Having just finished my summer 2020 novel, I am currently brainstorming my next project, book 14 – a story for Christmas 2020. I love this stage where anything seems possible and I lay in bed at night creating and dismissing a whole gamut of ideas. Here are my top tips for the areas to focus on that will hopefully result in a story that will attract the attention of the book-buyer and make a satisfying read.
Decide whose story it is. This isn’t just about point of view. My latest release, The Christmas Calendar Girls, is written in the first person, from journalist Fern’s perspective, but the story is also about the journey of new man in town Kit. Fern must move on from the death of her husband. Kit must move on from a troubled, secretive past. Think about who you really want the reader to connect with. It is those characters you want them to invest in, so that their heart is in reaching the end and finding out if everything is resolved – or not.
Ask yourself to what degree you want those significant characters to change during the course of the chapters – because change they must. Otherwise what is the point? The character/s you really want your readers to be interested in must, in my opinion as a reader and writer, go on a journey, learn something about themselves and in some way be different by the end. Strong character development, as the plot plays out, is one of the important things that will hook your reader.
I’ve just read a beautiful story called The Girl I Used To Know by Faith Hogan. It is about two neighbouring women. One must overcome the present. One must overcome the past. It is watching this process of change, in them both, that made the read so compelling.
Are the stakes high enough? This change your characters undergo can’t be too easy to achieve – they must suffer for it! Overcome challenges. Nearly fail. Feeling like giving up. Face a degree of risk. The reader must become their cheerleader, hoping against hope that everything will work out in the end. Or perhaps the opposite…maybe one of the significant characters is not likeable and the reader is compelled to see how they change – either through redemption or getting their comeuppance.
I’ve recently read Trickster by Sam Michaels, a great gangland story set in Battersea just as World War One is announced. It’s very much a story about female empowerment and the main character, Georgina, must find a way to be independent and consolidate her position as a woman locals respect. For her the stakes could not be higher – abuse, possibly worse – and this totally invested me in the story and made me reluctant to put the book down until I had finished it. As did the journey of one vile character, Billy. Would he change for the better? Or would he get his just desserts?
Is the concept high enough to attract the book browser’s attention? What’s the one-line premise of your story that will make someone stop to read the rest of the blurb? It doesn’t necessarily need to be really *out there* like, say Twilight – *teenage boy turns out to be 104 year old vampire*. But, essentially, this is about what makes your story stand out as different.
The Christmas Calendar Girls revolves around the concept of a living advent calendar. I’ve not heard of another romance story that contains this event. I wasn’t even sure what it was when I first heard about it! When I did research on the subject the whole idea fascinated me and I felt it would be a wonderful concept to base a novel on and that, being a little different, it might catch the attention of readers.
In other words, what is your book’s USP – Unique Selling Point? Due to the rise of the ebooks there are more novels than ever out there – why should a reader pick yours?
And finally… Have fun! This is the stage where your imagination can really run wild, before your inner critic, beta reader, agent or editor get involved! You may need to tailor you initial ideas but get those creative juices flowing. That initial buzz – a bit like falling in love – should carry you through the project!