I want to write a new book.
Sounds kind of pompous when expressed like that, doesn’t it? What I mean is that I have the desire to write again after finishing a novel in January.
Some writers start new projects the very next day. Others wait a year. Many fall somewhere between those two extremes. It usually depends on whether you have another book contract/deadline to deal with and/or how fast you can refill the well.
Whether your turnaround is quick, moderate, or slow, the first stage of preparing for a new project is Desire.
You should want to immerse yourself in the new story world. Do you feel curiosity about these glimmers of characters in your mind? Are you eager to turn over the stones of what-ifs and see what lies beneath?
The next stage is Active Development. This is where you start purposefully shifting these flickers and bits of idea over to plot and character notes. Who’s the protagonist? Who’s the antagonist? What’s the story goal? How can I set up conflict? What’s the outcome?
Active Development is a process where I’m pretty secretive. I’m not talking about my premise. I’m not telling anyone that I’m working up something new. I shy away from such questions. I’m vague and evasive.
I could say that’s due to paranoia. After all, some other writer might hear me talking about it and rush to a keyboard and write the story before I can. Silly? Maybe. The important reason for not talking has to do with building steam. If I don’t discuss the characters or the plot, then I’m forcing myself to think about it. If I don’t give the story any other outlet–including blogging–then I have to start blocking out scenes and plot twists.
The next stage is Testing. I have to get tough with myself and pull on my professional experience to really test my story premise. Where are the plot holes? Is this character complex and interesting or just one-dimensional and stupid? Testing also includes writing out a complete plot synopsis or outline.
Polishing that takes a while. Then I run it past my agent to see if he can pick holes in it. Changes are made. I think through it again.
Finally, I reach the stage of Writing. The story is launched. The project is underway. I’m never sure of myself when writing the book’s beginning. I don’t feel secure until I’m about three chapters in. I am, admittedly, cranky. I growl a lot. I snap at people.
To paraphrase Mario Puzo’s Don Corleone, It’s not personal, folks. It’s business.
Over the years, I’ve learned the hard way not to jump from the Desire stage to the Writing stage without taking the steps in between. I just end up throwing out the pages. Better to do it right from the beginning.