10 Steps to Nail Your Story

By DiAnnMills @DiAnnMills

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I’m all about ways to ensure stories delight our readers. That’s why we write. The process of shifting through blogs, how-to books, and conference speakers for the most effective way to create reader appeal is an ongoing process.

Someone is always trying to hammer a new method into our brains.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen writers get so caught up with all the dos and don’ts that their creativity becomes paralyzed. They become stuck and spend their time constantly revising their stories without making them better. Some writers spend years perfecting a manuscript and never submitting. Instead of overthinking story, the writer could have written more books to improve their craft while entertaining readers.

The following 10 guidelines will help the writer find clarity by beginning strong and carrying the novel all the way through to “The End” in a timely and efficient manner
1. Why do you want to write this story? What do you want to show? Have you developed a premise that adds passion to every keystroke? If not, do so now. The why of characters is rooted in the story premise. A motivated writer is a determined writer.

2. Have you considered the hours involved? Do you have an inner drive for what is ahead of you—learning the craft, sharpening your tools, developing a brand, and diving into social media? Are you prepared to invest your time, effort, and money into a dream? Write down your thoughts and read them often. Use a calendar to set realistic goals.

3. Before beginning a story, complete the pre-writing. This includes genre, characterization, backstory, layering the plot, planning the setting, necessary research, and a synopsis of what your story is about. I hear the moans! No matter if you’re a careful outliner or organic, preliminaries have to be established before the first sentence. Planning saves the writer headaches and rewrites.

4. Organize and record the pre-writing into a program such as Scrivener or in a file folder that will contain subfiles for your story. I recommend a subfile for each: 

Are you organized?

A. Characterization – Include pics and backstory. Go deep for a three- dimensional character. Give your characters strengths and challenges sure to win a reader’s heart. A writer always learns more about the characters during the pre-write.
B. Plot – Plot results from a character struggling to achieve a goal or solve a problem. It’s rooted in the character’s wants, needs, strengths, and flaws. How will your character move ahead according to his/her temperament? What do you know about the characters’ problems? Can you lay out the journey?
C. Setting – How can you make the setting an antagonist, an unexpected foe disguised as innocuous.
D. Dialogue – Are the spoken words true to character, plot, and genre? How is body language unique?
E. Research – This adds credibility to story. I encourage you not to sidestep this stage and journal your findings.
F. Synopsis – How much do you know about the story? Have you established a midpoint that shakes up the characters? What about the climax? Resolution? Record as much as you know.
G. Questions – Use this folder for story questions that must be answered upon completion.
H. Outtakes- These are scenes I may or may not use in the story. But nothing is ever wasted.
I. Blog topic – Every scene holds the potential to be a blog about your book.

5. Establish when the story will be finished and a doable word count per writing day. Use a calendar to set reasonable goals.

6. Craft a one sentence hook for the story as it pertains now. This may change, and that’s okay. Ensure it has “wow” value.

7. Write your story. You may choose to keep the entire manuscript in one document or break it down into scenes or chapters. I prefer a subfile for each scene in which I record the POV character. This is incredibly valuable.

8. When a scene is completed, make a note of unanswered plot questions and place in the “Questions” file.

9. When a scene is completed, make a note of any blog topics that can be written and used in the marketing and promotion phase. Place these in the “Blog Topics” file.

10. Self-editing is an opportunity to make your best writing even better. Your personal process determines whether you write the entire story before rereading any chapters or reading sections sooner. If you have a critique partner or Beta reader, now’s the time for feedback.
Ten steps to ensure your story’s written professionally. Simple and easy to follow. Are you ready to begin?

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DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She combines unforgettable characters with unpredictable plots to create action-packed, suspense-filled novels.

Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. Library Journal presented her with a Best Books 2014: Genre Fiction award in the Christian Fiction category for Firewall.

DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. She is co-director of The Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference and The Author Roadmap with social media specialist Edie Melson where she continues her passion of helping other writers be successful. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country.

DiAnn has been termed a coffee snob and roasts her own coffee beans. She’s an avid reader, loves to cook, and believes her grandchildren are the smartest kids in the universe. She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas.

DiAnn is very active online and would love to connect with readers on any of the social media platforms listed at www.diannmills.com.