Friday, August 19, 2011

Advice for YOUR Story- The Idea

            As an experienced wattpad writer, I have learned so much about writing from the years of experience from other writers in the same situation- or at least used to be in the same situation as me- that I want to share my knowledge with YOU. This is a series of blog posts guiding you through the process of writing- from the idea to publishing. So, I’d like to start at the beginning- getting the idea.
            Some people want to try writing, but don’t have an idea for their future story. Usually what you hear is “you can get an idea from anywhere and everywhere.” It is true, but most soon-to-be-writers don’t know where to start looking and they get overwhelmed. That’s why I’m here. After much thinking and extensive research, I have made a list of good places to start looking for an idea. (no particular order)
1.      Twitter/Buzz Posts- Some posts are very interesting and some people actually put thought into their posts. Keep an eye out for some inspirational thoughts for your story. That doesn’t mean start stalking people; just when you’re reading posts, think about possible stories that could be inspired by it.
2.      Magazine/Newspaper Articles- This is an especially good place to find ideas for sifi stories, but you can get ideas for stories for other genres too. I suggest thinking about the story behind the story- the life behind it. I’d pay attention to the title too. If it’s catchy, try considering using it for the tiel for your story. I use this trick for songwriting too.
3.      Special/Treasured Items (family heirlooms, childhood toys, etc.)- Maybe as a child, you imagined your toy had magical abilities. Funfact: Andrea Pearsin, author of the published ebook Key of Kilenya, got the inspiration for her book from a key from her childhood.
4.      Greeting Cards- Considering most greeting cards have poems, it would only take some time in the card section of your local supermarket to find an inspirational line for at least the title of your story. If you’re gonna use a line from a greeting card for your title, keep it short and memorable. However, I do not recommend this method for horror stories. This method works best for romance stories or maybe even fantasy/sifi.
5.      TV Shows- Everybody watches TV and since you’re already watching TV every day, why not look for inspiration there? It could be a single line, a conversation, or even the concept of the show/episode that inspires you. I suggest using this method with episodes you’ve already watched since you pay more attention to what’s happening with new episodes.
6.      Songs- Most songs are based off of real life so one of the best ways to make sure your story is relatable and realistic is to base it off of a song. Note: Taylor Swift songs work the best with this method because she writes about her own life. It might be even a couple words or a line that inspires your story.
7.      Books- Be careful with this one. Don’t copy the author’s idea. Take a sentence or two instead. I use this often when I’m songwriting. A couple of song titles I got from an ebook called The Sapphire Flute by Karen E Hoover are Reopened Wound and Windows to His Soul. (These would also work well as story titles) Considering it’s a fantasy novel, those titles have nothing to do with the novel, yet I got them from the book. So when you’re reading (Note: serious writers read a lot of books especially in their genre) keep a lookout for inspiration. You never know what you’ll find.
8.      Personal Events- This is the best method by far since you experienced it, so you know exactly what it feels like so you can make the story very realistic. You know the saying. “Write what you know.” You’d be surprised at what you’d end up with. 

Now that you have an idea or many ideas, you need to know if the idea will work. To do so, ask yourself these questions:
1.    Is it original?
Nothing could be 100% original but the least you could do is make sure it isn’t cliché. Here is a list of cliché story ideas that you might want to avoid:

·         Vampires- I don’t know how the Twilight craze started- I read the first 3 books and they weren’t that special- but since then, there has been a wave of vampire stories on wattpad. There are so many that wattpad created a whole new section for them. Some are very unique and very well-written- and they have been getting better by a bit- but the good ones have been drowned in a sea of cliché, poorly-written vamp stories that go the same way- hot, sparkly vampire falls in love with a human and tries to resist the urge to bite her. You can write a vampire story (please, not cliché) but keep in mind that it might be a bit hard to make yours shine amongst all of the others.
·         Werewolves- Again, started by Twilight. Most werewolf stories are werewolf mate stories. Usually, the girl finds out she is the mate of someone she hates. Same principle goes with werewolf and vampire stories- it will be drowned in the sea of the others.
·         Fallen Angels- I don’t even know how this even started but it’s one of those up-and-coming trends. I predict that there will be a lot more of these in the future. If you don’t know what a fallen angel is, it’s an angel that has been banished from heaven. Usually, an angel falls in love with a human and reveals her secret thus getting banished.
·         Teacher/Student Love- Pretty self-explanatory. I haven’t read any twists on this trend, but if you have any ideas on how to add an original, unique spin to this tired, overdone cliché, go for it. I’d love to read it.
·         Arranged Marriage- Girl’s and guy’s parents arrange a marriage for them, but they hate each other. Over time, they realize they actually love each other.
·         Good Girl (or nerd) Falls for Jerk (or jock)- Again, pretty self-explanatory. Some people are suckers for this kind of romance and I have to admit that I like them, but you would have a bigger audience if there was an original factor to it. Maybe a different view or something.

Keep in mind that I’m not saying that you can’t ever write stories about these subjects. It’s actually encouraged to create unique, refreshing twists on these subjects (maybe even put some together and twist them around until they’re not even that recognizable), but it’s very hard to advertise your story if it’s a true cliché.

2.     Will other people like it?
Depending on the person you ask, you will get a different answer to if you should write for the market or for the pleasure. The purist in me wants to say that you should write for the pleasure, but let’s face it: you need the compliments. They’re the motivation you need when you don’t feel like writing or when you have writer’s block. There’s always that reassuring thought in the back of your head that people actually LIKE your work. And without motivation, you will never finish your story let alone get it published. But then again, you have to write what you love. You need to find a balance of both- the marketable and the original. You need to make sure other people can relate to it at the same time take a risk. Denis Johnson keeps a sign over his office door that reads, "Write the unpublishable...and then publish it." It worked for him so it just might work for you.

3.     Does something happen?
It seems like the most obvious questions, but it’s one of the most important questions. It has to have a central conflict as well as a smaller conflict to vary the story a little. A good conflict is something that if you take it away, there would be no story. It has to change the main character’s life upside down. Think about your idea to find a central conflict. If your idea is about a boy who gets sent back to the medieval times, ask yourself: What challenges would he face? (this is just an example)

4.     Do YOU like the idea?
The average time to write a novel from start to finish is 3-7 YEARS. Yes, years and no I am not exaggerating. If you’re going to spend that much time on 1 project, you have to like it (at least some of the time). There are going to be times that you just want to give up. There are going to be times that you have writer’s block and can’t write for a month. It’s all a big test to see if your idea is great or not. If you like the idea so much that you actually endure those 3-7 years and finish the story, the idea is actually pretty good. Ask yourself if YOU would pay money for the book. Ask yourself if you would recommend it to someone else.

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