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Welcome To SORMAG's Blog

Monday, August 24, 2009

DISCUSSION: How To Go From Idea To Manuscript
















Have you ever wondered how writer's start with an idea and end up with a complete manscript? This is the workshop for you.

Shelia Goss, Rae Lori, Tia McCollors, D. L. Sparks and Tiffany Amber Stockton

Will discuss how to turn your idea into a manuscript.

24 comments:

Shelia Goss said...

5 Things to Consider When Writing a Novel
By Shelia M. Goss


Main Character(s) - Who is your main character or characters? Determine whose point of view the story will be told from. Will the story be told from one character’s point of view or several? Remember the more point of views told, the more confusing it will be to the reader. I suggest no more than two points of views. Although there are three main characters in my young adult series the Lip Gloss Chronicles, each book is told from one main character’s point of view.

The Ultimate Test – Britney Franklin’s point of view
Splitsville – Jasmine McNeil’s point of view
Paper Thin – Sierra Sanchez’s point of view

Setting - Where will your story take place? When will it take place (now, 1800’s, 1960’s)?

The Ultimate Test takes place in Plano, TX, the suburbs of Dallas, TX in modern day times.

Plot or Theme - What is your story about? What message are you trying to get across to your readers? Your plot determines what’s going to happen; when it’s going to happen and who it’s going to happen to.

The Ultimate Test is about best friends who deal with growing up. Trust and friendship is tested.

Conflict (internal & external) - What type of crisis is your character dealing with? Is the character dealing with their own insecurities or something from their past (or present)? What or who is standing in the way of your character getting what they want? Conflict is drama. Drama makes the readers turn the pages.

In The Ultimate Test – D.J. is an external conflict that causes friction between the friends.
Some internal conflicts: Sierra is dealing with weight gain. Jasmine is dealing with jealousy. Britney feels she is the glue to keeping the friendship together. Will these young ladies be able to grow up and stay together or will the tests they face tear them apart?

The End - How will your story end? Will all of your characters’ problems be resolved? Can readers see a difference in the character’s attitude or situation? Knowing the end of the story makes it easier to write. You will be writing with a purpose—to get to the end.

This workshop document was created by Shelia M Goss.
Please link back to this post or email directly for permission to reuse.

Shelia M. Goss is the author of the young adult series – The Lip Gloss Chronicles: The Ultimate Test, Splitsville (coming Sept 2009), and Paper Thin (coming 2010). www.thelipglosschronicles.com

Shelia’s also the author of six women’s fiction/romance books: His Invisible Wife, My Invisible Husband, Roses are thorns, Paige’s Web, Double Platinum and Hollywood Deception (coming Apr 2010).
www.sheliagoss.com

PatriciaW said...

Great tips, Sheila. Do you (and all panelists) outline your manuscripts before writing? If so, how do you handle when the writing inevitably veers off from the outline?

Shelia Goss said...

@Patricia W:
Do you (and all panelists) outline your manuscripts before writing? If so, how do you handle when the writing inevitably veers off from the outline?

I write a synopsis of the story. There are times when I'm writing that the story does change from my original synopsis. When it happens I have to make sure that I go back and re-think the story through because one scene can change the outcome of other scenes.

I would say don't feel restricted because you have written an outline. Your outline is just your guide. If in the process of writing the story, things change, allow it to but stay on course by re-thinking the scenes and updating your outline accordingly.

LaShaunda said...

Welcome panel, thanks for being here.

I have ideas popping in my head all the time.

How do you know if an idea will sustain a whole manuscript?

Author D.L.Sparks said...

Hi Patrica! I don't usually outline, mainly because..........i'm not good at it. LOL! I am one of those that usually knows my ending before I even start the story so I let my characters find their way to the end and they always have a way of veering off. LOL!

If you let your characters tell your story (with or without an outline and some "gentle nudging") you can never go wrong. Because you want your characters to show/tell their story and not you.

Author D.L.Sparks said...

