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.