Friday, November 30, 2012

I want to write a book, part 1 WRITING PROMPTS

Welcome to my blog series I want to write a book. The tips I'm providing are what worked for me. Of course there are many paths to many places, so use these as suggestions on your journey to becoming a writer.

On a daily basis I receive emails from aspiring writers on how to begin the writing process.  Some have penned poems, others have even taken to writing a book, and then there are some that just don't even know where to start.

So, for them, we're going to start this series at the very beginning. Before you write, you need something to write about.

You've seen the shows where the therapist gives their patient a word and they have to come up with the first thing that comes to mind. Well, writing is much like that. Sometimes once the creative process starts you just can't stop. But where is your muse? What's going to make you want to sit down and spend all day looking at your computer?

If you have an idea, then my advice is to puke it out. (this is the topic of part 2)

For those who don't have a story idea begin to surf your local internet. That's right. Those who have come before us in this process have generously given us data bases full of names and ideas. Idiot proof, right?

I often use a name generator for my characters. I don't always use what they suggest, but it begins to give me ideas. Not only are there name generators there are promt generators. You can add in as much information as you'd like or as little.  Some even make lists for you and you can begin to weave the tale.

Image source sites are very helpful. You can see pictures of almost anything in the world and a beautiful sunset over the ocean will help any writer.

The interesting part about prompts is that if you give the same image to multiple writers you'll get multiple stories.

That sunset I mentioned before, for one author they might see it as the ending to the perfect romance. You know the kind (like I write), happily ever after. Another might see it as the perfect beginning for the perfect murder mystery. Once the sun sets you never know what might happen on the sandy beaches of Mars (yes...I added some sci-fi.)

A great exercise, and I do this even today, is to sit down and just write out a bunch of words. (Yes, there are going to be generators for this too!) Random is great. Look over your list. I'll bet you start pulling together another list.

I do this with titles. Let's look at my Aspen Creek series. I created a town and gave it a name. Easy! Now, the nice part about a town is it will have lots of different people in it.  Some are going to be life long residents, others are going to wander through and get stuck. There will be families. There will be loners. Someone has to own the store, the restaurant, the gas station. Someone has to work at the bank, the school, the police station. The glory of these small town series are intermixing all your characters all the time.

Again, take for example Aspen Creek. In my first book the two main characters grew up next door to each other. Story! They know the woman who runs the bakery, she has a story! The president of the bank, who they also grew up with, he has a story. Book two in series focuses on a middle school teacher, who grew up with the characters from the first book.  See the glory in it? Just like the relationships in your own life, you can build on these relationships for your characters.

Likewise, now that there is a list of all the businesses you'd have in a small town your mind can have some free range with titles. First Kiss, Last Kiss, a Kiss Goodbye, a Deadly Kiss, Tomorrow's Kiss, Snow's Bitter Kiss... Just making that list I got a few ideas! Bonus for me!

Play with making lists. Keep track of them too, you'll find you come back to them often.

When you get something that just feels right, take some time to write up a little blurb about the story. I'm not a plotter. You might find you are, that's fine. There are many resources for the writer who likes to plan out plots. Take some time to find out what you are. There will be a process that works for you, but unless you try them all, you'll never know. (AH! part 3 in my series!)

Back to the blurb...this is what you'd find on the back of the book. Think about this instant idea you've just had because you put down the words WHEN HARRY MET SALLY. (yeah...I'm pulling from one of the greats! Nora Ephron you're my hero!) So you think, two people who keep meeting and don't like each other, then one day they meet and become friends. And then they fall in love, but don't want to admit it, but then they do. Get it?

Writing the blurb when I have the title or idea fresh in my head has always been a bonus. You're going to need it anyway and once the story is written its hard to pull out these little lines. But, if you start with them they are your guide too.

So, before you dive into writing a 90,000 word manuscript (another one of my topics...all books do not have to have this many words...people know when you're just stretching a story) brainstorm as many ideas as you can. If you just can't come up with anything as your friends. Trust me, everyone has an idea for a book. I think you'll be surprised on how quickly your list will grow. I once sat down and created a list of twenty-eight titles. So far  THE EXECUTIVE'S DECISION, A SECOND CHANCE, FIRST KISS, MATCHMAKERS, and CANDY KISSES have all come from that first list. The only reason there aren't more, yet, is that I write fast...yes a book in 2 months always, but there is only so much time. Likewise, once you pen one you might find it has its own set to follow. THE EXECUTIVE'S DECISION and MATCHMAKERS are fine examples. They were supposed to be single title books. However, THE EXECUTIVE'S DECISION has a family and people wanted to know about these other parts of the family. MATCHMAKERS has a teenager whom people fell in love with. She needed a story. It spawned a series.

Yes, you'll deviate from your list, but in the end you'll always have it to draw from.

Get to writing. You never know when a few words scribbled on a piece of paper might become the next bestseller!

Good Luck!

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