Writing Tips: Part One: A Good Idea.

Everyone seems to be writing about writing. That’s why I’ve held off on this until now. After all, what can I say that hasn’t already been said?

Well, we can all share our unique experiences, of course. So what are my experiences that qualify me to give out writing tips, even to the extent of getting a book contract from a traditional publisher?

I started writing my first novel in 2009. I signed a traditional publishing contract for it in 2013, and it’s coming out in September 2015.

I understand that it’s unusual (although not completely unheard of) for it to take only four years between starting writing and getting a book contract. It’s also unusual that the contract is for the first book I’ve ever written. In other words, I haven’t got a bottom drawer full of trial runs and abandoned efforts.

So how have I done this? I invite you to read on and find out. All I can do is give you an honest account of what I’ve done with Destiny’s Rebel, my debut teenage fantasy novel.

Of course, we’re all different, with varying temperaments, talents, backgrounds, educations, personalities, and all the rest of it. We don’t like the same things, and wouldn’t write the same sorts of stories. But I hope that you might discover here something that will help you. I genuinely do. I’m not precious about getting published, and would like as many writers as possible to feel the affirmation and satisfaction of seeing their ambitions fulfilled.

So, where should we start? How about where all stories start, and that is with the first idea.

Dreams Cover

The idea for Destiny’s Rebel came in a dream. I woke up one morning in January 2006 and I was able to recall the dream I’d just had. It was vivid, and struck me as a good story. But I wasn’t a writer then, and had neither the time nor the inclination to write. So I jotted down some notes about it at the time, and that was all. I’ve little notion why I did that (although I’m very glad I did), other than not wanting to forget a good dream.

But the next question is: is it a good idea? Or even a great idea? Is it good enough to support a book about it? Is it compelling or intriguing enough to hold your own interest over the time it will take to write it, and then later on to interest literary agents, publishers, booksellers and the reading public?

At the time of an idea, none of us really know. I thought it was good, but then what do I know? Judge for yourself.

The dream was about Kat, a girl who is days away from her eighteenth birthday, when she will become Queen. And she’s dreading it. Because of all the expectations and responsibility that her future will bring, she runs away from her destiny.

That’s how the story starts, and I’m not going to tell you the rest for fear of spoiling the book. 🙂 It’s set in an imaginary historical world, with castles and kingdoms, swords and sailing ships, simply because those are the sorts of stories that I enjoy. And first and foremost, I wrote it for myself.

So is it a good idea? Well, let’s see:

1. It has an inherent tension and conflict, between external circumstances and Kat’s desires.

2. It has a short and driving time-frame, as the days diminish until Kat inherits her Crown.

3. It has both an external and internal journey, as Kat strives to return home in time to save the Kingdom from a threat, and also as she struggles with accepting her destiny.

4. It has Key Questions: Will she get there in time? Does she even want to, if it means facing up to her duty and responsibility? In short, can she escape who she’s meant to be?

So let’s say that at least the idea has “potential”.

Looking back, I realise that this story arose out of my feelings about my life at the time of the dream. I was in a job where at times I also felt trapped and burdened by expectation and responsibility. So I imagined a story about running away from them. For this reason, Kat’s story is my story, as I also face up to my duty and circumstances in life, and try to discover my own destiny. I hope I’m not so much of a rebel about it as Kat is, though!


(“Warrior Girl”, by Emma Graham Illustrations)

So, what’s your idea for a story? Is it a good one?

You may have a number of ideas, and need to sift out the best. But if finding an initial idea is your problem, then don’t despair. You can always work on the next stage while you’re waiting for the muse of inspiration to strike. The next stage (for Part Two of this), is to work on your Talent and Craft.

Happy writing … and dreaming!