Tuesday, August 23, 2005

A Day in the Life Tuesday: Starting a New Book Can Be Torture

I'm working on a proposal for a fantasy series right now. I have this complex world figured out, and I know a bunch of the characters. I think I'm pretty brilliant... and then I realize I can't remember one of the secondary (but pivotal characters). So I go back through my notes and realize I have two single spaced pages written on her. Right. I remember now. So I move forward with my brainstorming (working on a plot right now) and now I can't remember anything about the bad guy. What's his deal? Why does he want to kill the heroine? So I go back and look at my notes... ah, now I remember.

I decide I have too much going on and I need to write a synopsis to get my arms around the story or else I'll never be able to keep track of everything.

I start to write the synopsis and realize I have no idea what the plot is, and I need to do more work on that before I can write the synopsis.

So I start brainstorming the plot, but I forget what the heroine's deal is with her parents. Argh! I have so many characters and so much world building that I can't keep track long enough to develop a plot that takes into account all the nuances of what I've created.


I decide to simply start writing. I'll pump out two or three chapters and get a handle on everything, and then I can stop and figure out the plot and deepen all the twists and the characters.

Great. I start to write. Get about three pages done, think I'm brilliant and go to bed.

The next morning, I get up, read what I wrote last night and delete all of it.

I start over, then decide what I had last night wasn't actually that bad, so I restore it. Then I read it and decide that I was correct in thinking it wasn't good. I don't delete it, but I put it aside and start over. Write about a page, then decide it's not quite right either. I go eat lunch, come up with a brilliant opening. Rush back to my computer and write the opening line. Then realize that it isn't quite right and my attempt #2 is still my best shot. Work on that for a while, then go to bed.

While I'm trying to sleep, I realize that my problem is that I don't know enough about my heroine. She doesn't have enough personality in those opening pages because I don't know what makes her quirky.

So today's task is to do some more brainstorming on my heroine and get to know her a little bit better. Then I'll try to write and we'll see how it goes. I have a feeling there are still quite a few starts and stops in my future before this book gets rolling.

I wish I had some organized method for getting a book off the ground, but I don't. It differs with every book and with every day. I used to freak out at this point, declare my story idea completely unworkable and try to start an entirely new idea, only to return to my original idea after a day or so and eventually work it out. Now I realize that banging my head against the seemingly impenetrable wall is simply part of the process. Eventually, I will break through and things will start rolling. When I get to that point, the book will flow fast and furious and life will be good.

For now, I grind my teeth, growl and try to not descend into the pits of despair, moaning that I am pathetically useless and will never write another decent book in my lifetime. Nope. There will be no pits of despair here this morning. I'm off to brainstorm my new gal and see what we can come up with together.

It might be one more day, or two more weeks before this book comes together, but I know it will and I'll keep pushing until it does. And in case you were wondering, the more books I write and the better I become at my craft, the longer it takes for me to get a book going. Why? Because I am more sensitive to flaws now, and I stop myself from going down the wrong path. In the old days, I simply was off and running. Now I see that something won't work, so it takes me much longer to get started. In the end, it will make for a stronger book, but right now? It makes me want to OD on sugar.

And I love every minute of it, even as I agonize over it. This job is the toughest job I've ever had, and that's why I like it.

Don't forget to submit questions for the Agent Q&A tomorrow. Michelle Grajkowski is preparing her answers to the ones already submitted as we speak!


At 8:57 PM, Blogger Trish Milburn said...

Sometimes getting started is the hardest part. You want to do everything you can to make sure the actual writing of the book matches the vision in your head. Been there, done that.

At 9:22 PM, Anonymous Stephanie Feagan said...

Wow, Steph, I feel your pain. I mean, I seriously 'feel' it. This is the point where I always say, whatever possessed me to believe I could write a book? I can't even write three lousy pages!

But then I do, and it feels so good, I forget the trauma of the beginning.

Here's hoping your breakthrough comes sooner than later.

At 5:16 AM, Blogger Sara Thacker said...

I'm in the middle of starting a new book too. I'm twisting my hair, drinking extra coffee and wondering why my children who normally sleep until 8:00am are waking up at 6:00am this week.


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