How To Know If Your Idea Is Writable

Hello friends! Today, I really want to get back to talking about the writing process. And I want to take you aaaaalll the way back to the very beginning: the idea stage. I had an interesting conversation with a fellow intern today about building novel ideas, and I thought it would be a perfect topic to bring up on the blog.

Coming Up With An Idea

So you want to write a fantasy novel, right? But you have no idea where to start. You’ve got pieces of an idea, little inklings that swirl around in your head with little connection. Or maybe you’re looking to come up with something entirely from scratch. Either way, before you start writing, you want to have something concrete to work with.

The best advice that I can give is to read. Read the fantasy genre. Read the subgenres that you’re interested in the most. This can help you narrow down what type of story you want to write, what kind of characters excite you the most, and what tropes make your heart dance. The more you read, the more familiar you will become with the genre. Don’t think that only one or two books will cut it. If you’re looking for a good place to start, I would recommend this article for a basic list of several books in different subgenres.

Is Your Idea Writable?

So you’ve got an idea. Yay! Fantastic. Now, can you write a book from it?

Depending on if you’re an outliner or a pantser, what I’m about to say next may not be the best strategy for you to figure out if your idea can carry a whole book. Some people like to jump right in and figure everything out as they go along. But I recommend at least asking yourself a few basic questions before starting.

  1. Do you know enough about where you want to go to write the first few chapters? It doesn’t do you any good to start and realize you have nowhere to go. You don’t necessarily need to know how your story ends yet. Trust me, that will come along eventually.
  2. Are your characters interesting enough? Do they have motivations for doing what they are going to be doing?
  3. Do you have a basic idea of your setting?
  4. Can you see yourself committing to this idea for a full book? Are YOU excited enough to write this book?
  5. Finally, a question you should always ask yourself before writing a book: Can you commit a little time each day to write? This is especially important. Writing everyday helps to perfect your craft and will be key to finishing your story!

Keep these questions in your mind as you’re formulating your novel idea. Most important of all though, don’t forget to have fun! Writing is fun. Creating worlds and characters and plots entirely your own is fun. Don’t lose sight of that.

Thanks for reading! See you next week!

Tips for First Drafts

Hello friends! For today’s post, I would love to talk about first drafts. For many young authors, this can be a bit of a scary concept. Taking an idea, whether you just came up with it or have been toying with it for years, and turning it into a full fledged novel is a daunting task. When you look at the blinking cursor on the blank page, it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

But that’s what I’m here for!

I want to give you some helpful tips on writing first drafts based on what I have learned in my NaNoWriMo experience to get you from page 1 all the way to the end.

#1: Get prepared.

Now, depending on whether you’re an outliner or a pantser (see this article to figure out which one you are), this step may or may not apply to you. But in my personal experience, I think it is always a good idea to start out with at least some idea of where you’re going. At the very least, a basic idea of beginning, middle, and end is a good idea as well as knowledge about your main character(s). For fantasy novels, I would also highly, highly recommend having more than a basic knowledge of your universe. It will save you so much time in the long run than creating details out of thin air where you may forget to keep them consistent. If you prefer more detailed preparation, I like to use a plot outline that I have the option of sticking to or deviating from as new ideas come to light. These tactics will serve you well as you begin drafting.

#2: Just start.

The hardest part of drafting is starting.

No, really, it is.

Your head is often filled with doubts. Is this the right idea? Do I know enough about what I want to write to start writing? Am I a good enough writer to start a novel on a whim? What am I doing? It can be difficult to shut off those thoughts, especially if this is your first novel attempt.

But I promise you, you are good enough.

All you have to do is start. You don’t even have to start at the beginning if you don’t want to; you can start from any point in your story where you have inspiration. Just get words down on the page. Which brings me to my next point:

#3: Keep going.

Drafts often end up partially finished, whether due to lack of inspiration or lack of motivation. I have found that a good way to combat this is to just keep writing. Even if you know it’s terrible. These moments can be fixed in the second draft when revisions begin. I read a fantastic tip in an article by Marissa Meyer, the author of Cinder, right before I began Chasing Fae that really stuck with me as I started NaNoWriMo.

Write fast.

That’s all. Write fast. When taken at face value, it may seem a little confusing. But when explained, it becomes a fantastic concept. Essentially, Meyer sets herself a relatively short time frame to complete her first draft. A month is usually a good place to start. Then you stick to that time frame, whatever you have to do. You skip over sections that you can’t seem to connect to another at the moment to places where you have more inspiration. I wrote Chasing Fae from both ends before meeting up in the middle. It’s a lot easier than you would think, and the end result is very satisfying.

And there you have it! My best advice on first drafts. Feel free to comment with any other pieces of advice or stories about your own experience with first drafts!

Are You an Outliner or Pantser?

There’s two traditional types of writers when it comes to long form fiction or novel: pantsers and outliners. Figuring out which one you are can help you better analyze what steps to take when getting ready to start a new story.

Pantsers

Pantsers tend to fly by the seat of their pants, as the name suggests. When they come up with an idea, they jump in head first with little to no preparation. Most likely none. They rely primarily on their inspiration and whatever their brain comes up with in the moment to put words down on the page. A story idea has to be fairly strong in a person’s mind in order to drive this kind of writing, or you must be exceptional at seizing ideas as they arise and acting on them. In my opinion, pantsers are a very special type of writer. I know personally, I couldn’t create half as well if I didn’t give myself at least a very basic outline. But these writers can create gold out of essentially nothing but an idea and a strong belief in said idea. I admire that. It’s a powerful way to write, but these types of writers have the potential to need more focus and time on the revision process.

Outliners

Of course, outliners are incredible writers in their own right. These writers like to work out a framework of where the story’s going before they start writing. Outlines give writers a little order to the chaos of creativity swirling around in their brains. These can range from a simple bullet point list of plot points to a comprehensive scene-by-scene playbook. For me, my outline guides me down the right path and gives me a base to stand on to embellish and create off of. A little prep work can go a long, long way and sometimes bring you closer to a finished draft faster, depending on how you work. The downside for outliners is sometimes they can get bogged down by trying to create the perfect framework, they can delay starting their novel. Sometimes they may never even get around to it.

One tool that I would like to recommend to the outliners is an Excel spreadsheet that I discovered on a fantasy and science fiction blog about a year ago. Click here to see the original post and download the tool to follow along. This worksheet is the most incredible outline tool I have ever seen, and it is a great way to really flesh out a story.

Here’s how it works: First, you write your story idea in one sentence. Sum up everything in one sentence, and try to keep it a reasonable length. Then, split that idea into three sentences: beginning, middle, and end. These sentences are automatically transferred down to the next section where you will split three into nine (beginning of the beginning, middle of the beginning, end of the beginning, etc). Eventually, nine becomes twenty-seven, and twenty-seven becomes eighty-one full sentences that give you a detailed layout of how your scenes are going to go in your story.

You come up with ideas that you had no idea you had when using this tool. I found myself pulling scenes and characterization moments out of thin air, and they actually fit beautifully with what I was hoping to convey in my novel. I planned out almost the full trilogy that I plan to write with three separate spreadsheets, and it was absolutely crucial to making sure that I could successfully carry long arcs that would not seem repetitive or burn out too early. I would highly recommend it to any serious writer, pantsers and outliners alike.

So what kind of writer are you? Which style do you fall into? Comment below and share your experiences.