For many years Amanda lived in my head. I wanted others to know her, but I knew the only way this beautiful person residing in a soft mass of grey and white matter would become known to others was if I launched her into the setting of a story. Because of my experience with Amanda, I have a theory about story characters. My hypothesis: Interesting, believable characters develop slowly in the brain over time. Of course, the null hypothesis being: Interesting, believable characters do not develop slowly in the brain over time. I have no evidence to disprove the null so, in lieu of evidence, I contend that, “What Is, Is” (WII). Because I believe, it is. Hats off to those who can write a novel and dream up a protagonist as they compose.
When I finally decided to present Amanda to the world, a plan for doing so became important. Successful writers, so I had been told, need to set goals. The following questions, and my answers to those questions, helped me to clarify my goals.
Why do I want to write, and what am I willing to do in order to succeed?
First of all, I want to free my protagonist before she dies of old age. Secondly, based on successful writing experiences during my professional life, I consider myself to be a good writer. Most importantly, I'm willing to learn all I need to know and I will work hard to get my novel published. "If little labour, little are the gains: Man's fate is according to his pains." (Hesperides 752) Yes, I am even willing to suffer.
Can I write a novel that is better than those currently in circulation?
I won't even try, but I will work hard at writing the very best story I can imagine.
Do I want to be the next James Patterson, J.K. Rowling, or other well-known author?
No, I don’t want to copycat any writer. I pledge to think creatively and use the talent that is mine.
Is there a specific objective I want to accomplish?
My objective is to publish a novel that will bring enjoyment to others. I have no desire to scare anyone to death, bore anyone to tears, or influence anyone’s political thinking.
Am I planning to disseminate a message?
The message I want to convey is that life is real and that, even during difficult and dark times, we can find strength and courage to face obstacles. I want readers to identify with the characters rather than be people watchers.
Is my plan to write an original story for a particular audience?
Yes, I want my story to be one-of-a-kind, and I know the readers I will target. I do not plan to write a predictable “happy-ever-after” story with a cookie-cutter plot.
Once I understood my goals, I needed a strategy for success. The following plan kept me on track and helped me to develop good writing habits.
Organizing the story.
I quickly learned that story consistency is easily maintained as a result of organization. Even though there is a lot of advice out there about outlining, I came to understand that this is not the only way to organize writing. As I wrote, inspiration sometimes led me in a direction totally different from my original plan and I needed to fine-tune my organizer. When I wandered off-plan, the story fell apart and became confusing, even to me.
Carving out time to write.
When I left my writing until I had time, I was tired and easily distracted. Poor writing was often the result. When I became really serious about my writing, I scheduled writing during my peak performance time.
Developing good writing habits.
A quiet place where there was little disruption became my writer’s den. As soon as I discovered that my best ideas might be lost forever during even a short interruption, I paid as little attention as possible to anything electronic.
Continuing to build vocabulary.
Reading is a great way to build vocabulary, so I took the time to read books written by acclaimed authors. These authors used vocabulary commonly understood by the majority in their target audiences. I decided to follow their leads and to use my thesaurus only when I needed to avoid overusing a term or word. I chose not to replace common words with obscure words.
Researching for credibility.
As my story unfolded, there were missing pieces that required additional research. In order to keep everything real, researching was an on-going process.
I became my own encourager. I gave myself pats on the back for finishing self-imposed quotas and said aloud, “That sounds really good,” when rereading chapters. My family encouraged me. Others asked, “Why do you want to write a book?”
Reaching out for help.
A network of non-judgmental people provided me with honest, constructive feedback. My network included my husband, siblings, children, close friends, critique partners, and professional readers.
Thinking about writing a novel? I encourage you to set goals and develop a plan.