It’s common for first drafts to be a mess as they’re simply meant for placing the foundations of the story and getting our ideas down. You’ll probably find your first draft falls into one of two categories: character-focused with lots of internalization and little action, or plot-focused with lots of action and very little internalization. For the story to feel balanced, it needs a combination of both internalization and action. All of which needs to be driven by the protagonist.
A story can fall flat when your story does not have the momentum to push the reader forward page by page. A strong narrative drive directs everything in your story toward one point and keeps the plot from wandering and focused in the direction it needs to go. We grab the reader’s attention by presenting the protagonist with heavy consequences for failure to reach their goals. Each action builds upon the last until we finally reach the end. Cause and effect. Plain and simple. Anything that doesn’t fit into this cause-and-effect relationship doesn’t belong in the story, unless it is part of a parallel plot or subplot.
The inciting event is a critical part of the story. It is the defining moment where your protagonist is drawn into the core conflict. And its placement will vary depending on what genre you write and how much setup is needed beforehand. But one thing holds consistent, it always happens somewhere in the beginning.
Your opening scene determines whether people will read your book or not. If it doesn't capture your reader's attention in the first couple pages, they'll likely put your book down and find another. With the speed of today's world, people no longer have the time or patience to wade through a slow beginning. No matter how engaging the rest of the book is.
Writing a series is a long and difficult process. There are so many things we must keep straight between each book it can be easy to get lost or frustrated. But tackling the three major problems you will run into will make the process easier.
Creating a character arc can seem like more work than is needed. But if your readers can't relate to your protagonist's struggles, they won't care about the story, and it will seem boring to them.
It can be difficult to tie up all your loose threads if you can't remember them. Outlining can help you pace your ending and keep the event order straight as each unfolds. Think about your climax's impact and how everything needs to come together for a powerful ending.
Every writer's process is different. Some might start writing with the barest of structures, some might outline every point, and some might not apply structure at all until after their first draft. But it's a lot easier to write when you know where you're going.
A story can't exist without characters. But with all the different character creation lists out there, it can be difficult to know where to start.
If we want our world to come alive in our readers' minds, we have to make it feel real. The more complex and diverse your world is, the better your readers will be able to relate it and the easier it will be to generate a variety of conflict for your characters.