Monday, April 13, 2015

Starting a Book, Part Three: Chapter One, Page One

When I’m faced with Chapter One, Page One, I have one main objective in mind besides telling an entertaining romance:  get my characters talking.  I “hear” my characters more than I see them, and I really get to know them by letting them talk.  Many times things come out of their mouths that surprise and delight me and lead me to a richer exploration of their characters. 
     How is that possible?  I’m making them up, right?
     The closest comparison I can make is to improv.  I just…let myself go.  My imagination takes over without any internal editor, without any censor to say “Is that good?  Is it bad?  Is it right or wrong?”  At that point, I just want to hear what they have to say.  Sounds weird, I know, but that’s the alchemy of writing for you.
     And it’s not like every line’s a keeper.  That’s when the delete key comes in handy. 
     So there you have it.  The things I think about when I'm starting a book.  You may be wondering "Is that all?"
     But I do at least three complete drafts of the story and usually more (last one was ten), and many more of individual scenes.  That's when I add depth and layers to my plot and characters.  
     But first, I get my people talking. 

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Starting a Book, Part Two: To Outline or Not to Outline?

Once I’ve answered some fundamental questions about my characters and possible events in my story (see previous blog post), I write a synopsis, a third-person telling of the story in the present tense.  Hopefully that leads to a sale, and I get to write the book.  Often, that's all I have when I start the first draft.  
I don't usually outline because I want to dive into my story.  I also like feeling free to change course and direction, to let my characters take me places I didn’t foresee.  That said, I'm also prepared to do a lot of revising, because sometimes those changes and directions don't work.
     But nothing about my process is ever carved in stone.  I’ve done a very long outline for the book I’m working on at the moment.  The first drafts of my last two manuscripts were very short, and I’m hoping to avoid that with an outline.  However, even with an outline, changes have occurred to the story and characters.  A character I thought was going to be a major secondary character started to fade into the background, and a character only added to the outline took precedence.  And suddenly, there was a thunderstorm I didn't plan on but certainly adds some tension.
     Will these things stay that way?  Maybe, maybe not.
     That's what makes writing so much fun for me. Like Forrest Gump's box of chocolates, I'm never sure what I'm gonna get.  Or if I'm gonna keep it.
      Even if I outline.

Next Blog Post - Starting a Book, Part Three:  Chapter One, Page One

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Starting a Book, Part 1: Who, What, When and Why

I've blogged about the things I think about when I’m polishing a book, the last stages before submitting to my editor.
     My next two blog posts are going to be about the things I think about when I start a book, beginning with the very initial stages.
     For everyone who wants to know “where I get my ideas,” I’ll reveal I generally start with a “where and when” in the simplest terms (London, 1814, for example).  Then I imagine a man.  A handsome, troubled man.  A man who wants something, but not necessarily a relationship.
     Then I think of a woman who’s basically going to throw this man’s life into an uproar.  A woman who may or may not be “beautiful.”  A woman who wants something, but not necessarily a relationship. 
     I ask myself a series of questions, in no particular order.
     How, when and why do they meet? 
     As the story progresses, what promotes the relationship?  What threatens to ruin it?  What else can happen?  Some of these events will be tied to the time period, some won’t.
Who else is in these people’s lives?  Are they friend or foe, helpers or hinderers or both? 
Once the romance seems to be headed in the right direction, what major event threatens to destroy it?  What saves it?
Then I write a synopsis and hopefully sell the book that I then have to write.
Next blog post:  To Outline or Not To Outline?