Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Baby Steps of Writing #1: Starting Smart, Starting Centered


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This post is for anyone who is thinking of starting a novel.
This post is for writers who are setting those first exciting words to page.
This post is for those who are ready to write a second, third, or fourth book.
This post is for anyone who wishes they could minimize the amount of rewriting they have to do on their novels.
This post is for people who prefer to tackle huge projects with baby steps.
In other words, this post is for everyone. (Provided they are open to my opinion I'm giving here.)

Fiction writing is hard yet rewarding emotionally. Most of my “writing block” comes from, “What do I do next?” Because of this, sometimes I balk at it being the only discipline I know of that does not need a blueprint, a formula, a recipe, a protocol, or a sketch to begin. Sure, I’m a huge outliner, but often my outlines are haphazard and unfocused. This can work—and there is no one right way—but you have to be willing to accept that the less you plan up front, the more time you will spend rewriting. At least in my experience, it’s been that way.

After experimenting with different methods of plotting (and reading several writing books), I’m going to share with you what works the best for me in the next few blog posts. (All in portioned out baby steps.) My hope is that it might help some of you out there who have asked for my advice:

Baby Step #1
First, we start with an IDEA.
The idea is a lovely place to be. It’s so shiny and exciting—perfect in its very untainted form. For J. K. Rowling, the idea was the character Harry Potter, fully formed in her head on a delayed train. For Neil Gaiman, an image set a book in motion (I think maybe he said this about either Coraline or The Graveyard Book?). For Stephanie Meyer, it was a picnic scene she had had in a dream. For some people it’s a title with a dim idea as to why it should be titled so. In whatever form the idea comes to you, write it down. That’s the first step and one most of us writers can’t bear to not do. Write all you know about it, especially what excites you about it. It could come out as dialogue, narrative, a list, or whatever. Maybe all the above. It doesn’t matter; just write it down however the words come. Go ahead—get it out of your system. You deserve to not have it buzz around in your head forever. Be aware, though, that much of what you are going to write here won’t make it into your final draft.

Now reread your idea. Underline what is your favorite part about this idea. You will use that to make your IDEA BANNER. This banner is going to wave above everything else you do with this book. This is going to hold you firm to what the story is supposed to be about. Your Idea Banner isn’t the hook, the log-line, the concept, premise, or anything else. It’s the essence of idea and the pure passion you have for it. And it’s meant only for you.

If you are ahead of me (as in already writing the book) and don’t see the point in this first exercise, I urge you try it anyway. It will ground your novel. Think of this as the center stake in the huge circus tent you are erecting. You can lean on this banner as the ideas flow into your work. It will help you keep perspective on what really mattered to you about the story. Go ahead and try it, I challenge you. :o)

 So there you have it: Baby Step 1. Write the initial shiny stuff. Then sift through the shinies until you find its essence, what you love most about it. Make that the flag under which you march AND set up camp. Good luck! (And please let me know how it goes for you, if you decide to take the baby step challenge.)

Hugs,
Jackee

17 comments:

  1. Ooooh I do like the first ever fully formed shiny new idea whenever I start to write a story. I will always love that moment when my shiny new idea came to me with my current wip too. The overflow of excitement, hope and eagerness is so amazing with that one idea. It truly feels all yours and no-one else's!

    I like the idea of the banner!!! Worth trying - yay, thank you! Take care
    x

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  2. I will have to try this out for my NaNoWriMo novel. :)

    Great post!

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  3. That's a terrific idea. I've never tried that, but I can see how it would be so helpful!

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  4. I LOVE the shiny new idea stage!! LOVE! It's my favourite part of the whole process :)

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  5. I have two SNIs...I'm desperate to work on them. When I go to England I'm going to work on them...no distractions. :D

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  6. Yikes, you made me squint with that one! :)

    You're so right about fiction writing. It's hard, but like anything hard, it's so rewarding.

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  7. What a cool idea: an idea banner. Nice post! :)

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  8. Great post, Jackee! I started with a new idea about two weeks ago, but I haven't figured out my idea banner yet - I'll do that right away!

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  9. Lovely post. I know what you mean about the 'what to do next' block. I do have a few ideas right now but I'm ruminating on them. Wonder if JKR ever ruminated!

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  10. Excellent breakdown! I can't wait to see more posts in this series.

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  11. When people first start writing, there's so much to learn. They don't even know how much there is to learn.

    Nothing like a shiny new idea. The possibilities...

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  12. I love this post and the suggestion to make an idea banner :) I usually leave writing up to Jon, but I think I might try it myself and use your advice! I'll let you know how it goes.

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  13. hi miss jackee! wow cool idea for getting started. i like that shiny new idea and doing a banner. for sure im gonna try it.
    ...hugs from lenny

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  14. I live for this idea stage. It's the most exciting part for me. And I like the idea of waving a banner over the project.

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  15. I like the term "Idea Banner"!!! What a great visual to help me remember this important tip.

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  16. I love the idea of writing the shiny stuff. (Really, the shiny stuff IS the best part.)

    Shelley

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  17. miss jackee i been sending you emails from my brother sebastians email cause mines not working good. i could get emails but i cant send or reply or forward. ack! i hope it gets fixed fast. maybe the ones from my brothers email got spaminized. i been getting all your emails. thanks!:)
    ...hugs from lenny

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