Our Thoughts


June 16, 2014

What Comes After The Book Idea

You have an idea and you think it could potentially be a book but now what? What do you do after you’ve scribbled in your notepad your story idea. What comes next?

How do I begin is a question I get asked over and over again. Should I try for x amount of words a day? Give myself deadlines? Should I hire someone to help me, maybe go to a low residency MFA program? What’s next?

Here’s what I tell authors:

Get to Know Your Story
Before you even begin to write, it’s important to get to know the story you’re writing. You want to solidify the intention behind writing your story, but also, come up with the nuts and bolts of the piece before you jump in. You don’t have to know all the answers, simply the bare bones of it.

How you do this is by answering the following questions:

1) Who is your protagonist? What does he or she want? What is their goal? Or another way to put this, what is the conflict? Maybe they want to find their way home like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, maybe they want to get out of an unhealthy relationship.

2) What are the obstacles that prevent your protagonist from achieving their goal? Think of scenes you could potentially add that would push your character farther away from reaching their end goal. In the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy has to get to OZ and along the way comes across many obstacles, including the Wicked Witch.

3) When the goal is reached, or maybe it’s not, what happens to your protagonist? How do they change? For memoir, the character has to change somehow – an event happens and it should somehow affect the character’s life.

Once you’ve answered the above questions you now have the pieces you need to begin writing.

- In the first page or two we need to see your character’s conflict – this is what engages the reader to keep reading. You always want your reader to be asking questions, so that they are curious as to what happens next?

- Once we know what their want is or need then that’s when you start putting barriers in their way to achieve the goal.

- Then they achieve their goal, or maybe they don’t, and we see what happens as a result of it.


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