How to Choose a Story to Write

Author:
Publish date:

This excerpt is from James Scott Bell's new book, Revision and Self-Editing for Publication, 2nd Edition. For a limited time only, you can get the entire book for just $10!

self-editing book for writers

Which Story Should I Write?

The first editing question you need to ask is, Which story do I select to turn into a whole novel? To write from start to finish?

You’re going to be spending a long time with your novel. Months. A year. In some cases more. I don’t want you to wake up twelve weeks from now and chuck all that work.

So here are a few keys to self-editing in the story selection phase:

1. GET LOTS OF IDEAS. Th e key to creativity is to get lots and lots of ideas, ironically without any self-editing at all, then throw out the ones you don’t want.

It’s a little like how lawyers choose juries. In reality, they don’t select jurors; they deselect them. The potential jurors who are seated in the box are drawn randomly. Then, through a questioning process called voir dire, the lawyers probe and ponder, then exercise challenges. They try to get rid of those jurors they believe will not be favorably disposed to their case.

So, too, you as a writer face your box of ideas and, through probing and pondering, toss out the ones you won’t be writing about.

But first you gather, and as you do, let your imagination run free.

2. LOOK FOR THE BIG IDEA. A novel-length story has to have a certain size to it. Not length of words, but potential for a large canvas of emotions, incidents, and high stakes.

This is something you need to feel in your writer’s spirit. Think about the novels that moved you most. What was it about them that got to you? If it was an unforgettable character, what made her so? If it was a turning, twisting plot, what were the stakes?

If it was a quieter novel, it had some simmering intensity about it.

Think on these things as you look at ideas to nurture.

3. WRITE YOUR BACK COVER COPY. There are several questions to ask yourself about your idea, but at some point you need to see if it holds together, if you can get it in a form that both excites you and will excite publishers and readers.

One of the best ways to do this is to write your own back cover copy. That’s the marketing copy on the back of the book (or on the dust jacket) that’s intended to get readers to buy it.

When you do this, concentrate on the big picture. You’ll need to write and rewrite this several times, but doing so will serve you well for the entire writing project.

Buy the book now!

precedent_vs_president_grammar_rules_robert_lee_brewer

Precedent vs. President (Grammar Rules)

Learn when to use precedent vs. president with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 554

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write a future poem.

new_agent_alert_tasneem_motala_the_rights_factory

New Agent Alert: Tasneem Motala of The Rights Factory

New literary agent alerts (with this spotlight featuring Tasneem Motala of The Rights Factory) are golden opportunities for new writers because each one is a literary agent who is likely building his or her client list.

Miller_1:19

Timothy Miller: The Alluring Puzzle of Fact and Fiction

Screenwriter and novelist Timothy Miller explains how he came to write historical fiction and how research can help him drive his plot.

Batra&DeCandido_1:18

Dr. Munish Batra and Keith R.A. DeCandido: Entertainment and Outrage

Authors Dr. Munish Batra and Keith R.A. DeCandido explain how they came to co-write their novel and why it's important to them that the readers experience outrage while reading.

incite_vs_insight_grammar_rules_robert_lee_brewer

Incite vs. Insight (Grammar Rules)

Learn when to use incite vs. insight with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.

Cleland_1:17

Jane K. Cleland: On Writing the Successful Long-Running Series

Award-winning mystery author Jane K. Cleland describes what it's like to write a long-running book series and offers expert advice for the genre writer.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: #StartWrite, Virtual Conference, and New Courses

This week, we’re excited to announce free resources to start your writing year off well, our Novel Writing Virtual Conference, and more!