Hi LaShaunda,

If I get an idea and can come up with these three things, then I know in my head it will sustain a good writing session:

1. Good ending (I see my ending first when I start a manuscript)
2. Interesting Plot twist
3. Stong charaters that can and will evolve and work their way to the ending I've envisioned.

D.L.Sparks
www.dlsparks.com
The Lies that Bind (Jan. 2010)

Rae Lori said...

From Idea to Manuscript

Where do ideas come from?

I once had an aspiring author ask me this and I had so many places. It can come from the news, your next door neighbor, the person in front of you in line at Starbucks, a commercial, a tv show or movie, even your own life story.

An idea can come from anywhere but it's the one question that drives that idea: "What if?"

Every story starts out with this question to begin a story. To explore an idea, one has to know the mechanics of how to tell a story to see how that idea will be presented in story format.

The basic ingredients of fiction include: character, point of view, setting, theme, conflict.

Character - Who will be telling or experiencing this story? What kind of person are they?

Point of view - What kind of Point of View will the character tell the story in? First person? Or one of the third person? Maybe a narrator will be explaining the story.

Setting - Where and when will this story take place? The setting is very much apart of the story because it defines the world the character will live in and shape who they will be.

Theme - What's the story about? Does the story have an underlying message?

Conflict - This is the kicker because it will be the one to drive your story. Every piece of fiction (aside from literary) has a character with a problem or situation they must overcome or solve. What is the main conflict stopping the character? What minor obstacles will help build the story and the strength of the character?

If you are writing fiction, especially genre fiction, you want to have a problem that the character has to deal with throughout the story to help build a story around it. As it builds, the story will grow into a final manuscript.

Will that manuscript be perfect?

Most likely not. Very few first drafts resemble the clean drafts you read once they get to book format. But that's okay.

When you are ready to write the manuscript: give yourself permission to write a horrible first draft. Your goal is to get the story down on the page. Some people have to fight an inner critic like a voice in your head that stops the creativity. Just flick that voice aside and get the words onto the page. Save that editing mind for later because you will need it when you go through rewrites. The second draft and the ones thereafter are where your story will start to shine.

But first you must get the story down so you can have something to mold.

To recap, ideas come everything from the world around you. You may see a problem in the world and a possible solution. Or you may hear a particular conversation from a passerbyer that sparks an idea. Almost every idea comes from "what if"? And it's the exploration of the answer to that question that could lead to you penning a first draft of a story.

Workshop by Author Rae Lori

Throughout her writing career, Rae has written comic book and film related articles which have appeared in online publications such as Comic Stack, Suite101, CinemaGap and Dark Moon Rising. As a result, her alma mater's English course chose one of her articles as an example for how to write an article. She also served as editor and contributing writer of her school newsletter.

Her manuscript, Hotel Sunset, won an Honorable Mention award in the 73rd Annual Writer's Digest Writing Competition. Under various pen names, she has written books, novellas and short stories that run the genre gamut of science fiction, fantasy, short roman noir, suspense and romance and many more waiting to drip onto the page.


http://www.raelori.com
http://raelori.blogspot.com

Shelia Goss said...

@LaShaunda

How do you know if an idea will sustain a whole manuscript?

I think any idea can be turned into an entire manuscript. The hard part is making sure that every chapter you write supports the central theme for your idea.

If you can envision the story from start to finish (like a movie), it'll make it easier to write.

Shelia Goss said...

"Because you want your characters to show/tell their story and not you."

I agree with Author D.L. Sparks. You are still in control of your story, but allow the characters to shine through.

Shelia Goss said...

"first you must get the story down so you can have something to mold."

Rae Lori, that's great advice. If you don't have the story on paper, you have nothing to work with. The hardest part to me is getting that first draft done.

Rae Lori said...

Do you (and all panelists) outline your manuscripts before writing? If so, how do you handle when the writing inevitably veers off from the outline?

Hi Patricia!

I'm pantser myself. In the past I've tried to outline out each and every plot point and obstacle before I start a draft but every time I have tried, I lose that spark that pushes me to write the story. I like to let an idea swim around in my head for a while, get a loose idea for how the story will play out then start that first page to go from there.

