There are so many ways to build the frame on which to hang your story.
We are all different of course, and we all have different ways that can help us do better work in our fiction writing year after year.
In Chapter One of The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing, author N.M. Kelby talks about various ways to get your latest, greatest idea to the page in a few simple steps.
- You need to begin with your protagonist, which, yes, is important. If you don’t know who your main character is and what they want and what’s going to prevent them from getting what they want, you don’t have yet have the tools to begin writing.
- You need to establish your time and place. Also really, really important. Does the story takes place in 2019? Why? Why can’t it be set twenty years ago? What about your story makes it need to be contemporary? And then there’s the setting you choose. Why there? Is it just because you know that setting well? Is it because you live there? Is there a different setting you could choose that would enrich your story more?
- You need to announce the stakes early. Yes, again, very important. In most stories, no stakes early on will be death for the reader. No stakes will result in a lot of rejection slips, let me tell you. Make sure something important is at stake for your protagonist so that your reader is immediately involved in the story and wants to continue reading.
The fourth thing N.M. Kelby talks about is probably the most important way of all to build the frame that hangs your story. Because, in a sense, it mixes in these first three elements, and all the other elements you need to pay attention to.
The most important of all is Organization.
Yes, to be a successful writer, to be a writer who gets things published and things revised and things written, you need to be super organized.
This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to always be organized with your thinking, especially as you’re drafting your latest writing project. Often the best and most surprising prose come about when you’re not very organized, when you’re more loose with your thinking and allowing inspiration to take over.
Organization, instead, takes place before the writing begins. When you’re first figuring out your framework. And it’s this organization that will help get you to that place where you can push much of that organization in the background and let the creativity take over.
Organization means coming up with your protagonist and picking a time and place and figuring out what the stakes of your story are, yes. It also means doing at least a rough outline of your latest story, putting down some ideas of who your supporting characters are, things like that.
Most especially, at least to me, organization means figuring out everything you can about the story you want to tell and then also figuring out the schedule in the weeks to come for how you’ll best be able to tell it.
I’ve talked often on here why it’s crucial you come up with a schedule for your writing. 1,000 words a day, 500 words a day, 200 words a day. It’s totally up to you. You want to pick an hour or more of your day to do your work, just like you do for exercise, just like you do for making dinner.
Treat writing as an important part of your day, and organize it well. Sit down to write at the same time every day if you can. Have an organized document you can turn to that has your outline, your character bios and descriptions, your goal for the next day’s work, the next week’s work.
Be as organized as you possibly can in your writing life.
Doing so will help you write better stories in the future, and it will also help you write lots more stories in the future.
You’ll discover ways to be more productive with each passing week, and you’ll find that your writing will improve greatly the more organized you are.
Again, organization is only a part of the journey, and you want to allow yourself to be free to change things in mid-stream, start over if something isn’t working well, throw out your plan entirely if you’re inspired to do so.
But organization will most certainly help you immensely in your long writing journey, and it’s the best way to make sure your next story is the best one yet!