Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Starting a new book...maybe

I've spent so much effort, time, and banging my head on my computer desk on my last project, that now that it's really, truly finished (polished and pretty and all the queries to agents sent off) I've been a little at loose ends. It's now time to start a *new* project. And I'm going to extreme lengths to not start.

I think starting a book is one of the hardest parts for me (next to actually writing it and finishing it, I guess). I actually like the editing and rewriting because then the book begins to take shape out of the messy blob we call a rough draft. I have no problems knowing how to start a non-fiction project. After all, I spent 5 years in college (and way too many credit hours than one human being will ever need) and really got down the researching-and-starting-a-paper thing. But fiction is a different animal. Sort of.

The book I just finished took me 2 years, and along the way I learned a lot about what works and what doesn't work for me in writing fiction. Now I have to try and put those lessons into practice so that the next book *doesn't* take 2 years. For me, the problem isn't a lack of ideas, (Check here for a post on where to get ideas) but choosing between the dozens of ideas that constantly pop into my head.

I narrowed it down to 4 ideas that I felt I could get excited about. You have to be excited enough to push you through the entire process. Okay. Now what?

A friend suggested I take those 4 ideas and try to write back cover copy for them. This was a great idea and in doing so eliminated one of the four ideas. It was really hard coming up with a back cover blurb for one idea, and I didn't think I could do it for an entire story. I decided to put another idea on the back burner until later. So now I was down to 2 ideas.

But, instead of diving into either of those book ideas, I went on a cleaning and painting spree while I tried to figure out the next step. Both my ideas were still in that nebulous state of simmering in the bottom reaches of my mind as a mass of "wouldn't that be cool?" thoughts and ideas. Then a fellow author sent me a link to How to Sketch a Novel in An Hour, a writing exercise by J. Steven York and Christina F. York.


I did it, and now I have a fabulous springboard to get me going, as well as subplots and conflict that just cropped up from that simmering mass in my mind.

My next step is more brainstorming, where I just sit at the computer and list whatever comes to mind as a numbered list. It can be thoughts about characters, back story, scene ideas, whatever comes to mind. And I number it because I'm a little OCD about organization (I *love* spreadsheets, for example. I know, might as well tattoo "NERD" across my forehead). Plus, then when I go and organize it into categories I only have to look for numbers. (Yep. Nerd. Told you.)

I'll share more about the process in future posts, and about what works and doesn't work. It's been a little slow out the starting gate, but I am off again.


Deborah said...

Or you could have a closet shelf filled with rough drafts that need to be edited. UGH.

Julie Wright said...

I love beginning. It's all the other stuff that i find difficult. This is why I have lots of well begun and never done things on shelves

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