In a way it's writing organically because I'm not sure what will happen next and I'm just along for the ride as my characters tell the story. At the same time I know what obstacles will be put in their way and how they will be able to overcome these.

So I guess you could say I plot loosely but leave enough open so that characters and the plot can change according to different events that may arise.

How do you know if an idea will sustain a whole manuscript?

Hi LaShaunda and thanks for the welcome!

That's a great question (and good that you have so many ideas:-)). If you have an idea, make sure you think about the ingredients of telling a story. Can you explore a character's journey to grow through different obstacles thrown in their way? Is there a problem that needs to be overcome or solved? In what ways can you solve it? Does the story have an overall message or theme that is being explored through the characters' lives?

For instance, say you have an idea inspired by a girlfriend of yours who is afraid to settle down. Think of all the reasons she gives for not wanting to tie herself down to one person or that kind of commitment to her overall lifestyle.

Now let's give her a problem. What if she meets the guy she's been looking for all her life, who embodies all the traits she wants in a mate but he wants to settle down. What will make her fall in love with him once she meets him (for example, what traits does she find attractive in him)? Will she let herself continue to fall in love once she finds out how he wants to find "the one" to settle with? As the relationship gets serious, how will they resolve this issue and will she ultimately settle down with the man of her dreams? Or hold fast to her single lifestyle and risk losing him for fear of settling down?

In essence with the questions, you have your basic plot points to explore and each junction she faces will define her as a character and a person that will leap off the page because many readers can identify with her in one way or another and want to see how the story is resolved.

Rae Lori said...

Rae Lori, that's great advice. If you don't have the story on paper, you have nothing to work with. The hardest part to me is getting that first draft done.

Thanks Shelia! I have to agree. That first draft can be like pulling teeth for met, too. Particularly, (and I have to admit this) I'm a huge procrastinator, especially as the story winds down until the end. I find that the rewriting stage is my favorite because the story is written and I just have to rewrite what's there. But it's getting that first draft down that's the kicker.

Writers should have little rewards once they get to that stage. :-)

maxxgrl said...

WOW, Shelia Goss, you broke this down perfectly. Thanks!

Rae Lori said...

Shelia, that's a great layout for thinking through a novel. I really like the conflict questions because some stories do indeed have internal conflicts in a lot of character driven pieces. It can be hard for aspiring authors to pinpoint the conflict there but that lays it out well.

D.L. Hello fellow pantser! :-D
I so agree. Gentle nudging can go a long way and the characters can really come alive in the most interesting ways.

Anonymous said...

Excellent tips.

As I'm finishing up my novel that is due in next Monday, this is a great refresher's course.

Maxine Thompson
http://www.maxinethompson.coom

Lorraine Elzia said...

I loved it when Rae Lori said, "When you are ready to write the manuscript: give yourself permission to write a horrible first draft. Your goal is to get the story down on the page. Some people have to fight an inner critic like a voice in your head that stops the creativity."

I am writing my second book and I keep getting writers block and I think it is because I keep trying to get everything "Perfect"...her advice to just get the story out is excellent food for thought.

Tiffany Amber Stockton said...

Wow! There have already been some amazing tips and helpful advice posted. Having an infant in the house makes it difficult to get online. :)

Anyway, one question was asked about how you know an idea can sustain itself through to the end of a book.

I know I get ideas all the time, from all sorts of places. I jot down everything, just in case I can use it somewhere. Even if it doesn't have the potential to make it into its own book, it might make a fantastic scene somewhere down the line.

To test, I usually try to determine if there is enough depth to the idea or the character I've come up with. In other words, how many other layers are there above the obvious? If it's just one layer, and there isn't any way to expand, then it's likely just enough for a scene.

