The answer: mind your own business, brain!
Lesson 1 in writing: ignore your brain, especially when it says stuff that makes sense.
Lesson 2 in writing: this is not a blog on the craft of writing, even though I may occasionally post on the subject. This is less of a writing lesson and more of a moronic statement about my blog.
Lesson 3 in writing: eat Pop Tarts. I say this only because I'm hoping that someone who works for Pop Tart Industries will read this blog and send me Pop Tarts. Also, it's a little known fact, but Pop Tart Industries controls 99% of the world's book blogs, and by mentioning them, you can ensure your book receives only positive reviews. It's true. Look it up.
Okay. Now I've forgotten what my point was.
According to the title of this post, I'm supposed to discuss "considerations"—whatever that means. It sounds like something I just made up. Hm.
Well, until I remember, let's pick up where I left off on the last "How to Write a Book" post: with the masons.
I had a concept: in a dystopian future where games turn deadly, masons hide secret symbols in the crumbling ruins of the United States Capitol—secrets that could stop the games forever and save us all.
Let's call our protagonist "Dogniss Nevergreen" for simplicity, and let's name the story "The Lost Hunger Symbol."
If it wasn't obvious already, the pitch line is: The Hunger Games meets The Lost Symbol. The pitch line lets the reader (particularly, the agent and editor) know how to categorize your story. It's like saying, "if you liked these two books, you might also like mine."
Next, I need to identify how my story is unique.
The great paradox of publishing is that publishers want an easily categorized story, so they can predict sales, and, at the same time, they want a story that's unlike anything else on the planet. In other words, they want something that's the same in a unique way.
My story is the same in that...
It's YA. There is a game. A secret group has hidden symbols.
My story is different in that...
The game takes place underwater. The symbols are hidden in electronic transmissions. Dogniss must reach the surface before he can interpret electronic symbols. At the end of the game, the winner gets a lifetime supply of scrumptious Pop Tarts.
The things I choose to focus on within the story can also help me tell a different story. Is Dogniss trying to escape or is he trying to change the game from within? Does the secret group appear in the story or do they just leave clues behind that allow Dogniss to escape? There are literally thousands of questions I could ask, and I could easily get bogged down. This is bad. Don't do this. If you get bogged down in questions, take a break, eat a Pop Tart, and try writing something.
Before I start writing, I don't need to answer all of these questions--many of these questions don't even occur to me until I start writing--but I like to answer the big ones.
- What is it about my story that I believe will appeal most to my chosen audience? This is my focus point, the thing I organize around, and the place where I should start the book.
- In The Lost Hunger Symbol, I might focus on the death of the secret group, or the horrible conditions in which Dogniss lives. Do I want to explore who Dogness is as a person and how he reacts to events, or do I believe that my readers will be more interested in the puzzles, or in the mystery of the secret order? Each of these things can feed into the story, but if I try to balance all of these elements equally, I won't do justice to any of them, my story will lose focus, and my readers will get bored. I need ONE focus point, and that's where I start.
- How is my story different from other stories, particularly popular stories, and are those differences substantial enough that it's worth writing the book?
Harry Potter "owns" several things now because of the books: lightning bolt scars and the phrases "the boy who lived" and "he-who-must-not-be-named," to give but a few examples. Identifying these things beforehand helps me further refine and target the story. It helps me generate mood and focus on things that, I believe, matter to my readers.
Alright. Enough for now. If others out there in the blog-o-sphere-o-verse have tips for picking and refining the right concept for a story, please make a comment. And, if Pop Tart Industries is watching (I know you are), I like the blueberry ones.