There are certain things that every writer needs to do in order to write anything. In my mind, there are five. Well, that’s a lie. There’s more than five but these five are the most important in my opinion.
Ok, so I may have shoved things in there that don’t quite fit with the 5 R’s, and some might not even begin with R. But bear with…
Read, Research, wRite, Rewrite, Rewrite
wRite, Rewrite and Rewrite
Writing is obvious, as are the two rewrites. A first draft must be written and then this is worked on, rewritten and edited to within an inch of its life until you are utterly sick of it and can make it no better.
This one I’m not too sure about. Whenever a published writer is asked how to get published, they say ‘read! Read everything!’. Which is great, as long as you’re also writing. Of course it is important to read, it allows you to learn what works and what doesn’t. Not to mention what has already been done and what there is a market for. I don’t agree with reading everything though. Where do these people find the time to read everything?
You should only write what you enjoy, so it stands to reason that you should only read what you enjoy. Read your genre, but don’t be stifled by it.
Reading, in this list of five R’s, is not just about learning or a way of improving your writing when your brain is too tired to piece together two words. Reading can also inspire. How has one person tackled an issue, or a creature? How would you have tackled it? What would your version look like? How can you expand on it?
Watch should also fall under read, it doesn’t fall into the list because no matter how I type it, I can’t make it begin with R. Watching is just as important as reading. Writers watch everything, they people watch, they TV watch, they film watch, they nature watch; they world watch. Inspiration comes from everywhere and anywhere.
Another source of inspiration and a key ingredient to writing is research. Yes, inspiration can be found in research. Research is key to every story, no matter its genre. Even a fantasy story set in another world requires research.
How does your culture work? Is it similar to a culture on Earth? Then learn about that culture and apply.
How does your government system work? How does our government system work? What can you use from it?
Want a mythical creature in your story? Look up weird and wonderful mythical creatures, learn about them, twist them to your liking and then learn about the cultures they came from. What else could fit into your story?
Of course, proper research may also be needed in fantasy stories. My current novel is about werewolves. No problem! I shall read and watch everything I can on the subject (gladly). But in this story, my heroine is also wanted for murder.
In researching the level of detective who would be searching for her, I came to realise that she is not only a murderer, she’s a serial killer. Two little words that added a whole new dimension to the story and her characterisation. It also meant that the detective needed to step up a notch.
In researching what level he should be and title he should have, I also learned a lot about the police structure in the UK. It was just a starting point but already it has helped to flesh out that subplot and further develop not just my detective character but also the killer he is chasing.
Research does not have to be utterly focussed either. A fantastic way of getting inspiration is to simply trawl the newspapers. Flick through your local rag or an online paper and see what you can find.
In my day job before my current one, one of my roles was go through local newspapers and highlight any coverage our organisation had received. Naturally I ended up reading the papers, and noting interesting stories.
I wrote a short story inspired by a painting sold at a local auction which had an interesting back story, for example. Ok, so it didn’t place in the competition I submitted it too but that probably says more about my writing than my story ideas.
From doing this and generally reading online, mixed with reading and watching, I have composed a list of plot ideas for a series which so far contains approximately seven books.
See, research can be fun and productive! Now I just need to find the time to write all of those stories…