knowledge
  9. Exchange writing dreams
  10. Bounce story ideas around
  11. Brainstorm possible characters and plots
  12. A million other things…Fill in the blank – whatever you need.

You and your writing buddy need to define what it is that you want from each other. Some decide that they will also critique each others’ writing. Others stay with motivation and goal tracking.

Exchange a few emails and/or phone calls to see if you are a “fit” for each other. Do a trial run for a few weeks or whatever time frame works for you and see if you are well-matched, working partners.

Other questions to consider:

– Do you need a buddy who has other things in common with you?

– Do you want someone who writes in your genre(s)?

– How often will you check in with each other?

– How will you do this? Through IM? Chat? Emails? Phone calls? A combination?

– Will you keep this relationship strictly on writing or do you want to share other personal things with your buddy?

– Try the following exercise to discover what you’re looking for in a writing buddy.

HIRE A BUDDY EXERCISE

Create your own ad for the “perfect” writing buddy. What qualities are important to you? How might a buddy help you and what do you have to offer him or her?

Question for today: Post your ad for a writing buddy or share how you think a buddy might be helpful in your writing life. Do you already have one? Share your experience!

Best Wishes,

June