I thought I had an IDEA. I didn’t.


My last post was an open letter to readers about my new series of blog posts, chronicling my journey to write the first draft of a new novel.

I have an idea.

This is what having a new idea feels like:

My idea is not quite as original as Emmet’s double-decker couch. *Sigh.*

As many of us know, an “idea” is just not enough. But we’ve got to start somewhere, right? And it’s that seed of an idea – a “what if?” question, a character, a unique setting – that inspires a story.

So I have an idea. When it came to me, I immediately wrote it down – just took some quick notes about the characters who popped into my head and what I knew about them thus far. It really wasn’t much. But my interest was piqued, and I knew this was something I’d like to give more thought.

*Tangent – For me, characters come first. (I’ll be writing about this in my next post!) I’ve realized it’s better to wait, to hash out more of the details, before I put my fingers to the keyboard. Because unfortunately, everything else, including the plot/conflict and the story world, is incredibly vague at this point.

The Notebook.

When I realized I wanted this idea to be my next novel, I decided it needed it’s own notebook. I’ve tried to keep my notes about WIPs in my idea journal, but it just doesn’t work. I like to have everything in one place – so why not designate a separate notebook to the idea with potential?

(I take notes/outline/brainstorm on paper. I draft on the computer.)

And since then, anything/everything related to this idea has made it’s way into the Notebook. (It shall be capitalized from here on out, to emphasize it’s immense importance in this endeavor.) Also, I’ve spent way too much time on Pinterest creating a secret inspiration board. *This is procrastination at its finest, my friends.

The frustration.

I soon came to a realization. I had to admit that the story I’d been so excited about didn’t actually have a point, and this was embarrassing. I didn’t even have an antagonist.

It’s really frustrating to think you have something and then realize you actually don’t. And this feeling of frustration was even greater for me, because this same problem was the reason I reached 30,000 words in my previous WIP and then shelved it. I didn’t even finish, because I realized I didn’t have a plot, and the plot should have been established before I ever started writing.

This is not to say you’ll have everything all figured out before you begin a first draft. But I strongly believe there are important structural elements you should know before setting fingers to the keyboard.

Is my idea solid enough to move forward?

So here’s the thing – you’ve got to know if your idea is workable. I struggled, for a while, figuring out what this meant. How would I know my idea was solid enough to move forward?

Here’s the decision I came to:

  • I must know what my protagonist WANTS (more than anything in the world!).
  • I must know what my antagonist WANTS (more than anything in the world!).
    ^These desires should be at odds. This creates conflict!

And if you have at least one of these two elements, it becomes easier to establish the other.

I realize this is a gross simplification of all the elements that make up a story. But if I can’t answer the questions “What does my protagonist want?” and “What does my antagonist want?” with more brainstorming, it’s probably a sign I shouldn’t be moving forward.

(P.S. I didn’t come up with that on my own! Some very helpful writer friends hammered it into my head, so I thought I’d pass along the favor.)

I’ll expand on this in my next post! Please share your thoughts and let me know if there’s anything in particular you’d like me to address. Until next time!


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