The following is a brief discussion of the processes and tools I use when exploring an idea for a book. Not all ideas make it passed the "Concept" stage. Only if I feel an emotional connection with the concept will I proceed to the Story Arc. In the process of trying to define the concept I may find, that although it is interesting, I have no emotional connection.
If I can't articulate, in concise wording, what the take away from the reading should be then perhaps I'm not focused enough to write the book. If I am able to describe the concept but find it leaves me feeling indifferent then that is a good time to think about pursuing something else.
It is my experience when there is no emotional connection the story will not be finished. What people associate with writer's block may be a result of this emotional detachment; it has proven so for me and perhaps it is the same for others. If I have the emotional connection then I proceed to the story arc.
It is during the development of the story arc that I discover how much emotion I have for the effort. I know I've got a good story if I find I am having to restrain myself from diving in and writing too much during this stage. When I have to hold myself back, I know the prose for the book will flow like water from a bucket when I begin the novel. If I find myself going through the motions, plodding through standard storyboard concepts, then I stand back. At this point, it is time to seriously reconsider my commitment.
My creative self will let me know when it wants to expand on an idea/concept pair and will craft an interesting story line touching all the key areas in the story arc. I pay attention to my creative self and the level of energy it has for different ideas.
Remember, I do this because I love telling a story. I'm not on a treadmill, pumping out a book every 3 months. I'm not overly concerned with maintaining the interest of an audience following my work. I write because it is a lot of fun and fortunately I don't need the income. Because I only chose those concepts I consider emotionally significant, I become emotionally involved with my characters. It makes it fun, a lot of fun.
So, I take the time (usually several hours) to round up story ideas, attach concepts (purpose) to those ideas, choose the one offering the most emotional energy then story arc the idea. Having ended up stranded in the middle of a novel with no evident direction or energy to continue, I know how it feels.
Since employing this method it has saved me from ending up stranded in the middle of a story with no energy. Before discovering this method I plowed into several ideas that turned into mist as I was typing away. By doing the story arc I give myself the equivalent of an elevator pitch. If my creative self is bored or at best benign at the conclusion of the effort then I stop.
This method may work for you as well. If it does; you will be saving yourself a lot of time. By understanding your emotional commitment up front you will avoid the frustration of failing to complete your book. By attaching a purpose/concept/moral, "whatever", to the story and identifying the storyline high points I find it frees my creative self to fill in the events along the way.
When the reader sets the book down, after the last page has been read, what thoughts would you like them to carry away? Concepts are high level and broad, they can also be thought of as the purpose or, if you are Aesop, the moral of the story.
I ask myself, "When the reader finishes the book what would I like them to ponder?" For the purpose of example, I would consider the following as concept or purpose statements:
- Love bridges failing character
- Consciousness continues after death
- Animals are sentient and deserve respect
I only choose one but that is my limitation, not yours.
8 Point Story Arc
My adaptation of Watts' story arc follows:
Concept (What is the purpose of the story? Why is it worth telling?)
Stasis (setting, character introductions)
Trigger (What kicks things into gear initiating the quest/adventure)
Adventure (finding out who is involved, what needs to be done, where to go, why it's important)
Realization/Surprise (What’s really behind the events, why am I involved, what truly needs to be done)
Critical Decision (now that I know what needs to be done what are the consequences and how do I react)
Climax (protagonist makes the critical decision which results in the completion of the quest)
Reversal (what happens to the protagonist as a result of the critical decision)
New Stasis (how is life after the quest ended and the protagonist made their choice)
The Createspace Word Template
I use the Createspace Word template when writing the book. It is pre-formatted with Headings that are used to generate the table of contents, paragraph formatting, pagination (getting that pesky first page of the novel on the right side facing page), etc. Plus when I'm done with the first draft I can upload it to the Createspace site with very little format alteration (if any) but there is always a truckload of proofing and copy editing in my immediate future.
Proofing and Editing
This is my least favorite part of the process. The emotion is spent, I'm now in determination mode; "I've come this far so I'm finishing it as best I can." I've looked into having a professional editor do this but it's just not financially realistic (remember 300 books) so I plow through it on my own. My process, in this area, is not ready for prime time; I go through my books at least 7 times before they are finally smarter than I am; hiding their defects from my not so enthusiastic attention. Months later, after I've said, "Enough is enough", I will review the book and find another barnacle . . . yes, it's frustrating and I get what I pay for.
I self-publish my works. As mentioned above, I use the Createspace Word template to put my book into a format that is easily accepted for printed material. I use this template, as well, for uploading the book to Amazon Kindle publishing. The Amazon site for submitting your book is kdp.amazon.com and the Createspace template works well here. One book template for both hardcover and digital books.
The cover art is an important part of your book's ability to draw attention. Again, being on a low budget, I do my own cover art. I've been told by others that my recent covers are good. If you don't have an eye for cover presentation and a facility with Photoshop or some other digital artwork program then you must pay to have it done. This can cost anywhere from several hundred dollars to several thousand. The less expensive covers are made from stock images that can be obtained from sites like Canstockphoto.com and run around $7 per image and include the license for your use. I have found this site to offer the best price for the images.