I keep a document pinned to my desktop, one that I write down topics and ideas for stories on. This list is crucial to my preparations for being productive during NaNoWriMo, which I participate in every year. After all—great stories spring from great ideas, but only if you can remember them.
When I begin writing a story, the working title is just a handle to carry it by for the time being. Titles are always changed several times over the life of a story.
While the actual title might not exist, the story does, in the form of an idea, a prompt.
I title each story folder with a working-title, such as Jane’s Legacy. This probably won’t be the final title, but it gives me something to work with until I do know what to call it.
Each story file contains two documents. The first document is blank except for one line, which is the prompt, the premise of the story. The second document is the manuscript itself.
In the first document, I answer a short list of questions about the overall story arc of my intended tale. The answers help me visualize the basic premise of the story arc.
The answers to these questions make writing the actual story go faster because I know what happened, what their goal is, why their goal is difficult to achieve, and (crucially) how the story ends.
Then you build your story:
Question number six is an important thought to consider.
· What moral (or immoral) choice is the protagonist going to have to make in their attempt to overcome the odds and achieve their objective?
Many final objectives don’t revolve around morality, but all final objectives should have consequences and should involve a struggle.
The answer to question number seven is vitally important because every story hinges on how the protagonist overcomes adversity.
Answering question eight is crucial if I want to complete my short story in a timely fashion.
Endings are frequently difficult to write because I can see so many different outcomes. I generally write several endings, trying them on to get the perfect fit.
This method of preparation keeps me working and ensures I am productive even when my novel is stranded in the desert of “Now What?”.
Pre-planning also means I have a good system established for version control. I make a lot of revisions, but I never delete old files as you never know when you might need something you wrote previously.
I just give them a good descriptive label such as:
Develop your filing system, save your work regularly, and save it to an external drive (I use Drop-box). In that file, include any sub-files of research and backstory that pertain to your novel or short-story. Do it now, even if you are already deep into your work. You won’t have to stop and look things up so often. All you will have to do is write and save your work.
Credits and Attributions:
Connie J. Jasperson is a published poet and the author of nine novels. Her work has appeared in numerous anthologies. A founding member of Myrddin Publishing Group, she can be found blogging regularly on both the craft of writing and art history at Life in the Realm of Fantasy.