By Doug Owen
What to Write
Everywhere you turn, there is a want-to-be writer. Most start a story and never finish. A majority of those who finish don’t know how to edit successfully. Others can edit, but fail to see the value in critiques or test readers. And every single one of them wonders if their story is worth telling—or worth buying.
Writers also overflow with ideas; it’s part of their psyche. So, why don’t they act on them? And the one that they pick might be discarded along the way, because it didn’t blossom as it should have. So, how do we know if we should invest so much of our lives into the tale?
There are many how-to books telling you about the passive voice, opening hooks, and character charts. They don’t address a writer’s gut feeling or sixth sense, and fail to touch on those habits and hints that serve as flags showing you are following the correct plot. Let’s go through some of the indicators that assist me in deciding if a story is worthy.
You start talking about your book before finishing
Are you antsy to spread the news about your new book even before finishing it? Heck, you’re not even finished the first draft and all you want to do is cry out, “Look at my new book!” All that blood and sweat, and tears if you’re like me, and all you want to do is talk about how you’re getting little Jonny home in chapter five.
The right dialogue
Do you venture out into the world and eavesdrop on people to see if someone has that special voice? Bill talks like that guy; let’s listen just a little bit longer. Or maybe, a waitress says something the way one of the waitresses in your book should talk. They flip their hair the right way or something. I came across someone who looked just like one of my characters and stared at her for a long time. Have you had that happen?
Harper Lee has nothing on your book
If you had a limited amount of time to write just one book, would you choose to devote your days to this one? Maybe you only have so many words in you. Note: Harper Lee published To Kill a Mockingbird in the 1960s, and is only now talking about releasing a second book.
The story means something to you
You have an urgency to write the story. It has to be done before you die. The message has meaning, and the impact will be felt. It is educational, enlightening, or key to improving the quality of the reader’s life.
Rewrites wake you up
It’s like a bolt of lightning out of the sky and your eyes light up when you find a way of rephrasing a line in the perfect way.
Sleep takes second place to the scenes
You inadvertently see your novel playing out before you whenever you try to relax. It could be the apex of the book or a pivotal scene that has eluded you for ages, but it comes out when you try to relax and close your eyes.
You cannot keep up with your mind
The story eats at you. And even when you write over 70 words per minute on the computer, it’s still not fast enough. The plot spews forth and the characters are eager. It’s not difficult to tell it, and the feel is right.
Your notebook is full of phrases
I keep notes on my smart phone. It is always with me and, every once in a while, I have to write down something a character would say. Or it could just be a little phrase someone in the story would have running through their mind. Maybe it is an action taking place. But it needs to be recorded.
Your thoughts are always on ways to tighten a sentence or paragraph. Even when you are ready to do the next one, it hits you that there is something missing and it is hard not to go back and rewrite the work a little to tighten it up.
Hunting for similarities
You know someone did something the same and now you need to know what they did in order to either make it look right, or not copy them. This happens all day long.
Wanting to get it right
Whether its clothing, food, geography, weather, flora, fauna, genealogy, or culture, you are diving in with research in order to make sure you are perfect. The story has to be right; you don’t want to spoil it.
That point in your story you know someone will come to and be overwhelmed. It’s the bull’s eye, on target, the perfect ten in writing. It will leave the reader with a contented afterglow, making them glad they bought your book. And you know it is there.
You don’t want to insult the reader with wasted words or fluff. It is a hunt to seek out every spark, fear, thrill, and sensuality at its climax. You don’t just want to take the reader to the edge; you want to push them until they are fighting to hold on… until they drop over that edge. You define the category for them with just mere words.
You grab traditionally-published books in order to look exactly like them. The reader will not be able to tell if this is an indy book. You pride yourself at being an independent author, but you want the work to look like it came out of the biggest New York publishing house just yesterday. So you take your time and study the pagers from cover to cover.
The opening makes you proud
That first line, a gasp of breath, enriches the mind and powers the imagination of the reader. You are so proud of it that you can recite if by heart. You are thrilled by it, and you never will tire of hearing it. The impact is awesome.
And this is how you know you are on the right track with a novel. How many of them did you check with your current work in progress? Is this the book you were meant to write?