Maybe you're one of those lucky writers whose head is bursting with ideas. Or perhaps you have one idea that's been nagging you for weeks, always at the edge of your thoughts. Either way, you're itching to begin writing. That's good. But before you rush headlong into your story, stop and ask yourself one question: Is this just an idea, or is it a book?
Ideas, of course, are the seeds of any work of fiction or non-fiction. But until an idea is fully developed, until you can envision its beginning, middle and end, that one idea might not be enough.
The experience of writing for pages about an idea and ultimately getting nowhere (or getting a pile of rejections) has taught many writers to outline their books before they begin. But if the thought of an outline sends shivers up your spine, at least thinking your idea through and making sure it merits months of writing can save you future frustration.
A lot of writers, especially when they're beginners, get ideas for fiction from their own lives. This can be useful for several reasons: you're emotionally invested in the topic, you can relate directly to the main character, and if the situation actually happened to you, you're less likely to be unconsciously basing the story on a book you've read.
But remember, just because you find this thing that happened to you or your child fascinating, it doesn't mean it will be fascinating to thousands of potential readers. Very often, a real-life event is just that--an event. It's a vivid scene you recall with pleasure, or a family joke that's repeated over and over. It evokes strong emotions when you remember it, perhaps you even look back on an event as a turning point in your life. But only rarely does reality provide a plot.
When writers stick too closely to what really happened they fail to develop the elements necessary for a good story: a believable main character who is faced with a problem or conflict, mounting tension as that character tries to solve her problem and experiences setbacks, and a tension- filled climax followed by a resolution that's satisfying to the character and the reader.
If your main character is really your son, you might not want to get him in trouble or throw rocks in his path. But you have to. It's the only way you'll create a story that will keep readers hooked and wondering how it will end.
Speaking of endings, if the resolution of your story comes too easily, it's probably obvious and predictable. Try mixing up real life and have the situation evolve in a different direction. Surprise yourself, and you'll surprise an editor
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