We’re hanging out in Berlin for a few days, and I’m loving the big, blocky, concrete buildings, the fabulous art, and the 80s music everywhere.
Happy Friday! Today’s post is about preparing for National Novel Writing Month. Our first step in preparation is to come up with an idea for the story. Your idea doesn’t have to be detailed at this point, but it does help to have a basic notion of what your story will be about.
Choosing a Story Idea
How do you know you’ve got a good story idea? Well, it’s less about originality than it is about the way it makes you feel. The truth is, there are a zillion different stories you might write, and very few stories are based on an original concept. Two authors could choose an identical idea, but in the process of writing, their books would differ because their life experiences, preferences, and inner voice are all different. The trick to picking a good story idea is finding one that makes you feel excited and curious. You’ll be spending lots of time on your story, so you want it to be the kind of story that will continue to draw you in.
Here are a handful of story ideas that I pulled out of my lower orifice:
Halfway into a three-year journey, the leader of a colony ship discovers the planet they’re headed toward has been destroyed. In fact, several planets have disappeared off the charts over the last twelve months. And whatever is taking out planets is moving slowly toward Earth. Unfortunately, this colony ship is full of criminals, and the Earth Defense Forces will blow them out of the sky if they dare to turn back…
A teenage girl falls in love with her best friend’s boyfriend, and he with her. But her best friend is very sick with a terminal disease, and the love besotted teens are determined to give their sick friend the best senior year possible.
Take the basic story from Romeo and Juliet and write it from the perspective of an envious servant who deviously pushes the pair toward suicide while making them think it was their own idea. But they fake their deaths as a way of catching her in the act, and the servant goes to prison. Then the Romeo and Juliet characters live happily ever after.
Tell a poltergeist story but it’s a coffee roasting facility that’s haunted and all the beans that go out are cursed. Whenever someone drinks coffee made from the cursed beans they make bad choices that echo the terrible crimes committed in the coffee roasting facility many years prior.
I jotted down those ideas above at random. But the first story idea on my list is probably the best one. Why? Because it invokes my curiosity. Who are these criminals? Where were they headed? What is destroying planets? What will they decide to do? Any idea that opens a lot of doors is usually a fun one to write about. But all those ideas above are workable. Because I’m continuing an existing series, I did the brainstorming process with my current heroine, and came up with an idea for her next mystery: The Case of the Karaoke Killer. That’ll be my book for November, unless I change my mind between now and then.
So if you’re half-assing Nano with me next month, I suggest you spend time this week writing out story ideas. Cast a wide net! Make a list of five or ten ideas, then pick one that you’ll enjoy spending time with.
If you’re feeling stuck, you could do worse than to put a new twist on a story you already know and love. Want to write a story that’s like Buffy the Vampire Slayer IN SPACE? Or how about some Game of Thrones-style political intrigue but with cyberpunk war machines instead of dragons? Mixing and matching can be a fun way to brainstorm new ideas.
Next week, we’ll take your idea a step further.
If you’re a writer, or if you’d like to be, you’re hereby invited to half-ass National Novel Writing Month with me. Nanowrimo is an annual event where writers all over the world attempt to finish a novel (or 50,000 words) in the month of November. It’s a fun time to work on a writing project because there are several thousand other people working towards the same goal.
I’ve never officially “won” Nano, but it’s fun to participate, and most of my Nano projects were completed and published after the fact. The only problem with Nanowrimo (in my opinion) is that the standard goal of 50k words in 30 days isn’t practical for most people- especially those with full-time jobs, family obligations, and the all the writers who feel creatively blocked under rising pressure. Falling behind on your word count is super discouraging if you believe the 50,000 word number is all that matters, and it sucks when new writers feel discouraged for no good reason.
My solution? Let’s half-ass Nanowrimo! We can set our own goals, have fun, participate, and hold the whole thing lightly.
I think I’ll write my second cruise ship mystery in November. I estimate it will be a 40,000 word project, but in the end it will be as long as it needs to be. And for the rest of October I’ll send out a short blog post each week about preparing for Nanowrimo. If you want to, you’re welcome to follow along. Then in November we’ll be ready to half-ass our dreams.
When it comes to the arts, there’s this really tricky line between taking your art seriously and being so regimented that you smother the joy right out of it. The former is good, and the latter is bad, but too often they feel like the same thing. My hope for this Nanowrimo is that we can give ourselves permission to take our writing aspirations seriously without smothering the flame under too many expectations.
So consider yourself invited. ☺️
A Film That Hates Red Tape
This movie has things to say about meetings and it is not subtle. So if you despise bureaucracy, ineffective leadership, and group think, Shin Godzilla is here to champion your cause. As a professional facilitator, some of the dialog made me cringe, and laugh, and prickle with recognition, all at the same time.
“The Monster is attacking!”
“Yes, but what shall we call the monster? I demand a subcommittee!”
I was surprised to learn that Shin Godzilla cost only 15 million dollars to make. Compare that to the 200 million spent on the recent failed Hollywood blockbuster: Godzilla King of the Monsters. I was so excited about that film, but despite its breathtaking visual effects, the story was a disappointing mess.
But Shin Godzilla didn’t disappoint. At all.
Of course, like all Godzilla movies, Shin Godzilla had some cheesy bits. But I loved the setting, the satire, and the battles. Especially the final battle! Fun stuff.
Amazon has it for a few bucks, if you want to check it out. Here’s the trailer: