Stage I: Manuscript - First Draft
(1 of 3)

The Creative Process: An Idea

Think writing will be fun? It is, the same way mountaineers find ascending K2 amusing. Mountaineers and writers: persuing their craft for the same reason... all together now... because it's there.

The climber treks up mountains formed by tectonic forces, while a writer builds his own mountain using stones of language. Often the exertion feels the same.

The character Hawkeye Piece of M*A*S*H said his favorite book is the dictionary because it has all the other books in it. Your book is there, too. You've just got to pick the words that appeal to you and place them in an order of your choosing. 80,000 times. How hard can that be?

It all starts with an idea, something you yearn to express, whether it's a personal experience, a political, religious, or philosophical perspective, a clever story, or a commentary on our life and times. Many manuscripts are the book the author would have liked to read but couldn't find.

A writing exercise: If you're not sure where to start, think small, or more appropriately, think short.

Default word processor settings generally present an 8-1/2" x 11" page with 1" margins. Set your font to Times New Roman and 12pt. This page will hold approximately 275 words.

Your goal is to fill one to two pages with a complete story: beginning, middle, and end. You're not striving for perfection, but use complete sentences, no social media abbreviations, and punctuate to the best of your ability.

If you've gotten 300 to 500 words, you have written a Flash Fiction story. There are competitions with awards for flash fiction, but it must be edited and polished.

A variation to the Flash Fiction method is Floodgate Fiction. Just open the mental floodgates, don't worry about spelling, punctuation, grammar, or any structure whatsoever. Begin with the smallest kernal of a thought. Couldn't find a sock this morning? Where might it be? Start writing/typing and just keep going for as long as you can following the story without regard to how rational or interesting it will be to anyone else. This is an exercise. It's for practice and perhaps fun.

Skip to Preparation for Self-Editing and go through the entire editing process. See how you can improve your presentation. With just a few hundred words to burnish, it shouldn't take very long. This is the best way to prepare yourself and hone skills for producing a novel length manuscript.

Still blocked for a story idea?    [if not, go to the
next page]
Listen to your internal chatter. Observe the fantasies that play out in your mind.
  • Driving yesterday, you saw the lottery sign. Power Ball is up to $300 million. What if you won that lottery?
  • Channel surfing a few days ago, you saw an old movie listed. You remember seeing it in the theater with an old flame. What if you had married the one that got away?
  • What if Rose had stayed on the lifeboat allowing Jack to find that raft for himself and lived? Would they be together, or was it just a cruise-board fling?

Writing Prompts
Or you can turn to a commercial source for ideas. There are many books listing Writing Prompts, a few words to entire scenarios meant to stimulate the imagination. They may not be sufficient to provide fodder for a complete novel, but for the essential practice you need, and just for fun, they are a useful resource. Again, there are many, but here's one I like if for no other reason that it has a plethora of material:
5,000 WRITING PROMPTS by Bryn Donovan
(page opens in a new tab)

Perhaps the best place to find inspiration and material with which to work is in other books. Fiction and non-fiction. Read a novel in something other than your primary, go-to genre.

Resurection Storylines
It's been said many times: There are no new stories. Every tale is derivative of something, with a twist. There are a dozen movies and numerous novels that are Cinderella. Cinderella itself is a retelling of a 17th century French tale, Cendrillon. You make it your own by introducing a tangent... or right angle turn. What would have happened to Cinderella if the prince had never found her with the glass slipper? Might she have become the 4th Mrs. Trump?

Let's take a look at the best way to get started...

How to Produce a Novel
Stage I: First Draft
  Stage I, page 2
  Stage I, page 3
Writing Intermezzo I
  Preparation for Self-Editing
Stage II: Self-Editing
  Stage II, page 2
  Stage II, page 3
Stage III: Feedback/Review
Stage IV: Publishing
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Books for Writers
Grammar and Punctuation
Writing Non-Fiction
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