In writing, waiting can be good or bad depending on what point you’re at.
If you’re waiting for that perfect idea to strike or for the “right” time to start writing that novel you keep talking about, then ask yourself if writing is really your thing. Sure, story ideas don’t magically come to everyone, but as someone who has literally given away ideas because I have too many, I can’t imagine a writer without at least half a dozen story ideas ready to outline and start writing the moment they’re finished with their current WIP. Or even ideas they could come up with given the time.
Let me show you how my imagination works with some quick and rough novel ideas.
- A career-driven woman in her mid-thirties is on her way to the top of the company when it suddenly closes down. In an unpredictable job market, she’s forced to take an entry level office position where her boss is ten years younger than her. Proving herself is hard when she knows she’s better than the role she’s now stuck in. But once she gets over herself, she finds her junior colleagues help open up a side of her she never got the chance to unleash at their age.
- A sea captain hunts for a treasure only an entitled few know of. When he reaches the treasure, she is not what he expected. An ancient curse traps an immortal siren in a cavern that’s drying up and constantly suffocating her. Having discovered a much greater treasure than he imagined, the sea captain fights across oceans for the siren’s freedom and the love they both share for one another.
- A future where wormholes are the norm, and travel to distant worlds is but a blink away. A traveller seeks to learn just how far she can reach and steals a wormhole device to find out. At the edge of the known universe, she discovers the price of the wormhole technology. A desiccated planet holds truths that would curdle most stomachs. But the traveller does not stop until she proves to everyone how they are so blissfully able to bend space and leap from one world to another.
- Death is only a mild inconvenience when a ghost hunter is sent into limbo. While he uses every trick he knows to keep in contact with his girlfriend, she finds a spell and makes a demonic deal to bring him back to life. But he’s not the only one she brings back. Now, the ghost hunters must battle an ancient demonic power while doing everything they can to send it back to limbo.
- On her way home from a wild night out, she witnesses a gruesome murder. She stays quiet, thinking nobody will believe her considering her intoxicated state. But when she comes home from work to find her apartment ransacked, her only option is to go to the police. As she thought, they think it’s a coincidence until one of the detectives checks in on her and witnesses an attempted attack on her. Still unable to prove the connection, the detective offers her protection in exchange for her full story, no matter how drunk she was the night of the murder. She soon discovers his motives go beyond finding a killer and ends up in a decade-old feud between the detective and the person he thinks is responsible for his sister’s murder. Is she safer with the detective, or should she run and pretend nothing happened?
That took me ten minutes. Yes, they might be done already, or full of cliches, but… ten minutes. Imagine what I could do in an hour or longer to come up with a novel synopsis that I could later turn into a detailed outline.
Sometimes, I get an idea and spend five minutes jotting down my initial thoughts. The next time I have a spare five minutes, I jot down more, and more, and more, until it resembles a story. Some stay that way for future projects, but some get more attention as I work on a rough outline, character sheets, world-building. And soon enough, I have enough to start my first chapter. This may change completely once I’m done with the outline, but at least I got some of the story down.
I had a wild dream the other week, and started plotting a novel based on it. Within a few days, I’d built a decent synopsis, started outlining the story, created several character sheets with images, character goals, backgrounds and story input. I’d also come up with the backstory for the main group of characters, which involved various physical characteristics and ability based on their heritage.
Stories start with your imagination. The planning is just putting your imaginative thoughts in order.
But it is okay to wait sometimes.
You’ve drafted act one. Good job. But you’re still not sold on your own ideas. This is a perfectly good time to wait and let the ideas settle. Don’t wait too long in case you risk losing the story from your head. This length of time is subjective, though. If you write daily, like I mostly do, letting your ideas settle for a few days might be enough. But taking a week or so might suit you better.
You have an outline and part of a draft. Don’t force it beyond that unless your fingers just keep spilling those lovely words. In which case, what are you waiting for?
Another good time to wait is during or just after your WIP is with beta readers. Depending on the format you’re sharing your beta version, you might not get anything back until each reader has read the entire thing. This is a forced break, which you should take advantage of. Let it go for a while. Make notes in a separate document by all means. Never ignore ideas. But don’t touch the story itself until all the feedback is in.
I had the luxury of sharing my beta version in bulks of chapters, so I got feedback on three or four chapters every week/two weeks. This was really helpful since I could read through the feedback for act one together, then two and three together. It all made sense as I took it in, but apart from a new chapter one, I didn’t change anything beyond minor wording to spare the next reader commenting on silly errors.
I waited, and eventually, I got some amazing results. Yes, I can improve on them, and I will. But my patience paid off. Now I’m in one last revision with the help of some new and speedy crit partners, and I hope to query next month.
If you have even a semblance of a novel idea, don’t wait for anything to get something down and flesh out a chapter or two at least. Otherwise, you’re just a dreamer with no outlet.