The Joy of Finding a New Story
Photo by Lisa Fotios
This week, I started plotting a new book. I haven't done something like this since maybe February or March, when I outlined an adult contemporary fantasy romance that I'm still only 15,000 words into, and it was so refreshing to dive back into the initial idea stages for a story I'm swiftly becoming obsessed with.
So I thought it would be interesting to chat through the various stages of falling in love with a story!
The initial concept phase
This is the phase where the majority of my story ideas are stuck. It's where I've got a concept and maybe a one-sentence pitch (mostly for my own sake, so that when I open a doc entitled "memoir" I know what I'm actually talking about). I have a notion page dedicated to these random ideas, and it includes all the notion pages for my existing projects plus items like the ones in the screenshot to the side, where I just have little hooks and an age category/genre.
This phase is really fun and not at all labor-intensive, because it simply requires me to have a lightbulb moment, write it down, and come up with a fun emoji — possibly the most thrilling part, to be honest :D
The character & plot arc brainstorm phase
This next phase is a little more involved, which means most of the stories on my Book Idea notion page haven't made it to this stage. It's where I start to write out who the characters are, what their arcs will be, what their backstory is, and what the main beats of the plot are going to be.
This is where I'm at with my new idea-in-progress. I spent some time this week writing up my character's backstory. The initial idea I had was, "A 16-year-old 'pop culture hater' is dragged along with to the set of her best friend's favorite TV show, where she meets, hates, and eventually falls for one of the stars." So then I had to figure out — who is her best friend? Why does this character hate pop culture? How do they get themselves on the set of the show? Who is the love interest, and how do I fling the protagonist into her life?
All I knew when I started this process was I wanted to write a celebrity love story that was sapphic. So I sat down and I started writing. And holy wow, I loved what I came up with!
The outlining phase
I'm not in this phase yet for this work in progress, and it's new to my process. For the longest time, I would jump straight from brainstorming to drafting, and while that worked for the books I was writing at the time and was a passable process, it ultimately didn't lead to what I needed.
So I became a plotter. Which is just wild, because like...who is she, and what has she done with the Karis of old? It's shocking, but it's true. I found that when I outlined a book, I actually paid attention to its structure and to the character arcs, rather than just sitting down and tapping out words willy nilly. I think that it is too easy for me personally to get lost in the weeds, to "not see the forest for the trees," and I chase plot bunnies and follow my characters where they lead and that's not always ideal.
So I outline! I break down the book into four acts, and delineate what happens at the beginning and the end of each act. With that settled, I plot out each chapter, and then at the end I have an approximately 6,000-word document ready to go!
The drafting phase
Ah, drafting. What it's all been leading up to! This is fun for me because it involves some element of discovery and re-learning, but I already have a path set up for myself. I love drafting, even though around the 30,000-40,000 word mark I start to wish I were revising. But I love the discovery of it, the joy of coming up with new ways to wrangle words into something beautiful, the surprises my characters throw at me even after I've carefully plotted out what's going to happen...I love it.
So there you have it! That's how I fall in love with a new book.