Friday, July 24, 2009

Starting

I'd forgotten (again) how strange and difficult it can be to start writing a book.  I go through this every time (well, except for when I started The Forest of Hands and Teeth because that sort of came out of nowhere and was just an experiment).  And yet, every time I forget.

I've described writing as being a series of hallways with infinite numbers of doors.  Each time we write a word, we make a decision, we start closing those doors.  In the beginning, every possibility exists and in the end (hopefully) you look back along the course of the book and realize that there really was only one path all along.

Except that before you start writing, it's hard to even figure out which hallway you're in.  Where to start walking!

It's funny for me because this is probably the first time that I've really had a clear picture of what I want the book to be.  I know the characters (except for the pesky detail of one of their names which is driving me insane), I know the tensions, etc.  I've been super excited about this book ever since I turned in the proposal.  But I feel like I've got this character and she's staring at me and I'm staring at her and we're both just trying to figure out how to dive in.

Trust me, she's been ready to dive in for quite some time.

It's just made me realize that when you're in the middle of writing a story, you have the weight of all the words you've already written behind you.  You already have the characters set in time and place and circumstances.  For example, when I had Mary et al on the path outside the village, there were only a limited number of things that could happen to them.  But in the beginning... limitless possibilities.

And the beginning sets the course for the entire book.  The obstacles you set up now will come back around at the end, the character arc's established, etc etc.

How do y'all approach beginnings?  Usually I'm a huge proponent of BICHOK -- butt in chair, hands on keyboard -- when it comes to writing.  But with beginnings... I tend to do a lot more meandering.  I have to stop distracting myself and just spend time thinking.  Lots of lounging about which many people call "napping" and which I like to call "working."  After all, at the edge of sleep and awake I find the mind kind of lets go and all sorts of possibilities open up!

10 comments:

David said...

I think it's best to forget how hard it is to start a book. Otherwise, you might not do it again.
As for how to start, I approach it as the reader, not the writer. I always try to think where I'd want the story to start if I was reading the finished product.
If I'm not invested in the story in a big hurry, then I've spent too much time getting to the point where the story starts.
Just one guy's thoughts.

Katiebabs a.k.a KB said...

One of the hardest parts for me when writing is those first few words, especially when you begin a new story. But once you start and you are in the thick of it, the high you feel, especially when you characters comes alive is so rewarding.

David said...

Katie's comment raises another issue, but on a totally different subject. I've always been in the camp that doesn't believe that characters tell the author what they're going to do next. I admit I think I'm in the minority on this.

I've created characters I've hated, loved, or been ambivalent about, and I do my best to keep them honest to the persona I've created for them -- but in the end, they're still my creations that by necessity, bend to my will.

Indigo said...

For me, it almost always starts with a destination, a place. It's a rare instance where the main character doesn't somehow relate, or belong.

I do believe the characters tell us who they are and how they lived. Then again that's just me. There is such a thing as forcing a character into being. You bend it, change it too much (even though you're the author) you lose your own believability in the character.

Of course that's just my humble opinion. (Hugs)Indigo

Carrie Ryan said...

That's a great point David -- to think about how you'd want a story to start as a reader. Sometimes it's easy to get wrapped up in the "writer" mindset and forget the storytelling and reader.

As for having characters that tell me what's next -- I've never really run into that either. Though at the same time, I do know when I'm making the character do something that's... well... out of character for them. And sometimes I don't even know the action's out of character until I try writing it.

And Katie -- I LOVE that high!

Indigo - a destination's a good idea. I usually end up with something in mind and then it's just a matter of figuring out if that's the *best* place to start or just the easiest.

Kalyn said...

I very much like the way you started the first book. I'm not saying to do the exact same thing, but something simular might be good.

Sommer Wiegert said...

When I'm working on the beginning I spend a lot of time laying around not writing and thinking. It drives my husband crazy because he thinks I'd get more done if I sat down to write...but beginnings don't happen that way. They require a lot of laying around. Napping. Returning to beginnings I thought were awesome. And then the scene forms and I can sit and write. But I think (hope) it is all working even when it doesn't look like it!

cindy said...

i call it "circling the edge" because it feels like a stomach wrenching leap every time. EVERY TIME. for me, i really just have to make a promise to myself. on the first of june, i WILL start writing. and i do. and it's usually like bleeding words. and it gets easier then it gets harder and so on and so forth.

but it's still magic every time. =D

GOOD LUCK!!

the OTHER Tally Youngblood said...

I'm BAAAAAACCCK and I've been writing a lot of fan fiction lately because a. all the characters are already made up. and b. it seems like these days, all the published authors are stealing my ideas! It's like, I have an idea and then me & my mom go to the bookstore and I see a neat book, read the back of it,and then get very angry because that was my idea. (or at least I thought it was until I read the back! I AM AN ANGRY CHILDZ!!!
Whatever though. I'm starting a "book" now (and the reason why I put it in quotation marks is because I know I'll never finish it.) Not trying to brag about how well I can write 4 a 6th-almost-7th grader. (since Mizz Carrie can show us all up on that) but I just wanted to post the first few sentences of my story. (since that's all I have) anyway here it iz, I need responces pleeze! (yes I am a very suckish speller)

I lay in a heap between my mattress and comforter thinking about a time when I was happy. Nothing came. Misery. I thought Story of my life.

NO COPYWRITING!!!!!!! and if there is any gramical errors please let me know cauze i know there are some. Also, please wait a little wile before I respond cause I usually forget about this website & a couple weeks later I remember. I'll be back I promice!
- tOty (the OTHER Tally Youngblood.) :-D

the OTHER Tally Youngblood said...

Forgot to add about the dreaming part. Not workin out so much 4 mee... Just wondering, how do you add the pictures next 2 your name?