It's that time. My writing fingers are getting itchy and I think I'm ready to start a new project. It's an exciting moment - opening up MS Word, seeing that beautiful blank page, and going to "Save As". But am I really ready?
I don't have a formal checklist of tasks I need to complete before I decide that an idea is developed enough to become its own story. However, some things I need to have in place before I'm willing to start. Here's a random list in no particular order:
Character Names: The main characters MUST have first names picked out before I will even write the first word. Names can say a lot about a character right off the bat, and I want to make sure they're a good fit. Last names, though, I'm willing to be flexible on. They don't come up as often, and as such, I've used placeholders before if I just want to get down to it. And actually, when I finished the first draft of Elysium, I decided to change the male lead's surname for various reasons. (Thanks, search & replace!) I'll usually run a google search on the name combinations to make sure I'm not inadvertently naming a character after someone well-known.
Place Names: UGH. I HATE coming up with fictional place names for sci-fi/fantasy. Haaaaaate. Again, I've used placeholders here before just so I'm not sitting here, staring at the screen for an hour trying to find a name that doesn't sound stupid.
Title: Ha. Hahahahaha. Hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha. The issues I've sometimes had in the past with coming up with the perfect title have already been well-documented on this blog, so I'm just gonna leave that there.
Plot: Since I primarily write romance, 99% of the time the endgame is going to be "happily ever after", so that's taken care of. Getting there is, of course, a much different story. In thinking it over, I guess I don't really have any hard and fast rules here for what needs to be in place before I start writing. Although I write in order, sometimes I get going and realize that where I've decided to start the story is not the best place, and changes have to be made. Other times I think I've reached the end, only to learn that nope, there's more story in there somewhere. I usually have a basic framework in mind, but any outlines I make don't take a firm shape until I get started.
So where am I now? My two leads have first names. When I first started composing this post, my heroine didn't have a surname, but as I was climbing into bed last night to go to sleep, the perfect name popped into my mind, so yay? (Google has confirmed it is a good choice.) I don't have a name for the fictional planet most of the story will take place on. I know how I want to start the story, I know what the climax will be, but I haven't quite figured out the denouement. Bits and pieces of the middle are fleshed out, and I have some specific scenes and character development in mind. I think I'm good to go.
The title, though? Ha. Hahahahaha. Watch this space in a couple months for the usual freakout about how NOTHING SOUNDS RIGHT. I suppose I'll have to name that new Word document something vague.