First draft tip #1: Find your seed

Every story has to have a seed. The vague desire "to write a book" really isn't enough to get you through the first few pages, much less the entire thing.

The good news is, seeds come in all shapes and sizes.

For me the stories usually show up first as a situation.  The book I'm wrote for NaNo in 2010 is called The Venus Mirror, and I got the idea a year or so ago while watching a little girl make faces at herself in a mirrored surface. Suddenly I had this idea of a girl who finds a mirror that she does not appear in. She can see her friends and family going about their lives, but there's no sign of her. Why?

I didn't have a character, or a setting, or any kind of plot at that point. I just had a situation that fired my imagination and made me want to explore further.  All the books I've written have started that way. What kind of dragon would live in Alaska? What if you died and came back as a cat? And so on.

That really is the only requirement for a seed. It has to be something that grabs you. Just writing what you think you ought to write, or trying to write something because you think it sells, is the surest way to boredom and discouragement.

But as I said, a seed can be anything.

~ Do you have a character in your head that won't stop talking to you? That's a seed.

~ Are you obsessed with a time period from history? Run with it.

~ Do you adore mysteries or espionage thrillers or steamy romances? That love is a seed. Start from there.

You don't have to have all your ducks in a row to write a book. But you do need to start with something that you love, something that makes the book worth writing for you. You need a seed.

What about you? How do your stories start?


  1. I love your idea, the whole mirror concept is so intriguing, and a little mysterious. My stories do start with a pivotal situation, challenging the characters' thinking, lives, in some way. From there, I outline it out and see where I can take it.

  2. hmmm... I agree. My "seed" is usually a situation, but I guess I always thought of that as the plot. Yet I guess it never really was, because a situation in itself can't be an entire novel-long plot -- maybe a plot the length of a 5k short story, but probably not a whole novel.

    I liked this post. Will definitely be checking you out on nano! :)

  3. Your idea sounds very interesting. Hope it works out. Yes, I usually start with an idea and it grows from there like yours. I often think of writing like gardening. Maybe because they're both about growing either plants or stories.

  4. Joanne- Thanks! It's interesting to see how the idea developed over the last year, and I'm sure it will develop more in the writing. I do a lot of organizing too. :)

    Star- Cool! I could always use more Nano buddies!

    Natalie- Writing does have a lot in common with gardening. Including all the mucky parts... :)

  5. My seeds come as either interesting characters, or interesting ideas.Incidentally, my NaNo novel this year also involves a mirror!

  6. My stories usually start with character ideas, and then I put them into situations or make them interact with each other and watch them grow.


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