Brad A. LaMar is author of the upcoming young adult fantasy series, Celtic Mythos. Book one in the series, The Obsidian Dagger, will be released on February 20. Book two, The Megalith Union is anticipated for Fall 2013.
Let's assume that you already have a great idea about a few interesting and fabulous characters who are going on the most amazing journey that anyone ever could and you know for certain that this book will probably be made into a movie that is equally good and both book and film will become instant classics and make you J.K. Rowling rich. Well, you might want to pat yourself on the back for an idea well thought of, but let's slow down for a second. The real work hasn't even come close to starting.
Doing your due diligence is not only a smart thing to do but it may save you time and effort in the long haul. What are you looking for in all this research? Well, for starters you can find out if your idea is a unique concept or in an over saturated market? Here I'm thinking of vampires. When I was looking for agents and publishers to submit my work to I noticed a bunch of them were stating bluntly on their websites that they did not want any vampire submissions. (I have not written anything about vampires yet...maybe once the market on them cools.) This is for good reason since everybody had a vampire book to sell all over the same few years of time. Now that's not to say that your vampire story isn't amazing or wouldn't go gangbusters on the best sellers list, but it's a good idea to get an idea of the competition and interest in the topic or genre. Secondly, you will want to decide which audience your idea is best suited for, so going to the library or bookstore, or doing a search online can help you to decide your best fit audience. There are several genres out there that have some real interesting possibilities, so getting familiar with them before you write may help you decide on a tone for your story.
Frame the Idea
You may recall learning about stories back in school and your teachers helped you to identify certain aspects of the story. That was for good reason. Things like setting (both time and place), characters, conflict, main idea, and whole bunch of other things that you may have forgotten about, help to build a world for your characters to live in. Humans have a need to classify and compartmentalize information and if the information we are receiving is choppy or dramatically underdeveloped then we tend to look at it as messy and hard to read, or for that matter, hard to like. You can help yourself and your readers out by thinking these things through ahead of time. Who are my characters? Why are they involved? What is driving the story or creating the conflict? When and where does this story take place? Answering these simple questions will of course lead to more questions, but that's perfectly fine since that's how you develop and nurture the story and your characters.
Outline and Time Line
Were you one of those people who didn't bother doing the outline prior to writing the paper or essay? I hope that turned out well for you, but if you are planning on writing a novel, then you need to realize that we're no longer talking about a 500 to 1,000 word essay. It's much easier to keep that little bit of information straight in your expansive mind, but when your story could end up being 50,000 words plus, with well developed characters and a rich and deep plot in a well woven setting, then it's a whole different game. Plan out some of the major plot points by putting them into an outline (which can include a division into chapters) or even start by putting it into a time line. Putting the action in chronological order can keep your events straight even as the story grows more and more complex.
Here are the people, aliens, animals, robots or whoever they are that are driving your story and hopefully drawing in your audience, so you are going to want to get to know them pretty well. What are their interests, their hopes, or their dreams? Who do they want to be? What motivates them to be involved in the events of your story? You owe it to these characters to know them intimately. After all you are giving others a peek inside their lives so you better get it right.
I hope these few tips help you to get a good start on your fantastic story and make the process a little easier. Getting bogged down while writing is a bummer, but with a little planning and preparation you can take your story all the way to a happy ending...or at least an ending that you're happy about.