It could also just be a starting point. But I don't know that until I start fleshing it out a bit. Some tests I use are:

1. If this idea were to be implemented, how long would it take to bring about a resolution?

2. How many different characters are involved in order to make this idea workable?

3. How many different scenes would be required to adequately cover all aspects of the idea?

4. Will this idea be unique, or will it be just another hum-ho romance that falls flat?

5. How much research is involved in order to accurately portray the details of this idea?

And those are just some starting questions. As the others have said, the 5 key elements to going from idea to manuscript is to know ahead of time your:

characters
point of view
conflict
theme
setting

Once you have that, you can move forward into sketching out your story. Whether you write a complete outline or just a few paragraphs of a synopsis, or even just random notes on a page, you should at least get the bare essentials down.

Will your story stick to the initial outline? Probably not, but that's why writing is so much fun! If it's predictable for the writer, it will be predictable for the reader. And you want to avoid that as much as possible.

Me? I'm definitely intuitive and allow my characters to tell their own story. I have a general idea to start and usually know how it's going to end, but everything in the middle is up for grabs! :)

* * * * *

Amber Stockton is an award-winning, multi-published historical romance author and speaker to women's groups, churches and other writers. Visit her web site to learn more about her.

www.amberstockton.com

Shawneda Marks said...

Great conference posts and questions.

Tee C. Royal said...

Great information ladies!

I'm still fascinated at how an author can start with a sentence and end up with an entire book. I'm a reader...THE END. I've tried writing and after a few paragraphs, I fall back onto the "just a reader".

-Tee

From Tia's Pen said...

Everyone gave such thorough tips that I just want to piggy back on some things and also answer the question.

My ideas come from lots of places.
(1) People walking by on the street -- where are they going and what's their story.

(2) A dream

(3) Real life experiences -- the names have been changed to protect the innocent AND the guilty!

(4) News clips from a newspaper or a thirty-second news story on TV. What happened to the family after the news coverage?

(5) And regular old divine intervention!

Most of the time I have a simple map about where the story is bound to go because I have to turn in something to my publisher. However,they know that it may veer from the synopsis as the story -- and the characters -- evolve!

With that being said, I'm both a seat of the pants writer and an outline kinda girl. I start off writing off the top of my head for about 5-6 chapter or so, then I outline chapters. Sometimes I outline a few chapters at a time instead of everything from the beginning to end.

Now as far as the "practical" steps to get there...I have an acronym called "D.E.V.O.T.I.O.N" that I often refer people to and that I use for a workshop.

Interested folks can find it on my website at www.TiaWrites.com

There's also some resource suggestions on the site that may be helpful for aspiring writes to read.

Thanks everyone!

SanTara said...

all of these tips are wonderful!! thank you, thank you , thank you!! i wanted to ask if anyone uses any writers software to keep all of the ideas, thoughts etc?

Melissa said...

But it's getting that first draft down that's the kicker.

Writers should have little rewards once they get to that stage. :-)

Rae Lori,

I agree 100%! That would also help the motivation...lol!

Rae Lori said...

So true, Melissa! Goodness knows I need a good dose of motivation in writing sometimes! Lol.


i wanted to ask if anyone uses any writers software to keep all of the ideas, thoughts etc?

SanTara, I don't use any software aside from Microsoft Word (and my trusty pen and pad when my brain won't cooperate via computer), but I have heard of a few good software programs that my fellow writer friends use. There's also some cool writer tools that I found on the web sometime.

Storybook is a free open source novel writing tool. Good for organization of plot lines and character profiles.
http://storybook.intertec.ch/joomla/

There's also Spacejock's yWriter which is another organizational tool for novel writers.
http://www.spacejock.com/yWriter5.html

These won't write your novel for you (bummer ;-)) but they will help you organize your thoughts into scenes and break it down so you can see the story structure. They're also completely free, which is great. Plus, writing a novel won't seem so arduous a task if you take it down bit by bit. This can possibly help you move from an idea on down to formulating that final manuscript.

For motivating yourself, if you have a blog or other social networking page, this word counter is great for seeing your novel writing progress and how far you have to go if you have a final word count in mind.

http://www.writertopia.com/toolbox

SanTara said...

thank you so much Rae Lori!! i will check these resources out.

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