You’ve written pages and you can see the story you’re writing clearly in your mind, but can’t figure out how to get it on paper. This is my first time blogging about my writing process. Now, when I look back over the posts, I think I have taken a lot of what I normally do for granted, especially for anyone that's reading this blog and hasn’t written before nor is sure on how to start a manuscript and finish it. Today’s post is inspired by a friend of mind. This friend is an avid reader, but I know a good writer is lurking inside of her. With this in mind, I will attempt to go over how I can start writing and keep until the manuscript is finished, as there is never a time at this stage in the game for me that I do not finish a manuscript.
Here’s one thing that’s true. I get ideas all of the time for a new book. I can be watching television, like the other day. The other day I watched the ‘Magnificent Seven’ for the first time. I wasn’t really watching it and more like the television was writing me, but in movies you can tell when something good is happening because the background music gets intense. I happened to look up and saw one of the characters get killed by an Native American. For some reason when I saw this scene, I shit you not, I stopped watching and pulled up a blank sheet of paper on my laptop and wrote out an entirely different scene as it came to me. I’m an author that writes under different genres. I have always loved historical books as a reader, but honestly speaking, when I came to a firm decision to become a writer, I saw myself writing Thriller-Suspense more than anything else. But in my opinion, a true writer has more than one book inside them and they can write about just about anything.
This chapter I wrote spur of the moment, wow! It’s very good! I mean really good, and as soon as I started writing it, I actually wondered if once I have it done will it outdo sales on my current books on the market, which is saying a lot. I’m a panster, as you know, so when I start a manuscript, half the times I have no idea what my story is ALL about. But that doesn’t stop me. As long as I can see pieces and allow the characters to tell the story to me, I know that in the end I will have something fantastic worth reading. The idea hit me so hard that I had to write it down, and after I started writing, more about this spur of the moment book started coming to me. I became so enthralled by what this out of the blue character started telling me that I was like, 'Whoa, girl (it was a female character). You have such a good story to tell.' BUT I have to put that project on hold until I finish the one I’m working on. I have no worries at all. The only reason I did start writing it out is because good ideas, you have to capture them when they come, because if you don’t you’ll lose it or not remember it as well as when you first got it. Now, because I have the first two chapters written down, I can always go back and pick up where I left off, because I can assure you that the voices about that book can’t wait to finish telling the story to me.
Anyhow, one thing remains true for me. One thing that I’ve learned that makes the writing process so much the more easier, and that is: I never start a manuscript that isn’t strongly pulling at me to put the story on paper. So rule number one is:
1. Only start a manuscript that I strongly feel led to write.
I want to break this down a little more. It doesn’t matter if I have a good book idea and I can sit down and can write out an outline (in my mind). In other words, I’m not going to waste time writing a book that I’m telling the characters what to do versus the characters telling me what happened to them. I'm going to say this too, and it's something that a very well known literary agent once told me that I found to be very, very true. Just because you get a good book idea doesn't mean that's the particular story that you were meant to tell. To give you an example what I mean is, I love Romance is the number one selling genre and has been the number one selling genre for years. I'm a good writer, but Romance (in its genre) I'm not good at writing, although I'm a helluva writer. Being a good writer doesn't mean it's meant for me to write Romance, because my strengths in writing are action, adventure, and twisting plots. So what's the problem? The problem is ALL Romance books follow the same formula. Don't cross this formula or try and change it is my opinion, because statistics have proven that readers will not appreciate the change. They read Romance books because of the formula: two people meet, they hate each other and like each other at the same time, something or someone is trying to keep them apart, they end up together in the end because they hav fallen in love. There are strict rules to writing Romance. One of them being no hanky panky, no going all the way until the end or toward the end of the book. That rule does not jive with my kind of writing, so although I love Romance, I wouldn't make a good Romance writer. My suggestion to everyone reading this blog is know what genre you ARE good at writing first before you tackle a project. The reason being you will have an easier time starting a manuscript and finishing it.
That was free advice. Now it's time for me to get back on point, which is my number two step in my process. The second thing I focus on and helps me get started is... I must have an idea of what the problem’s going to be in the story. A fiction book isn’t about characters living their daily lives. A fiction book isn’t about a character that faces personal challenges on a daily basis. A fiction book is about a character facing one dilemma that a reader can identify with, and that one dilemma becomes the focal point throughout the book.
I use the same books a lot when I give examples, mostly because they are successful books that probably you have read, and if you’ve read them, you will understand clearly what I’m trying to say. But there are so many books on the market, the possibility of you reading any that I mention is hard to do. So let’s use one of my books today.
