After two weeks of driving and visiting, I’m back at my desk today. A highlight was lunch with old friends from Central Ohio Fiction Writers. It was a joy to catch up on everyone’s work, and share with people who love the craft! One topic of particular interest—approaches to starting a new book. Every writer is different.
I’ve learned over the years that my process is iterative. I begin with the characters, a main one or two but usually an ensemble of people, almost always family members. i consider the main characters internal conflict and what we now call “issues.” I almost always have the setting in mind. I frequently envision a scene or two, often the beginning sometimes the end. I think “out loud” by brainstorming with friends if I’m lucky, but also by writing. I begin to write the scenes in my head, but writing them down makes the characters more real. Think a little; write a little.
That’s where I am at this moment. This is where I have to take the main character, and, since I plan a series, some of the secondary characters, and dig really deep. There are a number of schemes, forms, and techniques for doing that. I’m not married to one, but I have to get to know my hero and heroine in their marrow so I know what they have to change, how they have to suffer to do it, and how their journey’ s merge. I need to identify the specific points (what one author calls “the mirror moment”) when the individuals decide to change, and where those might fit in the story. If I haven’t already I have to know the end. During this phase I will continue to sketch scenes as they come to me. Think a lot; write a little.
Once the characters wrap themselves around my heart and I know a few key change points and the end, I sit down to write, write, write. I do not plan scene by scene, but periodically I take stock. It becomes a matter of meeting my words per day goal and just getting the story out. Write a lot; think a little.
Of course, that’s just the path to the first draft… So this week? Think a lot; write a little too. But first, coffee.