Friday, August 13, 2010

From a Story Idea to a Book

The journey of a story idea into a book is long and tedious. It  requires  tremendous effort. Its culmination into a published  book is seldom easy.  This makes it crucial for us writers to choose  only those stories that  can be  adapted  into good books.

Hardcore  scribblers   that we are,  our  brains  are  constantly searching for  the perfect story that will enthrall readers. Its tough to sort and sift  through  the complicated labyrinth of our minds, navigate through alleys darkened by writer’s blocks and  stumble or, shall I say pounce upon a story idea that brings  an instant smile. 
At any time there are several ideas floating in my mind. It’s extremely difficult for me to zero in on the one I would like to work on. Several times I have started a story and after a chapter or two realized that it’s just not happening, that I am unable to do justice to the theme, perhaps the genre does not interest me at this time. I  feel guilty about these stories, but its better to shelve a project in the initial stage then be stuck with something that is unexciting  and  elicits a  half hearted effort. It’s not like I will never return to that story in my life. Few story ideas are not worthy of a book, its better that they remain  a short story. Perhaps more justice can be done to them that way.

One thing I have learnt is that I must let the story idea marinate and stew in its own juices for several  weeks, sometimes few months before I start working on it.  During the marinating days, my mind constantly hovers over the story; creating a vision of the character,  the journey it has to trek, his/her life story, love interest, goals, aims, principles and attitude in life, motivation, the problems they have and the solutions they crave, their dreams and aspirations. I  note down these as bullet points in a folder  called  the Ideas Folder.

Even tiny sub plots that fall my way are noted down. As are names of places, people and incidents that occur  in the story.  After several pages are filled, I read  my notes. Its then  that I decide whether I would like to go ahead with the story, or not. This free style thinking is quite liberating because  there  is no pressure on the imagination that a full fledged WIP brings. The creative cells go into an overdrive and  come up with several wonderful ideas when they are not under pressure to perform. 

A fellow writer advised me that  we must work on only those stories that Must and Should be told. “ If you don’t tell your story, will the world lose out on a  story that could have made a difference,  if your answer is yes, then,  by all means ensure that your story  makes its way out into the world.”

I found her suggestion  hard to digest. For me two things work in favour of a story. I must be really excited about it  and I  must  hate being away from it. That’s when I know the story is on firm footing.

How do you all decide whether a particular story is worthy of  investing your time and effort. Is there any particular criteria the story must have before you  plunge headlong into it.  Any tips you would like to share  to transform a basic  story idea into a full fledged book?


  1. Good question, and something I should think about. I currently write more non fiction than fiction, so it's hard to say. I will get back to you when I get there, okay? But by then, more than likely, you will have arrived:)
    Have a wonderful weekend,

  2. Great question and this is a topic I'm struggling with right now as I try to find my next story. My problem has been, everyone else seems to be more in love with the idea I have than I am. I can see the value in doing it. I'm just not in love with it yet and I don't know if I ever will be. I keep hoping some part of it will "come alive" and burn me with interest. I really need a passion for my story or I won't stick with it. I know that from my last book. I hope nothing else I write will ever take that long, but if it does, I have to be in love with it from the get-go.

  3. Yes you are SO right! I'm the same way with new idea's, I need a good long while of stewing before I even try to write down the first sentence. I really need to know these people or quite frankly, our relationship just won't work out. Have a great weekend Rachna!

  4. Karen....I often wonder how do these story ideas develop into books. Is it the same for non-fiction?

    Victoria..I agree that we need loads of passion to stick to our stories and we have to be really in love with it to be able to do justice to it. Many times when I am not passionate about certain stories, I just drop them.

    Anne...the two of us are alike in that way. I too must really get to know my characters, else I just won't be able to write about them.

  5. Rachna,
    I have found that writing a story is a lot harder than I once thought! I agree with you though, you really have to feel a pull to what your writing. It's has to be like reading a good book, you never want to put it down. If my outline comes easy to me, I'll try writing the first few chapters and then see how it reads...

    Goodness! Of course you can read my poem to your class. :)

  6. Hi Rachna!
    As an illustrator, I think the story goes both ways sometimes. I honestly have a book of ideas for drawing, because I can't finish everything I'm thinking about on a regular basis, it is too much. What I do notice is that drawings get assigned to different characters with in the book of ideas eventually, thus creating a personality around it. It is a reflection off of society. After collecting ideas and assigning them. The writing is usually free flowing, because behavior and images are assigned.

  7. I think you're friend gave you very good advice in saying for you to tell stories that must and should be told. Not everyone works that way but I totally understand what she means.

    Part of what she's saying is that you have to feel deep in your gut that this story is too important to be left untold. That's how I feel about what I write and if I don't feel that way then I don't write it because it won't have the level of power for me to stay with it.


  8. Rachna, great post. If an idea excites me and I wish there were a book about it then I know I must be the one to write it. Kind of like your friend said. And as you said, I have to hate leaving my story or idea for even one minute. Then I know I have a winner. :)

  9. I'm with you on the marinating part. The book I'm working on now began as a tiny idea several months ago. Since then, I collected scraps of paper with different angles and ideas. I'm still on draft one, but I'm enjoying where the story is going!