M.A. Wohl

Writer on a Quest

Writer Notebook is a serie of blog post on how to develop an idea for a novel

There’s the Snowflake method.

The 3 acts structure method.

The « I don’t give a rat’s ass about writing methods, I’m a real writer, I write with my soul, and I just wanna write my mind-blowing novel and have the world bow before me, got it? » method.

Every writer’s approach to writing a novel is slightly different.

For sure.

But every writer, from the all-mighty tortured ones to the humble aspiring ones (like yours truly), have one thing in common.

Yep, that’s right.

Every writer have to write. the. novel.

From the idea to the book on the shelves, it’s an adventure!

In this series, I go through my process to develop an idea for a novel, hoping it can help other writers.

First: Let’s brainstorm!

Rough Brainstorm

Since I always write for a young audience, I don’t ask myself the question « what my target audience », but I should!
You know, get out of my comfort zone as a writer and all that jazz, but that’s a topic for another day!

I have three story ideas for middle-graders and teens.

I wrote each idea for a novel in a sentence, two at the very, very most. In the sentence, I have a character, a desir or an event, and the how the character plans to fulfill the desir OR how the character reacts to the event. In a fun and original way, of course, ha!
Like a one-liner to describe a movie, or like what a teacher, at some point, will ask the students to do in a creative writing class.

For me, that’s how I see if the story is « worth » (I hate that word, it’s so judgemental) working on.
I can see if I have all the basics elements and if it’s original at all.
If I come with something that sounds like « When a princess is taken prisoner, a guy stranded on a distant planet leaves everything behind to rescue her« , well, even if I have THE PERFECT PLOT TWIST for it, no.

As for the literary genre of choice.

Well, it’s also a question to ask when developing a story idea but personally, when I have an idea for a novel, the literary genre is kinda… included, implied?
I write in the broad Fantasy category most of the time. I love it
I tried last year to write a contemporary romance, but… it was a bit… not… good?!? Hahaha, anyway, the idea is so cute, I will do a complete re-write one of these days. With a better outline.

One idea is for a fantasy novel, one idea is for speculative/dystopian novel, one idea is for a contemporary romance novel.

The Fantasy novel requires a lot of work. It’s a vague idea, inspired by two teens waiting for their school bus.

Disclaimer: I don’t mean any offense to people touched by the health crisis involving the corona virus. The human dramas behind is what inspired this novel idea.
The Speculative one is inspired by the Corona Virus crisis and I feel like I should wait for the denouement before working on it. Plus, speculative and dystopian are not super hot genre right now.

The Contemporary Romance novel is tricky, but it would fulfill my need to contribute more in finding solutions for the environmental mess we’re all in.
From what I see in the Publishers Weekly daily newsletter, environmental is not a super popular topic among YA and Middle-Grade authors.
Of course, the romance would take over the underlying environmental issues, but it would still be a big part as it is the cause that propels the main characters into its journey.

Brainstorm basics

I’m discarding the Speculative novel.

Ends the Fantasy novel and the Contemporary novel.

I can’t decide just yet, so I will go through the brainstorm basic with both ideas and see which one gets me the most excited!

My brainstorm basics are simple. First, I use the 5ws + How questions I’ve learned back when I had classes in journalism and technical writing, so :

  • Who
  • What
  • When
  • Where
  • Why
  • How

Then, I use the basics of a fairytale hero’s journey to flesh out the characters, the story, the world, so:

  • Hero in a peaceful state is longing for something or is confronted with a new thing
  • Hero goes on a quest to get the something or deals with the new thing
  • Hero is face with difficulties
  • Hero fails
  • Hero gathered up courage
  • Hero gathered up friends
  • Hero conquers all
  • Hero is decorated, thanked; the hero’s quest is fulfilled
  • Hero is back to peaceful

That stage takes one or two hours of dedicated work.

Before going through the brainstorming basics, I clear my schedule. I grabbed a notebook and a pen. And I write.

It’s one of favorite stage. My notebook’s are very messy.

At the beginning, I would dedicate two or three pages just to write miscellaneous ideas about the main character, for example.
The 5 Ws + How will appear at some point.
I often simply re-copy the whole thing afterward, in order to be able to have a useable document to work with.

I’ll go do just that with both of those idea.

To know which one I choose, make sure to read the next blog post in this serie, OUTLINING for people who really have a hard time outlining, heehee!

I hope this helps. Thanks for reading and see you very soon for the next round of the Writer Notebook serie!

Sources:

SOURCES:

On the Internet-verse:

Well-Storied

Helping Authors becomes Authors

Samantha Allaker 

Vivien Reis

Katytastic

On paper: 

The Anatomy of Story, by John Trudy

Save the Cat!, by Blake Snyder

On Writing, by Stephen King

Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott

Comment je suis devenu cannibale, de François Gravel

What do you think? Let me know down below!

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