I’ve been thinking about how to start a book. Mostly because I’m working on starting a book. So I thought I’d share a little bit of my process with you. Now when I say that, it actually sounds like I have a process. It sounds so organized and careful and planned. Not so much. Every time I start a new book it’s different. I’m going to do some talking about the different ways I start a book in my next couple of posts.
This book is annoying. It’s the fourth in a series and I know the characters well and the world and the situation. Here’s the trouble. I don’t have an obvious endpoint. This is very difficult because I work best when I know where I’m going to end up. I may not know how to get there, but at least I know where I’m going. Only this time I don’t. I’ll admit, this isn’t the first time that’s happened. But it is the worst kind of way for me to start a book.
You see, I have a lot of ideas for this book. I’ve journaled pages of notes about things that I want to happen. It’s all great stuff, but trying to figure out how they weave together is the problem. Without an endgame, it means that I’m writing the whole thing off the seat of my pants. I do not like doing that. I feel panicked during the whole process. It terrifies me.
On the other hand. The terror can work for me. It stimulates creativity and because I don’t have an end point, my mind isn’t locked into any particular path and I can let it rove and play and that’s a really great thing. If only I wasn’t terrified that everything I do will totally screw up the book. Only really, I can’t screw it up that much. I mean, I can always start over. Um. Kill me now. But you know what I mean. Add into that turbulent mix the deadly deadline, and the fear ratchets up and I start wanting to stay in bed all day with the covers over my head.
So what’s a writer to do? In a nutshell: write. Jump in, hold your nose (against the stink), and write fast. Let things flow and trust your lizard brain to be working on the plot and the connections while you’re pouring out the words. Trust yourself. This isn’t my first novel, or my fifth, or even my tenth. I’ve been around the block and i can do this. I can even do it this way, painful as it is.
So that’s the take away: Shut up, sit down, write.
(Next time in Part the second: what happens when you have No Freaking Clue how to start a book because you can’t capture the character voices.)