Original question from Quora:
I want to be a writer and right now I’m starting my first book. What are the most important things in creating a story? Any advice?
I’ve heard that making a first draft is very important. Also how would I know people would like the stories I make? I’m always afraid that people would see my stories as ‘disturbing’ or ‘unsettling’ like what happened to the Twilight series. And what are the things I should avoid?
You are on your way to becoming a writer. That is excellent.
However, in your question you have two false premises. Both of them are incredibly damaging.
So, before you get too far along this path, hit pause and read this now…
The first draft is not important unless it is completed. Let me say that again. The first draft is NOT important until it is COMPLETED.
When you write your first draft you are not allowed to edit it. You have to keep moving forward until you have a complete story. Edit when you get to the end.
The only time your first draft is useful is when it is a complete story that you can edit down to the final story.
When I wrote my first book, Creative Genius, I spent more time editing than writing. I did about a dozen editing passes through the entire book to cut out words. It took months.
I cut out 25–50% of the words by the end.
The final version is WAY BETTER than the rough draft.
Now the second problem you have…
You are afraid of having your stories being disturbing or unsettling. It sounds like you are afraid of controversy.
As an author, controversy is your friend. The reason people talked about Twilight and Hunger Games is because they were CONTROVERSIAL. Otherwise they wouldn’t be worth talking about.
Ask yourself this question, “Do I talk about things that don’t surprise or shock me to other people?”
We both know the answer is no, at least not most of the time. When you tell someone a story, you don’t tell stories about the time you sat down to read the newspaper and nothing happened.
You talk about things that are interesting.
That’s part of your job as a storyteller. You have to tell interesting and sometimes controversial stories.
If people don’t talk about you or your stories, they don’t get read by anyone.
So, get to the end of your first draft and as you write your book tell an interesting, controversial story and as you edit and publish your book you will see that people respond to the interesting book you wrote and published that’s right for you and your readers.
P.S. I unpack more ideas in Creative Genius.