Building a Story :
To begin a story, you need 2 things – characters and a plot. It doesn’t need to be detailed, just a general idea of where you’re going to take the story and how you want it to end. Without an end, you can’t have progress in the middle. Without good characters, your story won’t go anywhere either, so think about this seriously. At this stage, you don’t need names and faces and personalities, or careers. You just need a general overview.
To have a successful story, you need a good beginning and a good ending. To start a book well, you need to capture the readers attention, so make sure something is happening. In Runaway Girl it’s a council meeting, which discusses the search that will continue throughout the story, in Without You, a novel I’m currently working on, the start is a high school party that kicks off everything that follows. If you start the book badly, with nothing happening or a long, boring description of a person or worse, the weather, and it’s not important or relevant to where the story is going, your reader is going to get bored and wander off. The first chapter is where readers will decide if the rest of the book is worth reading.
The End :
So you’ve written a great start, and a good middle and your readers have reached the end of the book. This is where you have to keep them hooked, until the last words ‘THE END’, so that they will come back and read more of your work, or continue on with the series. This is where you have to decide whether you want a series or a solo novel, or both. You could have a series, but make it that each book can be read individually, which makes it very important that each book has a solid ending, answers all the questions and that the plot ties up at the end. For a series where you don’t want each book to have a solid ending, this isn’t as important, but do think up a good ending. Endings are as important as how you start the book.
Some people only start writing a story into a novel, when they have a good title. Me, I give it a temporary title and once I’ve finished the book, I go back and re-evaluate the relationship between the title and the final book. I always believe that your title should be less than a sentence, and fully describe the meaning or events of the book without giving anything away. E.g. The Vampire Diaries, The Luck of the Weissensteiner’s, Runaway Girl – all these titles relate to what you are going to read about. They all give you an idea of what is inside the cover. Or, you can go the more literary route, e.g. The Crocodile on the Sandbank, which is a novel set in Egypt, by Elizabeth Peters. Each of her Amelia Peabody series is named after an Egyptian fairytale. If you’re writing a series, you can choose to keep a theme, like the A is for, B is for… series by Sue Grafton. Either way, your title alone has to be something that will catch a readers attention.
Every story or novel you write will have a little bit of you in it, so use that to your advantage. Write what you know about, not what you know. I write about crime, angels and vampires, but I don’t have any first hand experience of any of these. I write about them because I know a lot about them. I read a lot of non-fiction and fiction books about them, I watch a lot of TV shows and documentaries about them. I’ve studied them. You have to think about what you know, what is relevant to your story, and use it. It can be something as simple as having your characters argue over a subject you know about. But only use it if it’s relevant. If it’s just you showing off what you know and how you know it, then leave it out.