I've put together a workshop (and will soon release a workbook) called CRAFTING YOUR BEST STORY 26 Tips to Get You to The End. It's based on a e-book I giveaway for signups to my young adult readers, but this one focuses on the adult writer/reader. I plan to post all the tips here over the next 26 weeks. It's intended for the novice fiction writer, but more seasoned writers will find encouragement and inspiration from the tips as well.
Though I'll refer to current bestsellers, most examples will come from my own work in order to avoid copyright issues.
Please leave any questions or comments in the comment section below.
Finding the Great Idea
Every great story begins with an idea.
Not just an idea, but a hooky idea. A hooky idea is something you can sum up in one line.
An alcoholic rides a city train and becomes involved in a murder mystery. THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN by Pauline Hawkins
Separated from his crew, an astronaut embarks on a quest to stay alive on Mars. MARTIAN by Andy Weir
The lives of a blind French girl and a gadget-obsessed German boy before and during World War II intersect. ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE by Anthony Doerr
A woman who has barely been beyond her English village finds herself caring for a wealthy, embittered quadriplegic. ME BEFORE YOU by Jojo Moyes
The cute girl that a college geek meets online is murdered, but shows up for the next internet meeting anyway. GINGERBREAD MAN by Lee Strauss
These one sentence synopsis are also called loglines.
So, you have a hooky idea, now what?
You need to develop the idea. Take some time to “think write.” Sit in the sun, put your feet up and mull it over. Who is this story about? You don't need to know everything about this person, but gender, age and situation are important. What plot ideas that support your hook come to you? Jot them down. A few new ideas, variables, crazy possibilities will come to you–write them all down. How about a title? Pick a title. It may change but you need something to work with.
Once you have a story starting to form, open a file on your computer and call it Hooky Book (whatever your working title is) notes.
You'll find that as you go about your day and your week, more ideas will come to you. Enter them in your note file. These don't all have to make sense. They're just ideas you may or may not use, but you don't want to forget them.
Don't rush this process. Give yourself time to let the creative juices flow. Consider it similar to baking a loaf of bread. Take time to knead your ideas together. Give it more time to sit and rise. And well, the baking… that takes much, much longer.
At some point you will have an idea of what the beginning, the middle and the end will look like (though these, of course, are subject to change). Now you're ready for the next very important step…