It’s a hard thing, staring down a blank page…starting a new story from nothing but ideas.
I’ve often heard other writers comment on the difficulty of starting a brand new storyline. It’s rare that I fall into this category, mostly because I get so little time to write, that by the time I sit down, the ideas are already there and just waiting to go onto the page.
But recently, I fell victim to the blank page. After reviewing some online magazine submission guidelines, I opened a new document in Word and proceded to stare at the white screen for 10 minutes. But then I remembered…
Another reason I don’t usually suffer from blank page intimidation, is because I have a process for beginning a story. I’m not sure if it’ll be helpful to anyone, but I think I’ll share it just in case.
For me, when I sit down to start any new story, whether it be a piece of microfiction, a short story, or a novel(la), I run with the first decent sentence that pops into my head.
The opening sentence I came up with the other day when starting another scifi short story was this: Broad Street is a long road.
For me this was a great starting point because it sets up my story in my hometown of Richmond–where most of my stories take place–therefore establishing a setting I’m familiar with. This sentence also works because I have a specific location: Broad Street. I walked and worked on Broad Street during my 20’s when I went to college in the heart of Richmond.
With a satisfactory starting point, I just let my imagination explore the MC’s perspective…
I’ve walked it many times. Most humans don’t give me a second look. Some people just stare.
This works too, because the MC is an alien. And I think by addressing the fact that he refers to others as humans and not people, I establish that he is somehow different.
I’ve been hiking this road, looking for him; the man who confiscated my vessel. Mr. Tobes. He quarantined my landing site, calling it Area 53.
I like this because I now have an objective for my alien.
I’m looking for Area 52. It’s here. On Broad Street. But Broad Street’s a long road.
Okay, that’s the opening for my new short story. It sets up setting, gives minor intro to MC, and establishes an objective. It’s not perfect, but it gives just enough lose ends for my brain to really get running with the story. I have to think about why my alien wants to find Area 52. New characters come to mind. New technology creeps into my imagination. We’re good to go.
Now, more likely than not, this opening will be completely reworked once I’m done with the first draft. There’s a very good chance that none of it will be relevent once I actually know what the story is. And that’s okay–maybe annoying sometimes–but okay.
So, what’s your writing process? How do you start something new? Do you ever experience blank page intimidation? Please leave a comment or word of advice. We’re all in this writing thing together.
So, I’m the mom of a 5 year old girl. She’s an intelligent, creative person with a flare for color and style. She can be remarkably sweet. She’s mature and demanding. She thinks she knows EVERYTHING and does no wrong.
Imagine, if you will, trying to negotiate with such a person in-and-out every day. I’m a stay-at-home mom, so there’s very little space between me and my children. This means that toes get stepped on more frequently, space gets invaded too often, and mountains of dishes end up in my otherwise clean sink.
Anyone with a child knows that 5 year olds are on the cusp of being actual people. They are intuitive and soak up every word whether it’s spoken loudly or muttered under one’s breath. You never know when they’re going to regurgitate those words, but it’s always a mortifying experience. And a humbling one.
My daughter has grown increasingly intolerant of her little brother. My daughter is independent and does all things with a level of perfection she knows her clumsy, sweet, well-meaning little brother just can’t.
This morning, she was fussing at him about not recapping her markers–a skill she herself has only mastered within the last month–when I intervened on the poor lads behalf. I’ll never forget what I said, because the writer in me sprang forth and rained down like mom-shaped confetti.
I said, “Don’t you think you could be more patient with your brother? Hasn’t he shared all his birthday presents with you?”
She said, “But he won’t recap my markers!!!”
I said, “I think you should forgive him, and recap the markers when ya’ll are finished.” (Meanwhile, rage boils beneath skin)
She said, “But he’s ruining my things!!!”
I said, “I think you need to be more patient.” (Rage leaks from pores) “You need to change this grumpy behavior.”
She said, “I have!!!”
I said, “Then show me by changing your behavior, don’t just tell me the words!”
Child stares at me in gaping fashion, stunned into silence.
I’ve never had actual writing lingo break into non-writing conversations before. The phrase pulled me up short, so I made like any proper mom who accidently won an argument, and stormed out of the room–supposedly to leave said child to ruminate over the supreme logic of her parent.
It was a fun experience, and while my daughter sat back down to her uncapped markers, I sprang into the dining room to write out my experience on a paper plate–the closest thing to paper I had on hand.
