5 Tips For Preparing Your Best Story
Sometimes getting started and putting your ideas down onto paper is the hardest step in your journey to becoming a writer, lets break this down!
1. Where does your story take place?
Now, I love a list, I’d have one for every aspect of my life if I could. There is something immensely rewarding about striking your pen through an accomplishment, even if it is only cleaning the shower or getting through two loads of washing. You don’t need to have exact details yet of where your characters are based but having more than one idea noted down will help. Chances are your ideas will evolve but at this stage, this is a great way of discovering the bare bones of your work.
Depending on what your chosen genre is, even the most notably normal locations can work wonders for your story. Horror always works well with quiet places; the library, a graveyard, a disused factory. Romance flourishes when there is a sandy beach at sunset or maybe a picnic in the park. I’m sure you can see where I am going with this, they may be expected but they work for a reason. The setting choice; no matter what the genre is, will set the tone for your work. I would like to note that there are stories that blur the lines between genres but this is something you will discover as you read and write more.
2. What is your protagonist’s history?
Think of this as though you are reading the answers your main character has given to a questionnaire about their life. Now only twenty percent of all the information you create will ever be used in your actual story but I have found that when you know your characters inside and out it enables you to write gripping storylines and realistic speech. The idea is you are thinking of them as a real person.
The background of your protagonist and the other characters in your work can be as minimal or as detailed as you wish. They can be paragraphs long, one or two sentences or even just a few descriptive words. My characters are filed away in notepads and I have everything from where they went to primary school to what jobs their parents do for a living. The devil is in the details.
3. What would your story look like if it was set out like a movie?
Breaking our stories into chapters is sometimes one of the last things we do in the process of finishing a project. Every writer has a different process and this is a staple of mine. Here is where point number one in this list comes in handy. Note down all the major events in your story, leaving out any unnecessary detail at this stage. Noting that the love interest of your protagonist dies is key information; the fact that she is sad about it is not key at this point in the process. Once you have a numbered list you can then go into more detail for each section. You don’t need to worry about how much you write at this moment. Think quality, not quantity.
For some of you, you will already have a well-rounded idea of what needs to happen. Some of you may not have any information at all.
When you feel like you have a good idea of what the layout of your story is you can move on, identifying at this stage what you are missing. Any good self-help book or blog on writing will tell you that there are certain things every story must-have. I found a great post on this and will link it at the end.
Having your story laid out in this shorthand note form means that you can chop and move your story about if you need to. For instance having someone die in the beginning and then realising they are mentioned as being present in chapter thirty-five will haunt you if it goes unnoticed; some of the best authors do it, especially when you are writing a series. This is where your character biographies really come in handy.
4. Why should you edit as you go?
If there is one thing that every self-published author will tell you it is that editing is pretty much second on the list when it comes to being a successful writer. Number one being that you are able to actually build a story. Once your finished work is ready to cross an editor’s desk you want to know that you did everything you could to make sure it is of a high standard.
Now my biggest hate when it comes to my writing is self-editing. I am not going to sit here and tell you there is not a single discrepancy in my work because that would be a lie. Even though I paid a highly recommended editor I know there will probably still be some mistakes lurking somewhere. Even editors are fallible. It happens to every writer and you have to be able to reach a point where you can forgive yourself. But with that said, self-editing a chapter at a time is not only helpful to iron out any grammar mistakes or repetition of words it enables you to look at your work from a reader’s point of view. Is it slow, is there enough speech, is it descriptive enough?
Asking yourself these questions will help you in the long run.
5. Why should I have a writing plan?
I have three children, a day job, chores, the need to shower, and at some point sleep is always a good idea. On top of all that and all the other necessary things that we need to complete on a daily basis, I love to write. I learned early on that if I didn’t carve out specific times to write I never would, there was always something else that needed doing. I learned that little lesson the hard way when I fell pregnant with my third child. I pretty much turned my back on all things writing for an entire year.
If you can find a place to write where the children aren’t running around your ankles and the washing up is out of sight then this needs to be your new office. I once wrote for an hour a day in my car when my husband got home from work, so the space you have available doesn’t need to be big. It’s a bonus if it is somewhere with a cup holder and a place to rest a packet of crisps; if this is the only time you are not hearing mummy for what feels like the thousandth time that day then you might as well enjoy yourself. If you do have children, work, or a general lack of time to write I would suggest that your plan be very flexible in the beginning.
Give yourself the challenge of writing for a certain amount of hours in a week and divvy up the writing time as you go. If anything important comes up or even if you just don’t have the motivation to write after a long day, you won’t make yourself feel guilty. Pressuring yourself to write will never produce anything useable in the long run.