Monday, July 15, 2013

How To Start Writing That Next Book and Not Lose The Excitement


Getting Started 

on your next story is always exciting, but sometimes it can be frustrating. If you're anything like me, you dither a bit about how to start. My mind blurs with questions about just what I can write to capture the readers' attention and make them want to continue into my story.

Should I launch right into the scene where we meet the young boy in Afghanistan? He's a main character. His journey is central to the plot.



Or should I start back in the idyllic setting where another main character has a rose garden and dreams of his first trip to Afghanistan where he will be a teacher?


No. No. Let's go to that other MC--the one the rose garden guy will meet on his journey--the one who has only football on his mind when he meets and falls in love with a girl who's a USAID worker heading to Afghanistan.


But there's the romance!  I should start here because this is inciting incident, right? This is where Francesca breaks up with Enrico because he's so selfish. She's girl on the rebound when she meets that football guy . . . .


By now my head's in a twist. If I'm not careful I could wind up dumping the whole concept and going for hike. I've done that. But wait! I can start. I just have to have a strategy. Here's some of mine.

Strategy Part 1


First I take a few deep breaths to untwist my synapses; then I choose one of the story elements that excites me: maybe it's the interaction with another character or the environment. I might write about how a character in this element looks or acts. I might write a few lines of dialogue to "hear" the voice.

I might even write a single scene and not even think about where I'll finally use that scene in the story. All I care about is Getting Started.

I love to write description--you know the stuff you have to cut and cut and finally dump all together--so I do that. I've been known to write pages and pages of nothing but setting. Other times I go on and on about the character's childhood. I know I won't see that in the story, but I'm creeping up on my starting place. I'm finding out  more and more about the characters, where they live, how they interact with others, what makes them tick. These are my messy pages. Really messy.



The best part is after I know where I want to start, I don't have to come up with those perfect opening lines just yet. The killer lines will come. They'll fit the story in tone and engagement because they will have grown from the heart of the story.

Do you have a strategy for when you're stuck with Getting Started? Share, please. I have some more ideas and I'll post those next Monday. If I find other techniques for getting over this blank page problem, I'll put them in as well. I'll probably need them in the future.

36 comments:

  1. I just start with the first thing that comes to mind. If that's not a good starting point for the book, I add to the beginning or I cut up until I hit the good part.
    This post looks familiar...

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  2. I think it's tough to start, mainly because I've been so invested in the previous one that it's difficult to move on. But the only thing that works for me is to dig in and just start writing.

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    1. I think that's why some authors like to write series. They can keep their characters around a bit longer and involve them new situations.

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  3. Your novel idea has some fun similarities to my Afghani novel, Refugees (though also very different). I loved researching and writing my character, Johar. So funny to see your journal--now I don't feel so horribly messy!

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  4. I like your idea of writing scenes that excite you as a kick-off. That's what we all hope our stories will be--something that excites us and eventually others. But sometimes writing a novel feels like the moment you dump out a thousand pieces of a complicated puzzle...

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  5. Great post! I'm glad I stopped by. Like yourself, I work on the synopsis first. Then I just get started.

    What I do is I bullet point main ideas. Then I combine like ideas and start to put them in chronological order. Then I take these bullet points and start to form a Table of Contents with chapter titles.

    I will split chapters, two, three, four or more times as I fill the story out. I jump around a lot as I feel inspired.

    That's how I write a book.

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  6. I think writing a scene is a good way to get a feel for the next book. When a scene starts haunting you, characters and themes and problems start gathering around it.

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  7. Great advice and tips. Definitely helps me to just write- even if the writing will get edited out. I also like to talk through what I am writing because it helps me to flesh out the idea. Oh- and I love to draw one of the scenes I want to write about. Visualizing like that beforehand helps me get the words on the paper later.
    ~Jess

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  8. I start with the scene that's in my head the strongest. It's never the opening scene, but at least I can build from that point.

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  9. Ha! I love this post! I usually start with whatever sparked the idea. It's been a scene, a character's voice, and a premise before. Then I think about where the story will start from there, and go back and write that. Sometimes I'm already there, sometimes I have to backtrack. That being said, my first few critiques always refine my starting place. I often have to add some to the beginning, which I know is opposite of a lot of people. LOL.

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  10. you and i should get together!
    i love your ideas and i'm terrible at description. i add and add!!

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  11. I usually have an idea of the main plot points and that gets me started. The continuing has become the problem, even when I know where I'm going. Part of the problem for me is the description parts you love. I don't like them at all. So I'm struggling with my first draft and not having much time to write isn't helping.

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  12. I'm a walker. When I'm stuck walking or hiking clears my mind and I let it wander. It always seems to help.

