I've always been a dreamer with my nose in a book. I've been a reader since I learned to read, devouring books as I discovered them. In fact, it was only in the last decade I stopped reading as much. It feels good to get back to reading again, like I found a piece of myself that was lost.
Given that I spent so much time dreaming and living in worlds inside books, I have an amazingly active imagination. For me, starting a new book with a clean document is exciting. What will I create?
It all starts with who the main character is, for me. I'm a character driven author, so my stories are all heavily influenced by the characters. Sure, all kinds of things happen, but the stories belong to the main character as much as me. Once I know who they are and what they want, the story becomes all about them. Each story I began, I knew who the characters were before I began. At least, I knew the main characters. In the Forest Guardians books, more characters keep coming along as she explores more of her world.
Okay, so I have a blank page and a character to play with. Now what? Well, once I know what that character's issues are and what they need or want, I can decide how best to challenge them. What would make them grow? Life is full of ups and downs, so I get to play with both and see how the character reacts.
Still, what's my big conflict? I start with the inner conflict. What's going on inside the character? Now, how can I represent that in an outer conflict? With Aili in the first book, for instance, she was a lonely kid with no place to belong. She needed something that would make her depend on others, while learning more about her own strengths. What does she care about? Her forest, of course. Okay, forest in peril, here we come.
From there, I can fill in the details. This is where the Save the Cat method helps so much. Following the storytelling "code," I simply write the book I want to read, now. Stuck somewhere? What would I want to read about there? What would be fun for Aili, or push her, or help her somehow (whether she likes it or not)? That's what I write.
I may not even have the story fully plotted when I start. I outline using the Save the Cat method, and fill in details as they come. By my first 20 000 words or so, I always have a full outline and the beginnings of a story I enjoy. Will everyone enjoy my story? Of course not. That's not why I write. I write to let characters live, and to go on adventures. Some people will love them, others, not so much.
How many Forest Guardians books will I write? As many as Aili wants. Does she still have an adventure in her? At least one more, as there's a forest she hasn't been to yet. Sometimes the setting gives me a plot, like in book 3. Maybe I'll keep going, if she has a new adventure after that. Maybe it'll be a quartet. Aili will tell me. I have other stories on the go, too, and a whole file of ideas to play with when those are done.
Every writer has their own method, so find what works for you and go for it. Do you love characters like me? Do you want a gripping mystery? Prefer fantastic settings? Great, write with more focus on what you love. Just write!
I’ve been writing stories for myself for years. Now, I’m a published author. No genre is off limits, though I have some favorites.