Apr 292015

Image by Hernán Piñera

No matter how crucial a scene may be to your plot, if it makes you go “ick”, don’t lead with it.

It seems obvious to me after it was pointed out, but at the time of writing and revising a particular story, it made sense to start at the “beginning”, even though I always found myself thinking and wanting to tell people, “Just wait until you get to Chapter Two. Chapter One’s not really how the story’s going to continue; it’s just establishing the start of the protagonist’s character arc.” Yeah. Lesson learnt.

Start with the first of your good bits (we’ll call this the “Just Wait Until… Point” or JWUP). These days of instant gratification and high-speed everything, an author has much less time than ever before to hook a reader. That doesn’t mean you should start in media res without orienting the reader first. The difference nowadays is that your  orientation (a view of the characters’ “normal” before everything changes) can and should only be a few paragraphs at the most. The inciting incident, which needs to be compelling, must occur in the first page or two, or you risk being put down.

There’s an easy (“easy”) fix way to judge this for yourself: if your Amazon Look Inside sample breaks before it gets to the JWUP, cut your beginning until the break happens immediately after the JWUP.

Dec 062008

So, after about a week’s work and 6000 words, I’ve completed the synopsis (4000 words) and character notes (2000) for this new story. Now I’m satisfied that I can leave it to mature and allow other stories to fill my mind and be written, and when I come back to this story I will have all the important details noted down and ready to work for me. I can also, now, get back to working on the writing career course I’m taking, which I put on hold because I didn’t want to distract myself while playing with this new idea.  

What fun that was though! Every now and then I believe everyone needs a new idea to inject some fresh energy into their thinking. 

Comments (2)
Selma – 
That’s brilliant. Well done!
Posted 20 December 2008

Thank you. Holiday preparations and family visits have taken up my attention now, though.  
Posted 21 December 2008

Nov 242008

What do news stories of horrific instances of child abuse in Austria and other European countries have in common with the birth in captivity of a pygmy hippo? 

Somehow the combination has sparked the idea for a new teen novel that my muse has kept me awake over for the past two nights. I spent today on the planning and fleshing out the main characters, and tomorrow I’ll knuckle down and write the synopsis. It’s a lot darker than what I’ve been writing for the past few years, but at least it has an uplifting ending.

I always feel wired when I’m unravelling a new story for the first time. Hyper – like I’ve had too much caffeine and sugar, which is a strange feeling on top of the ultra-relaxed state caused by all the pregnancy hormones floating around in my system. I haven’t had coffee since June, either, so this is an interesting substitute.

I don’t know how freewriters can sit down and just start writing. For me the thrill comes with watching and listening to the story play out in my head over an intense period of a day or two. It’s like I’m seeing double for a while – a movie being played on top of my real life; my attention split between the two. By the end of it, the whole thing is in there in its entirety, in my brain, except for a few transition details and the nuts and bolts of the dialogue. 

And then the subplots arrive, and wind their way into the story, altering slight details and improving motives and adding twists to the ending. I get to make notes at this point, getting the details down while my brain studies the whole. And then I can leave the story for months or years at a time, knowing that I can pick it up whenever the time is right and it will be waiting. As I read over the notes I’ve made I’ll feel like I’m experiencing a story that is both fresh and new and an old friend at the same time. 

Comments (2)
Selma – 
I am very excited about your new project. To take some of the horrible things that have been in the news lately and turn them into something positive is wonderful. Best of luck with it all!
Posted 27 November 2008

Elle – 
Thank you Selma. None of what was in the news features in the story, though – it is just my feelings about the situations that have come out in the themes of the story. 
Posted 27 November 2008