Welcome to David Telbat’s “How to Move from Good Idea to 1st Chapter of your Book” from his writer’s tablet.
Hi Readers! David Telbat here. I’m glad you have joined us today for an article from my writer’s tablet. People often ask me, “I have a good book idea, but how do I get started?“
There are still amazing books yet to be written by people who don’t know how to get started. I’m a firm believer in the concept that everyone has at least one book in them. So, this article will teach you how to actually move from your good idea to that first chapter of your book.
Every writer develops his/her own process eventually. This is my process. Hopefully, it will nudge some of you onto the road toward a completed manuscript.
At the very conception of one of my story ideas, a few words are scribbled onto a scrap of paper, many times next to my bed. (See my article, “Midnight Inspiration.”) The idea may only be “a blind boy is befriended by a robotic St. Bernard dog.” I don’t know yet if it’s a juvenile novel, a short story, or even a picture book, and I won’t know until I develop the idea a little more.
Sometimes, I mull on the idea for weeks while finishing another project, until I can write down some plot lines. My plot lines tell me right away how long or short the story will be, and what kind of market I will be reaching. I now have some idea of how much research will be involved—on St. Bernards and robots, in this example.
My book outlines are more like bullet points, but very messy, often with stars and arrows. An adult novel outline usually spans about four pages for me. At this point, I still don’t have names for my characters, but now I’ve begun to develop conflict for my characters. Without conflict, there is no story. And for me, without a tangible outline, there is no conflict. Some of the outline points that I make, may not exist in the book, but I put everything on paper to give my characters room to move and grow.
When I write “Char. Sketch” on top of a page next to my working title, I know I’m only days away from writing my first chapter. I believe the character sketch is more important than anything else that I can develop or research in this pre-manuscript phase.
These characters must be whole and unique for a character-driven story. The character sketch page (usually a front and back page for all of my characters, but some prefer a page per character) is kept at my side while I’m writing my first draft. Why? It’s not because I easily forget my characters’ names; it’s because I must maintain my characters’ individual traits consistently, their personal voices, and so on. My suggestion is to have a very in depth character sketch on each major character before you ever write a word of your pending novel. (See my article, “3 Lessons on Character Development.”)
Research is very important for accuracy and believability. Some writers believe that the more fact finding they do for a story, the more fact listing they should include in their novel. We’re all guilty of this occasionally, but I don’t agree with it. In today’s audience of short attention spans, I think only relevant facts should be included in a manuscript. Research for days on St. Bernards, if you want, but in your book, just accurately portray necessary facts about a St. Bernard, and move on with the story, please!
Enjoy writing your manuscript, but don’t write as fast as you can. If you’re a fast typist, you may want to write the first draft by hand, as I often do. (Yes, by hand!) IMHO, the slower you write, the more attention you can pay to detail, and the more artistic your book will read. Later, you can type up the second draft as fast as you want.
Lastly, don’t begin writing a story before you’re ready to write it from beginning to end. This will ward off writer’s block (due to needless stops for research midstream), and will keep the “voice” of the book consistent throughout. At least, this is what works for me.
I hope these points have helped you in your quest of how to move from a good idea to that first chapter of your book. Please leave me a comment and tell me how your book is coming!
See you on the next page!
(This article was first published on our site May 2011.)
Follow this link to read other Writer’s Tablet articles by David Telbat.
COMING UP: Join us on MONDAY for another short story from D.I. Telbat’s archives called “Bonnie and I.” And next WEDNESDAY come back to learn more behind the scenes of my End Times Novel, God’s Colonel, in “God’s Colonel, Apocalypse in Christian Fiction.”
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