18 thoughts on “Reader Friday: How Do You Know When to Start?

  1. Since I’m writing a fantasy series, I have a plan for setting each story in a different anatomical system. I look for a current event or situation that I want to be the theme, look for the fantasy world that can work with the theme. Establish the antagonist and his/her/their agenda, the story behind the story (concept), then look for how the antagonist and concept are impacting the real world. I may go through several scenarios, before I find something that works (or won’t get me into too much trouble). For example, my current WIP will be a parody on cell phone addiction, set in the heart world, where the Queen and Jack of Hearts are reaching into the real world to capture the victims’ heart strings. Current working title: “Heart Mind 180.”

  2. I figure out which series I’m going to continue next, which character will take center stage if it’s one of my romantic suspense, or another problem for Gordon if it’s a Mapleton mystery.

  3. Ideas almost exclusively come from research, so the ultimate question I ask myself is, “Okay, so you’ve got this idea. Is it enough of a brainstorm to create a novel length work?”

    But in all honesty, I get so excited from ideas that come from research I often start writing something, whether I gave myself a firm answer to that question or not. LOL! I figure what the heck? You never know–that writing session I dead ended on today might turn into something later. 😎

  4. Great question. Knowing when I’m ready to begin drafting a novel is fairly straightforward–when I have the characters, story, structure, and plot.

    But choosing the idea that becomes my next novel…it really comes down to what idea I’m most passionate about at that time, which character speaks mostly strongly to me, which situation that character is in has the most potential energy, in my mind at the time.

    Of course, working in a series means that once that series has begun, the nextbook usually has that potential energy, at least for the first few books 🙂

  5. Great question, Jim.

    For me, in this time right now, it’s the theme, or the character, or the plot that scares me the most…that makes me say to myself, No stinkin’ way am I going to write THAT story!

    Then I find a starting point and think about the ending, and away I go.

    Thanks for pulling that outta me… 🙂

  6. Easy. When a new idea strikes, I jot it down, then run from it. If it follows me, I’ll start a mini-outline. Set it aside. If the story still refuses to let me rest, then I know it’s the right story seed to plant. I’ve had one story seed that’s haunted me for four years, and strangely enough, now it’s more relevant than ever before. All I need is time to flesh it out.

  7. Great question, Jim. I have lots of ideas for stories, but I don’t have a method for choosing, and I’m not sure what the catalyst is that makes me home in on one of them.

    I was running on a trail and listening to an audiobook when I decided on the basic story for my first novel. The theme for my second novel developed during a Torah study I had attended. The idea for my third novel grew out of a desire to honor my closest childhood friend.

    The world is full of inspiration and it seems that an intriguing thought at just the right moment can light the fire.

  8. I’m one of those annoying writers who often have the premise and maybe characters pop out of my brain fully formed like Athena from Zeus’ headache. Dreams are a prime source.

    Two men are sitting in front of a campfire, and one offers to pay the other to find and kill his sister who has disappeared into the mountains after a plane crash.

    I wake up excited and really want to tell this story. Why the heck does this guy want his sister murdered? Why does he think the other guy will do it? Who is the sister and why does she deserve to be murdered? Why the Old West setting, but a plane? Where exactly are they?

    I start to answer these questions in my head, figure out my main characters’ goals, and in this case do some serious research on the major MacGuffin why of the story. From this point, it’s mainly plot grunt work as I build the novel with a particular market in mind.

    Why this dream scene and not one of the many dreams I have every night? Excitement, the many possibilities offered, and a trust in that original gut feeling as I begin to build my novel.

  9. I find myself writing the opening chapter or two once I have a compelling opening scene. If I can’t stop, it becomes the next book I finish. Otherwise, it waits on the shelf with the others.

    More recently, I’ve discovered that I need my main characters to be MORE: more intelligent, more articulate, readier to plunge into danger, while fraying more visibly around the edges when they do. And younger. Being a zillion weight classes smaller than the person you have to overpower keeps things interesting. Hulking teenagers are less interesting than their somewhat younger selves.

  10. I operate more on the Jack London model of throwing oneself into adventures and later selecting some experiences to stitch into a cohesive story much like a patchwork quilt, filling in the real world gaps with imagination. Though I have to admit, I didn’t get around to the storytelling part until far later than London’s ~24 years.

    Yes, I did foil an airplane hijacking. Did you know stewardesses will happily let you lie down in the aisle without “a seat belt fastened low and tight about your waist.” Just have to have a hijacker as a pillow under you. Funny how that little fact never makes it into their standard pref-flight briefing.

    When the co-pilot comes back to check on injured stewardesses and steps a little too close, catching the hijacker’s nose that you just broke, it really is much like a rodeo experience of riding a bucking bronco.

    After a cop the size of Paul Bunyan takes your “pillow” away and you breath a sigh of relief that the ordeal is finally over while walking into the airport concourse, you discover, “No, not really.” The blood covering the front of your white shirt excites the hell out of all the other passengers. Life becomes even more interesting. Quick, “How do I avoid spending the next few nights in jail while the flatfoots sort this out?”

    Parts of my current WIP. And yes, IRL true, just need to supply some imagination as mortar between the bricks.

  11. Like Garry, I’m a “What If?” kinda guy. And like Sue, I’ll set it aside and see if it sticks around. If things get more serious, I’ll find a potential cover image and actually design a mock cover and stick it on a wall I walk by every day. If it keeps grabbing at me, I’ll take the next steps.

  12. I need an ending.
    I say that so confidently, as if I had any idea what I’m doing! In reality, the current series in progress started as a dream that overtook everything I had going at the time. And I definitely didn’t have as a clear an idea of an ending back then. Just an incredibly strong image.
    I’m technically more pantser than plotter, and I’ve been hijacked a time or two by both MC and side characters.
    Generally, though, I like to have at least some idea of the journey/destination before I get started!

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