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  13. My notebook is full of scribbles from my no, No, NO beginnings. I usually have to fish for it a bit, but I always find it :)

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  14. I usually write several chapter ones. Once I think I have the right spot, I use Save the Cat and write a tagline. It's sort of a double check. Then I make sure all those beginning elements are laid out. Then I start again. I like your method, Lee. Showers are very useful, too, and yoga.

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  15. This is a really awesome post! I enjoyed reading this very much.

    www.modernworld4.blogspot.com

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  16. I used to have trouble knowing where to start, but then I read HOOKED by Les Edgerton. It helped me a lot. I start at the place where something happens to the MC or the MC does something to change their world and leads into the thick of the story.

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  17. I rarely start writing until the characters have been running around in my head for a bit. I generally see the ending scene first and let that simmer for a bit. Then somehow the 1st scene pops up and off I go. Sometimes my head is a scary place. :)

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  18. Yep, it's definitely good to flesh out those details rather than jumping in straight away. It's good to simply enjoy!

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  19. Love this post, C.Lee! Honestly, when an idea strikes me, I start writing primarily to get-to-know this character who wants to be heard. I might even write a scene or two. Then I decide on two or three starting points and start writing an outline. Usually one point eventually stands out to me. If not, I just keep writing until it does.

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  20. I love hearing each writer's methods. For me, I just start and see where it takes me. Writing a new story is always so frightening.

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  21. I usually just outline where I want the plot to go and start writing. And then I always have to rewrite the first chapter so it fits the story.

    I'm so jealous of your setting writing. I usually leave it out and the editor reminds me to put it in.

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  22. I really don't know how I start. The best I can tell you is that 8 times out of 10 I have a sentence in my head that won't go away. I always start with that. During revisions everything may change and in fact I've been known to dump the first chapter or two, but I almost always start with a sentence that simply will not let me go.

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  23. Hi Lee .. not writing books saves me from this thought process or unravelling my handwritten notes - nightmare ..

    But the start here - sent me off along the trail of Attar of Roses .. and how the two young men/older lads meet ... then of course the girl could come in with the oil of rose ...

    I just don't know - but my mind wandered off .. cheers Hilary

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  24. I write some backstory like that, but I usually don't realize it's backstory and not where I need to start until I come upon the real starting spot. And sometimes the starting spot changes the further I get into the story. Great post, Lee!

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    1. Thanks, Carol. I love good backstory dropped into the scenes.

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  25. That's a good strategy. When I'm starting a story I sit down and create a very rough outline--just let all the ideas and scenes and characters out. When I'm sure I've gotten everything out on the page, I begin to create a more organized outline--rearranging scenes, fleshing out plot points and so on.:)
    Nutschell
    www.thewritingnut.com

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  26. Hey Lee,

    I'm extremely sorry that is has taken so long to get here and bring joy to your heart with one of my highly cherished comments. My friend, your wait is over! Yay and gosh!

    I never get stuck with getting started. I have plans and I never have writer's blockage or whatever you writer type folks call it. Perhaps, I'm slightly exaggerating with never getting stuck with getting started. Sometimes I dither, do the dishes, dance and dunk doughnuts (donuts). During such dithering times, Penny the Jack Russell dog and modest internet superstar, takes over my writing. Good little dawg.

    So actually, because I'm under no pressure, everything just happens the way I like it. No rules, no plots, no editing.

    Still, excellent strategies you allude to that I'm sure will be of benefit to your vast readership.

    I'm going now!

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    1. Well, now you've given us another strategy. Bring home a talented pup and while you dance and dunk those donuts (doughnuts) he can do the work. Great idea. I'm off to find me a pup.

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  27. I understand. I had trouble with the first two novels I wrote. After deleting the beginning three chapters of Novel #2, I learned to figure out the starting point early and make sure it's got a really good hook. No more wasting time and deleting scenes for me!

    Good luck! :-)

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  28. This is a super post.
    I like the sound of your "messy pages", out of all that chaos, a story unfolds.
    I tend to write lots of scenes, which will fit into the story somewhere along the line (or so I hope)
    Writer In Transit

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    1. Scene writing is wonderful. And isn't it great when they do fit in? Our minds are amazing.

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  29. Hi, Lee,
    I admire writers who can come up with an idea and start writing anywhere. No matter what my thought/vision is, I always start writing from the beginning. I do have a few pieces that I've written for Romantic Friday Writers that I know I'll stick in if I ever get started on those books.

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  30. I write it in an outline, but many times my CP's tell me that chapter 2 is the real chapter 1 because of the action and problem arising.

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  31. I've got a little something for you over on my blog, Lee. :)

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  32. That notebook is somehow familiar. I think I have one like that... or many. I'm re-learning to hold a pen. It's been a while that I type everything instead of writing it.

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