Monday, July 2, 2012

Writing Prep 4 - Ten reasons to love your story

Are you ready to fall in love with your project? To go beyond infatuation? Love is really the strongest lever you can have to get it finished with all of its grand potential, and I have a suggestion. Force yourself to write a list of reasons why this is the project for you. Why you are driven to get this story, article or argument down on paper. Write ten (or more) reasons, and write in full sentences so you know what you meant later on. (I like to take things a step further and order the list.

Here's what I wrote for a non-fiction WIP, Ingenious Daughter
  1. Jane achieved in a "man's field" at a time when this was almost unheard of.
  2. Jane did not have the education or the credentials that were expected.
  3. Jane was dragged into the field against her will by an ambitious father, and then fell in love with the work.
  4. Jane mastered the work, achieving what her father could not.
  5. She inspired neighbors, including Native Americans, to help her.
  6. Jane attracted famous admirers in North America and Europe.
  7. Jane had to face down her formidable father to continue her work.
  8. Jane's contributions were erased from history by a careless and even misogynist clique.
  9. Jane inspired a generation of women, 150 years after her death anyway.
  10. Jane lived not far from where I live.
In this case, it was the character that captured my heart. At other times, it has been the concept, or the possibility for a series, or the social cause. Whatever hooks you most should be on the list.

Now, if your infatuation with your story is such that you can't wait. That you must write the first sentence, first scene or first chapter, go ahead. But infatuation is not love. If you have a file cabinet (or disk drive) full of fragments of stories, you know what I mean. Love requires something more substantial. So even though you know this is the story for you (right now), write the list. You'll thank me for two reasons.

First, because this list provides a means to explore your theme in a way that does not lock you into an outline that is too confining. You may want that outline later on, but not before you understand more about the possibilities. The ten reasons will probably push you enough to think about and articulate aspects of your story that would not otherwise be made clear this early.

Second, you can look back at this list when your writing sprint becomes a slog. It will remind you why you liked your protagonist. Why you needed to write this piece. Why your readers will stand up and cheer when they experience your genius. The list has the power to save you from adding to your pile of incomplete manuscripts by reminding you of why you committed your time and imagination to this particular work.

If you are already far into your story, don't hesitate to make your list of ten. It still has value. In fact, I use my lists when I prepare to pitch or when I write query letters. Give it a try, and tell me what you think.

No comments:

Post a Comment