New Story Love

So I’m in the middle of editing my next sub but since it’s pretty much written, I thought I’d spare a few thoughts for the sub after that – never hurts to think ahead and it’s great for the NTAI, right?
Now, I have two stories I am planning to rewrite. One is my Feel the Heat entry made new and shiny, and the other is my sadly rejected ‘nearly there’ ms. Both, I feel, could be made to work, but y’know, comes a time when writing a new story is a good idea. Even just to remind myself that I can!

So yesterday and today, I have been brainstorming something new. It’s been one that I’ve had for a while now and yeah, okay, I admit that I’ve got a synopsis for it and I may have even written one chapter, but from yesterday it’s technically brand new. Why? Because for the first time before beginning something, I actually sat down and worked out what the conflicts were, who my characters were before I started writing. This is a big step for me. I’m usually so impatient to get started that I jump right in. But not this time. And quite frankly it was bloody hard. The crit group luckily came to my aid, but boy, working out this stuff first is nasty.

Firstly I needed to figure out the conflict. I already had an idea for my hero so I started with my initial idea of who he was, except this time, I tried to think of the conflict before anything else. What is he afraid of? What does he want out of life? What does he do now that won’t work for him when he meets the heroine? What is it about him that will prevent him from being with her as soon as he meets her? And then, once I’d decided on him and his motivations, I had to figure out a perfect heroine for him. The easiest way was to make her conflict the opposite of his. Great first step, but then how does her conflict tie into his? And if he’s so wrong for her, what about him makes him so right?
It was like putting together an extremely complicated jigsaw puzzle. Sometimes the pieces fit and sometimes, no matter how much you turn them, they just won’t. It’s frustrating. You’ll try every single piece but nothing works, and then suddenly, completely by chance, you’ll pick one up and it just slots into place. And you’ll wonder ‘how on earth did I miss that?’ Of course, I haven’t got to really know my characters yet and I won’t until I start writing, but – to use the jigsaw analogy again – I’ve got the edge pieces in place. The border is all done, it’s now up to me to fill in the rest of the picture.

I’m hoping to avoid all the mistakes I’ve made in the past so I’m going to put the basic conflict at the top of the ms. With any luck this will stop me trying to make it more complicated and also so I remember what’s driving every scene. Should give me some ideas about how to make sure it gets worse for the characters with every scene too. Did I say how much I love torturing them? Oh yes, I do!

Anyway, this story I’m trying for something a little different. My hero is aristocratic and more Modern in his success than Modern Heat (think rich, rich, rich!). He’s also French, and apparently Frenchmen don’t sell as well as Greeks. Thought I’d give it a go anyway, and hey, at least I know by now not to make the whole story rest on his being French or even being hugely successful. The heart is the conflict and the rest is just window dressing that can be changed if needed.

So anyone else starting something new? How do you tackle it?

15 thoughts on “New Story Love”

  1. Janette – patience! 🙂

    Lacey – I know! It’s horrible. Thing is, I know if I skip this step, it’s even worse when I’m trying to figure out how the plot should go. I’ve decided that I need the conflict first, then the characters act according to their conflicts, and that decides the plot. Easy. 🙂

  2. Jackie, your post really struck a chord with me…

    I’ve suddenly realised after reading your post that of all the books I’ve written (she says as if it’s been hundreds!), the easiest to write were definitely the ones where I had a clear idea of the conflicts in place BEFORE I started writing.

    That said, they weren’t fully developed and I didn’t have a clear idea of the plot and I still made a few wrong turns in the writing and had to double back. But those books were a lot better than the one time I tried to plot the whole thing out using my underdeveloped conflicts, or when I never took the time to think about the conflicts properly first. Both those ways of working turned into a complete frigging nightmare.

    Have decided that this ‘conflict-first but pantser the plot’ may be my best process (after much trial and error and general agony), so thanks for helping me to have that lightbulb moment.

    Best of luck with your latest. Hope this new process works for you too.

  3. your post are always so insightful Jackie.
    I’ve just finished my characters interviews and conflicts myself for my competition entry last year and it has shed new light on the characters and calls for a complete overhaul. Not that i’d written much. Just the first chapter and half the second. Oh and the synopsis so completely do-able 🙂
    But you are so right. getting the conflict nailed before you write makes it feel more solid and easier to write. 🙂

  4. Heidi- Oooh, so happy to help with a lightbulb moment for you!! I’m very flattered for you found it useful actually. I’m a pantser from way back too but it does make writing a nightmare from a craft perspective. Anyway, this is definitely the way I need to go. I hope it works for you and thanks for the good luck. I’ve a feeling I’ll need it. 😉

  5. I love that idea of starting with ONE character instead of two. Must try that after I finish my WIP and write the shiny new one that already has two characters and…

  6. Kerrin – glad to help! Isn’t it interesting when you see what the problem is with an old ms? Good thing you hadn’t written much eh? Knowing what you’re doing and where you’re going beforehand makes it so much easier.

    Robyn – that’s the key! Trying to do two at once was just too hard. I did have to pull my heroine back into line though ’cause she insisted on forming herself without my approval. 😉

  7. Heidi, I think that just might be my process! Plot conflict and characters, pants plot. 😀

    I usually do one character first, then the next.

    My brain couldn’t handle anything more intense.

  8. Maisey – I’m thinking one character first is the way to go for me too. It’s too hard trying to do both at once and then getting them to fit together. So to speak. 😉

  9. I love new stories too. I usually work out my conflicts, motivations and general characterisations followed by a rough scene guide. That usually changes, but I like to have at least a bit of a map of where I’m going with the story.

    I really like the jigsaw analogy, though. When you’re left with pieces that don’t fit into the rest of the puzzle, at least you know you’ve gone wrong. Somewhere!!

  10. Suzanne – I can certainly recommend advance planning. Seems to be working for me at the moment.

    Joanne – you sound highly organised. I should have been doing that months ago. And that’s so true re the piece that doesn’t fit – leaving it out is recommended. Trying to make it really doesn’t work! 😉

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