In “The Rise of the Eiglexx,” which is the second book in my sci-fi series, it opens with Ericka awakening after she’s been genetically modified by the aliens that have invaded Earth. Not only has she been modified, but she has been given to the half alien prince as his mate/wife.
Do you see how that one theme can become an entire story?
An opening of a book should become the theme of the storyline. In The Rise of the Eiglexx, Ericka is dealing with having a new genetically modified body while coping with her role as the wife of the half alien prince. That one little theme and readers are engrossed with the storyline and become excited to read about Ericka's journey. Just to give you an idea about how well that theme has been received, my sci-fi series reached #41 on Amazon as one of the most sci-fi books sold for an entire week, which happened to be the length of time I promoted the books. The Rise of the Eiglexx was also entered in the Los Angeles Times best fiction books of 2017. The winners haven't been announced yet, but even if I don't win, just knowing how well the book has done and is doing makes me feel good as an author.
So you’ve got a good book idea and you have no problems writing the first pages, but then you hit a brick wall and become unsure where to go from there. Some writers outline their entire book before they write a single page. If that works better for you, then definitely do it. As for me, this doesn’t work, and from what I’ve heard from people that do outline, they can outline an entire chapter but when they sit down to write, something else comes to mind and they end up writing that instead. But let’s get back to the point. You have written several pages and have hit a brick wall. You might ask yourself why. My answer to you is because you are unsure about your book’s dilemma, that one theme the entire book will focus on.
Here is my process. After I’m sure about the story I want to write about, the second thing I do is find the dilemma. The voices are talking to me. They’re telling me what happened to them. I must listen to them to find out what their story is truly about. I must pinpoint that one dilemma, because if I don’t, I find myself writing pages and chapters I’m going to be unable to use or pages that have no true focus or pages that are leading me off in many different directions. I need one direction to focus on. If I know that direction, the book becomes easy to write and I can walk readers page after page in one straight course by introducing them to the dilemma, then taking them through the painstaking ordeals the character faced to get the dilemma resolved. And that, dear friend, is what a book is about. A bestselling book, that is.
By presenting a reader with more than one dilemma, it throws off their focus and also makes them wonder what the book is truly about. So here is what I do.
2. Find the dilemma/theme for the entire book and introduce it in the first chapter.
Sometimes finding the theme is hard to do and will only come about after you’ve written several unusable chapters. I’m calling them unusable chapters because once you get the theme of your book, your creative juices will start flowing and pouring out of you, and you just might find yourself on a different course than you intended when you first sat down to write.
That takes me to step three. All fiction books have an antagonist, someone or something trying to stop your characters at every turn. This is something I want to know BEFORE I commit myself to a new manuscript. Now here’s the thing. Sometimes I think I know who my antagonist is at the start. As long as I have that, I don’t stop myself from writing. But on occasion, I can get far into the book and discover that my antagonist is actually someone else. Do I get upset? Nope! Because I can continue writing and use this new realization as a twist in the plot. I may have to go back and alter previously written chapters to support this, but in the end I’m more than satisfied of the results. So rule number three before I start is:
3. Know who my antagonist is.
So basically what I need to start a manuscript and commit to finish it are the three things that all fiction books have:
1. Main character
2. A goal (a dilemma that becomes the book's theme)
3. An antagonist
If I know who my main characters are, what they’re goal is (their dilemma that must be resolved), and who it is that’s trying to stop them, this eliminates my writing process from becoming difficult. Why? Because in books, the dilemma should always be present in front of the reader. If the author has something to focus on, the readers have something to focus on. If the author knows who’s trying to stop their characters from reaching their goals, they can be extremely creative in writing a compelling novel. So ask yourself. Who is the main character in your book? What dilemma are they facing? Who is trying to stop them from reaching their goal?
If you can easily answer those three questions, I’m more than sure that you want to stop reading and start writing. And don’t forget what I mentioned in a previous thread about the plot. A plot is an event that leads to an event that leads to another event. A starting event that leads to another event that leads to another event!
Keep writing and don’t give up! Even if you’ve written so far into your story and realize you can’t use most of it, don’t give up. Fix what you have. If you have to start over, do it. Your goal should be giving a reader one of the next bestselling books that’s available on the market.
You're seeing a lot of posts today because I'm still catching up. For several days my schedule got the better of me. I wanted to post on those days, but couldn't.
I'm excited about this blog project and I hope you get as much from it as you can. And remember, you're not going to learn everything there is about writing in a single day, but I do truly believe that this blog will help you along your individual process.