Chris Batty wrote a short book about NaNoWriMo, designed to encourage the first-time novelist to dive in, whether or not s/he has a sound story idea yet.
There are things people can do, he urges, even if they don’t have a story idea yet.
I am one of those who needs more structure or substance to commit to the process (more than cheer-leaders and personal enthusiasm, I mean), but one big thing I learned from his book I recommend to any aspiring Novelist.
Get honest about your preferences.
Now, I talk about preferences in terms of personality, and I mean the word in the same way here: You have things that straight-up fit better and come easier for you. These are things you out-right LOVE.
The important thing about “doing what you love” isn’t necessarily that you’re better at it.
The important thing about “doing what you love” is that you will want to keep doing it, and do more, and stick with it when you hit a rough patch. It is such persistence that leads to being better. To being actually really good.
This is true in your noveling as well.
Take a break and make a list. Two lists, ultimately, so knowing yourself, decide if you’ll do this better sequentially (one after the other) or at the same time.
List 1: Things I like in a novel.
List 2: Things I don’t like in a novel.
This is crazy-important, even if you already have your story idea.
First, it’s important that your writing please you.
Many many writers describe their start as writing the book they always wanted to read, and quite often it was a book their newly discovered fans wanted to read as well.
Second, if you’ve already determined that ______________ makes you crazy in a story, you will (if you are ready to be both honest and challenged) become a better writer as you find other way to meet your story goals.
What do I mean?
I Hate (hate-hate-hate) conflict without motivation. And I can’t stand “misunderstandings” that exist only to advance the plot, that could be resolved by a simple, open conversation between the two descent people involved.
And I write fantasy with a romance element.
Which means that we’re-both-male-leaders-therefore-we-must-fight (I’m looking at YOU Prince Caspian!) and something-has-to-keep-us-to-of-bed-so-I-don’t-like-you-and-won’t-say-why (cliché problem to keep couple apart without threatening their imagined perfection) are both off the table.
I call those things lazy writing— taking the easy route– half defiantly, and half wistfully.
But it makes me work harder, better, to be true to myself and the sort of story I want to give my readers.
So, to get your juices flowing, here’s an example of my likes. I try to get as many likes in my story as possible, and, well, work around the dis likes as much as possible.
How do your likes/dislikes line up? Any must-haves or must-avoids you want to share?