If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com

Our October Author Interviews--10/4 Wendy Tyson, 10/11 Marilyn Levinson, 10/18 Earl Javorski, 10/25 Linda Lovely. Please join us in welcoming these authors to WWK.


October Saturday Guest Bloggers: 10/7 Mark Bacon, 10/14 Elaine Orr, 10/21 WWK's Margaret S. Hamilton, 10/28 Kait Carson, and E. B. Davis 10/31 to fill out our fifth Tuesday.


WWK’s Carla Damron was one of three finalist for her novel, The Stone Necklace. Go to Carladamron.com for more information. Congratulations, Carla! Look for Carla's blog this month to find out the winner.

Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Warren Bull's new Lincoln mystery, Abraham Lincoln In Court & Campaign has been released. Look for the Kindle version on February 3.

Shari Randall's "Pets" will be included in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies anthology, which will be published in 2018. In the same anthology "Rasputin," KM Rockwood's short story, will also be published. Her short story "Goldie" will be published in the Busted anthology, which will be released by Level Best Books on April 25th.

In addition, our prolific KM will have the following shorts published as well: "Sight Unseen" in Fish Out of Water, Guppie (SinC) anthology, just released, and "Making Tracks" in Passport to Murder, Bouchercon anthology, October 2017.

Margaret S. Hamilton's short story, "Baby Killer" will appear in the 2017 solar eclipse anthology Day of the Dark to be published this summer prior to the eclipse in August.

James M. Jackson's 4th book in the Seamus McCree series, Doubtful Relations, is now available. His novella "Low Tide at Tybee" appears February 7 as part of Lowcountry Crimes: Four Novellas, which is available for order.
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Thursday, February 28, 2013

STARTING SOMETHING NEW






“It is not so very hard to judge a story after it is written, but after many years, to start a story still scares me to death. I will go so far as to say that the writer who is not scared is happily unaware of the remote and tantalizing majesty of the medium.”
-          John Steinbeck, in a letter to Edith Ronald Mirrielees.

I think we all share those feelings to some extent. Sometimes something happens that inspires an opening sentence or the start of a poem. But unfortunately, that’s a rare experience. Most of the time that first scene is elusive. I have the general plot line for my book or story, but I don’t know exactly how I want to begin. And so I procrastinate. I’m not alone in this. Billy Collins has a humorous poem, “Advice to Writers,” in which he advises writers to wash walls and all sorts of other cleaning projects before even starting to write. He claims everything must be spotless first.

I have wanted to start my next book for quite some time – months and months, in fact. I know the plot and story line and where I want to go with it. I know my murderer’s reasoning for committing the dire deed, but I don’t have his name yet. My next step is to create a biography of him in some detail. It will be his story, his thoughts, feelings, and disappointments. In other words, it will give me insight into what leads him to murder.

Next I will create short biographies of new characters in my small town of Portage Falls or add more to the short biographies of returning characters if they’re going to play a more important part in this book.

All my characters have a simple one page character profile listing name, description, occupation, family, hobbies & interests, mannerisms and a line for anything else. Some of these profiles are very limited if they have a very minor role.

This stage of beginning a book is the easiest part for me, maybe because I don’t have to worry about perfect prose or the exact words I need to use. They are only for my use. The only drawback to this method is sometimes I start to feel sorry for my murderers – not because of what they end up doing, but for what has happened in their life to lead them to this decision. I guess it’s because I never make my murderer a cold-blooded psycho case.

As for my victims, their character is never well-developed unless it’s to show what a nasty person they are so no one feels sorry when they meet their end. That’s not totally true. I have had a few victims I developed more and felt sorry about their death, but in most cases the victims haven’t been anyone a reader would care much about.

And it’s not only writing that has me procrastinating, although it happened with every paper I had to write in college. Many years ago I used my S&H green stamps to get an artist’s kit with oil paints, brushes and canvases. It took me a whole year to actually touch a brush with paint to a bare canvas. It never got much better, either. I had ideas, but even with a rough sketch of what I wanted to paint, putting that first brush stroke on a blank canvas was as hard for me then as it is for me now putting those first words on a blank piece of paper.

 Do you have trouble starting something new?

How do you overcome this?

13 comments:

James Montgomery Jackson said...

I think I've mentioned this in comments before, but I take an entirely different approach to my first crack at anything.

