With the What's Your Process Blogfest coming up next week (sign up here!), I thought I'd do a whole series on the writing process (or rather, MY writing process). On blogfest day, I'll do the biggie-- my process for rewriting.
But today, I wanted to start at the beginning: the idea.
There are a million ways an idea for a book starts. For Devs, it started with a quote from a movie. For BaB, it was another book I read. For TUGL, it was a conversation with my dad and husband about an article I'd read online. The point? Ideas can come from anywhere.
I've tried to train my brain to look for them. With every new thing I find fascinating, with every odd person I see on the street, with everything I read, I ask myself this: Where is the story in this?
Once that little spark of an idea takes root in my brain, it percolates for a few days-- or sometimes much longer. My subconscious works at it even when my conscious brain doesn't. I start to form a story from the initial concept. Who is my main character? A girl or guy? What's the setting? How does this, that, and the other work-- what are the rules?
After my brain has hashed out some of the basics, I create a new file under my "Shallee's Stories" file. The very first document that goes into this new file is my idea dump. I type out all the things my brain has come up with, and then I just let it go. I ask a million questions about all the details I've come up with so far, including a lot of "whys" and "so whats." I start developing the world. I start finding out about my characters beyond their gender. I try to figure out where the actual STORY is in all this mess of questions.
This usually takes days, at least. The very last thing I do is something new I'm trying out with TUGL. I got it from this amazing article by Donald Maas. I ask myself the questions he says to ask:
"The gift: Think about your favorite fiction…what element unifies it? In other words, what do you love best about the novels that you love?...Make sure that element’s strong in your WIP.
The challenge: What is it that you—yes, you—least want to accept, refuse to feel, fear is true, find unbearable, feel angriest about, or avoid at any cost? What do you see around you that makes you sick? What in yourself makes you terrified?
Go further: What’s the truth that underlies all things? What principle guides human behavior? What’s the greatest insight you’ve even had about yourself? Or even just this: What do you know about anything that nobody else does?"
I was amazed at how much of my actual story became more clear once I answered these questions, and how strong it made my initial story concept. Once I have this all figured out, I separate out the different parts of my idea dump into new documents so it's all organized.
Then I'm ready for my next step: characterization. We'll talk about that on Wednesday!
So, my friends, how do your ideas come? How do you develop them? Share with us-- or sign up for the blogfest next Tuesday, and give us the nitty-gritty details then!