I’ve always noticed how my life experiences seep into my writing, adding color and texture to settings and grit or pa-zazz to my characters. It’s almost a plot twist to have my writing seep into the everyday…and score me a parenting win!
*Showing versus telling…most of us know what this means, but if you’re new to writing, or not a writer at all, let me offer a brief explanation. Show vs Tell means to use dialogue and physical action to express something in your writing, to progress the plot, and enlighten the readers to new information, instead of just telling the reader straight up. Telling is also referred to as an info dump. And if parents know anything, we know that dumps are heavy and repelling.
On that fruitful note, I’ll open the floor to other parents. Have you shared similar experiences with your kids? Have you surprised yourself and gained a win for the home team? Please leave a comment or word of advice. We’re all in this parenting–and writing–thing together.
Today the release of my microfiction scifi short story Grey Scale is on 101 Words! Jump over and check it out! It’s actually a sneak peak at a new novel idea I’m working on.
As most of you know, I finished the first draft of my werewolf novel, Refining Sylver, last month and have been working on bits of flash fiction and short stories ever since. While doing so, I’ve discovered my next novel idea, which will be put into high gear towards the end of the year.
So, I decided to use some of my short story entries to test out plot and characters. Grey Scale, listed above, introduces the male MC–Ambassador Brune–an alien with a predilection for war.
In a short story I’m working on–around 7,300 words–we get to meet the female MC–Elise Lavendar–a courtroom artist with a bit of southern spunk. This short story hasn’t been submitted for publication yet, but will hopefully grace the web at some point later this summer.
I’ve never gone about novel writing this way. I usually just start with a basic outline. I’m very much enjoying this alternate process because it’s giving me plenty of opportunities to flesh out characters and plot long before I actually try to hammer out 95,000 words.
Do any of you have a similar process? Or a completely different scheme for writing novels? Please leave a comment or word of advice. We’re all in this writing thing together.
Hey Friends! I just posted my first 2 videos on instagram of me reading the query letter for my short story. I’m looking for title recommendations, so if you have about a minute and a half, pop over to my instagram page and give me your thoughts!
On Good Friday, I finally finished writing my fantasy novel, Refining Sylver! It’s taken me almost 2 years to bring it from an idea to a book.
Refining Sylver started as a short story on Channillo and was a great opportunity for me to showcase my idea at about 20,000 words. It received positive feedback from readers and I was pleased that a few people ranked it as favorite, but I thought there was opportunity to deepen and expand the plot. I wanted to flesh out my characters and see where the story went.
About a year and half later, the first full length novel is complete at just above 95,000 words. I’m pleased that it reached such a length–I’m hoping to one day seek representation.
So, now my little word baby has been tucked into it’s file and will nap for a few months. In the meantime, I’m moving along to my summertime projects: writing short stories for magazine publication.
So raise a toast! I finished my book by my self-imposed deadline of the end of March! 2018 has been good for writing!
Man, 2018 is flying by! Though I’ve been juggling a lot of sick days with the kiddos (we’re talking flu, bronchitis, and standard colds), I’ve still managed to add 20,000 words to my MS since New Years.
I had some concern over the summer that my fantasy novel wouldn’t meet with traditional publishing wordcount standards, but with a little quiet plotting and further character development, things have worked out.
I now feel confident that my werewolf novel will top out around 90,000 words–first draft.
I have thoroughly enjoyed writing this novel; not only for it’s concept, but for it’s overall process and quality. Now that I’ve been doing this for a few years, it finally feels like I’m hitting my stride. (Other books I’ve written fall into that first few books category, usually quantified more by the love put into them than the quality of the end result.)
While I don’t know what the future holds for this current MS, I feel confident it’s the best of my writing babies, so far. Once it’s beautifully honed into the best version of itself, I’d love to go agent-hunting.
But in the interum, after the completion of the first draft, I am going to write a few short stories and seek out some magazine publications. It’s been a while since I’ve had my work showcased, and I feel the urge to get out there once again.
So cross your fingers folks! I’d love to finish my wip by the end of March. I’m optimistic of my chances, so long as the kids go to school and I get my me-time.
Cheers on this St. Patrick’s Day! (I’ll be drinking green Sprite with the kiddos!)
Are you meeting your writing goals for 2018? Please leave a comment or word of advice! We’re all in this writing thing together.