You’ve got a great idea for a story and you can’t wait to start writing. I’m here to caution you against spewing out your story too soon. You need to indulge in plenty of foreplay before you’re ready.
Okay, enough sexual innuendo. The truth is that no matter how tempting it is to start your first draft, you need to wait until you’re ready. A story needs to mature before you start writing it. Or, at least for me it does. I’m an outliner. I can’t speak for pantsers—people who sit down and write without knowing where their story is going. I need to know. It helps me build layers of depth in the first draft.
If you start writing too soon you will quickly run into a wall. You won’t know where to go next. Your characters will thrash around wasting a lot a time until you figure out the next move. When this happens you end up with passive characters—the story happens to them instead of the characters driving the story.
When you take time to think about your story you’ll be able to see how the pieces fit together, how you can strengthen themes, add motivation, create nuances. You can add the subtleties up front that often don’t develop until a third or fourth draft. It saves time and you’ll have a stronger story to work with.
But this blog is supposed to be about treatment, so the next time you have a great story idea I want you to open a new document and write down your ideas. And then walk away from it. Keep the story idea in the back of your mind. Add to your notes as new ideas come to you. Everyday you resist starting the first chapter you get to have a treat—a Hershey kiss, or 30 minutes of uninterrupted reading time, or a nice stroll to enjoy the weather (you’ll have to fit that one in between snowstorms this spring). Pick a treat that you enjoy that won’t add too many pounds to your waistline (I have to watch the Starbuck treats when I’m starting a new story). You want to associate this stage of writing with positive reinforcement rather than feeling like you’re denying yourself. It can be hard to wait when you are so excited by an idea. If you give it time to develop you’re more likely to be able to finish the first draft rather than give up on it halfway through.