I do not expect perfection from my first draft; in fact I expect it to be crap. But I need the first draft to be able to get to the second draft. So in the first draft I get the story down and then I work on making it an excellent story.

~ Jim

Claire said...

Thank you for sharing this, Gloria. I'm in a similar boat right now as I have a thought in my head but I haven't begun writing it yet. But that's more because I don't know where I want it to go.

When I'm writing, I don't worry about where to start. I start anywhere that I'm comfortable and get the story (or grant narrative) on paper. I can always go back and find the perfect opening later. What's important to me is to let the words in my head get onto paper so I can do more with them.

You definitely apply careful structure to your writing style. I admire that; you go a bit further than I do. I simply put plot and character elements into a spreadsheet and add to it over time.

If you're having a lot of difficulty starting this next one, have you thought about starting in the middle, where some aspect of the story is strong in your mind? Think of it as the foundation for why you are writing. There's an event or series of events that hold up your novel. You can worry about the front door (opening) later.

KB Inglee said...

I have no difficulty starting something, but then my house is a mess, too.

Gloria Alden said...

Jim, I don't expect my first draft to look anything like it will eventually get to, but somehow trying to come up with that first scene has me procrastinating. Maybe I should just sit down and write it this week.

Gloria Alden said...

Clair, I think I'll take your advice. I've already plotted out a subplot I'm going to use bringing back an event that happened with two secondary characters in book two that was kind of left up in the air when they took off on an adventure together. The one character will be telling my main character about something that happened on her trip - another murder.

Gloria Alden said...

KB, my house is a mess, too. :-) I think part of my problem is I want to get my second book published through CreateSpace because it's done and almost ready to go - mostly waiting on the cover. I have multiple people begging for that second book. I still need to get the first draft of my 3rd book polished and ready to go, too.

Warren Bull said...

I think just about everyone experiences this feeling. We just have to start anyway.

E. B. Davis said...

Try writing a short story about the character first, Gloria. You can start before your novel begins or write the backstory for your novel in a short form. It's a good way of easing into a novel, getting to know your character and practicing your theme. I've never done it before, but I did this time. It seems easier like I know where I'm going because I've already written part of the story, at least the history.

Kara Cerise said...

I have trouble starting a project when I don’t have a clear direction. Then I follow Agatha Christie’s advice, “The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes.” It helps to keep my hands busy with simple tasks while my mind is free to work on more complex ideas. I had an “aha” moment on Tuesday about a story while clearing clutter out of a bathroom cabinet. But when I’m really stuck, I just dive in and write.

Patg said...

I'm such a pantser, I can't even imagine creating all those notes about a story. If I have an idea, it has to produce a first chapter. The true test is: can I write the ending. If yes, then the problem is creating a road map between them. I will sit down and fly by the seat of my pants from there.
Kara, Agatha was the best!
Patg

Marilyn Levinson said...

I think starting a new book or a new series brings a certain amount of anxiety to most writers. Like you, I gather my characters, though I don't necessarily write a list of their attributes. I find my characters reveal themselves through their actions. I also like to have a main event or situation to start me plotting. Though my books are character driven, they need to act in order to carry the novel along.
Good luck with your new book!

Gloria Alden said...

Such good advice from all of you. I really think my major problem is I'm focusing on getting two other books ready to go. I like your advice to start a short story with the character, E.B. I might write my subplot as a short story first and then work it into my main plot.

Kara, most of my plotting comes while walking in the woods or doing a mindless job like washing dishes or weeding, too.

Pat, except for creating my murderer in advance, I'm a pantser, too. In my last book I had a terrible time coming up with an ending where my murderer would be figured out by my protag because he/she was such a nice person no one could suspect him/her. I did leave clues here and there, but still . . .

Marilyn, I like to think my characters are very important to my plot, too, even the minor ones. I find, though, by writing up short bios of them, I get to know them better. As they reveal themselves in new ways while I'm writing the book, I go back and add those new things to their bios.

J.P. said...

Yes, sometimes the start is hard. Sometimes though, it's incredibly easy to begin but harder to get through that long middle. One thing I do which helps is set a very easy-to-meet time goal. "I'll just work on this for 15 minutes," it's usually all I need. Getting something down gets me over that initial resistance, and then I look forward (most of the time) to continuing!