Monday, February 1
Starting a Novel? Let Your Idea Simmer
Story ideas tend to simmer in my brain awhile before I turn them into a novel. I like to think about them, brainstorm them, discuss them with writer pals and my husband, and play with them to see the different facets.
I usually do this as I’m working on another project that’s past the fun, creative stage and well into the hard work stage, such as revision. It’s a way to flex my creative muscles while my analytical muscles are doing the really heavy lifting (and get a jump start on the next book).
What I like about this brain simmer, is that nothing is set in stone yet. I can take an idea in one direction, run with it for a while to see where it leads, and if I don’t like that route, change course and try again.
The idea remains, but what I could do with it changes.
I’ve started off with a cool idea for a young adult fantasy novel that ended up being much better suited to adult paranormal suspense.
I’ve brainstormed adult stories that wound up as great middle grade novels.
I’ve plotted fun, lighthearted adventure tales that worked so much better as dramas.
I’ve even taken title options for one series and turned the into novel ideas for another series (in a completely different genre and market no less).
First thoughts aren’t always the best, and letting an idea simmer is a useful way to see what other options that idea might have. We have the freedom to explore it without a plot or outline restricting our creativity, or directing us down a predetermined path.
Pantsers probably enjoy this all the time, but I think it’s especially good for us outliners and plotters. Once we decide on a course, we tend to stick to our maps and keep our stories nice and tight. We have an outline, and we’re going to follow it!
But a brain simmer needs no outline.
It just wanders around the landscapes of our imaginations until it finds a place to settle down.
And then we can fence it in and write it.
How long do you think about a story before you write it?
Planning Your Novel: Ideas and Structure, a series of self-guided workshops that help you turn your idea into a novel.
Janice Hardy is the founder of Fiction University, and the author of the teen fantasy trilogy The Healing Wars, where she tapped into her own dark side to create a world where healing was dangerous, and those with the best intentions often made the worst choices. Her novels include The Shifter, (Picked as one of the 10 Books All Young Georgians Should Read, 2014) Blue Fire, and Darkfall from Balzer+Bray/Harper Collins. The first book in her Foundations of Fiction series, Planning Your Novel: Ideas and Structure is out now.
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