Nano Prep #1: The Idea

Happy Friday! Today’s post is about preparing for National Novel Writing Month . Our first step in preparation is to come up with an idea for the story. Your idea doesn’t have to be detailed at this point, but it does help to have a basic notion of what your story will be about.

Choosing a Story Idea

How do you know you’ve got a good story idea? Well, it’s less about originality than it is about the way it makes you feel. The truth is, there are a zillion different stories you might write, and very few stories are based on an original concept. Two authors could choose an identical idea, but in the process of writing, their books would differ because their life experiences, preferences, and inner voice are all different. The trick to picking a good story idea is finding one that makes you feel excited and curious. You’ll be spending lots of time on your story, so you want it to be the kind of story that will continue to draw you in.

Here are a handful of story ideas that I pulled out of my brain:

Halfway into a three-year journey, the leader of a colony ship discovers the planet they’re headed toward has been destroyed. In fact, several planets have disappeared off the charts over the last twelve months. And whatever is taking out planets is moving slowly toward Earth. Unfortunately, this colony ship is full of criminals, and the Earth Defense Forces will blow them out of the sky if they dare to turn back…

A teenage girl falls in love with her best friend’s boyfriend, and he with her. But her best friend is very sick with a terminal disease, and the love besotted teens are determined to give their sick friend the best senior year possible.

Take the basic story from Romeo and Juliet and write it from the perspective of an envious servant who deviously pushes the pair toward suicide while making them think it was their own idea. But they fake their deaths as a way of catching her in the act, and the servant goes to prison. Then the Romeo and Juliet characters live happily ever after.

Tell a poltergeist story but it’s a coffee roasting facility that’s haunted and all the beans that go out are cursed. Whenever someone drinks coffee made from the cursed beans they make bad choices that echo the terrible crimes committed in the coffee roasting facility many years prior.

I jotted down those ideas above at random. But the first story idea on my list is probably the best one. Why? Because it invokes my curiosity. Who are these criminals? Where were they headed? What is destroying planets? What will they decide to do? Any idea that opens a lot of doors is usually a fun one to write about. But all those ideas above are workable. Because I’m continuing an existing series, I did the brainstorming process with my current heroine, and came up with an idea for her next mystery: The Case of the Karaoke Killer.  That’ll be my book for November, unless I change my mind between now and then.

So if you’re [half-assing Nano with me next month][1], I suggest you spend time this week writing out story ideas. Cast a wide net! Make a list of five or ten ideas, then pick one that you’ll enjoy spending time with.

If you’re feeling stuck, you could do worse than to put a new twist on a story you already know and love. Want to write a story that’s like Buffy the Vampire Slayer IN SPACE? Or how about some Game of Thrones-style political intrigue but with cyberpunk war machines instead of dragons? Mixing and matching can be a fun way to brainstorm new ideas.

Next week, we’ll take your idea a step further.

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