Friday, December 31, 2010

On Starting Something New

Clammy palms. Beads of sweat on forehead. Butterflies in your stomach.

And all the ingredients for the complex macaroni-marshmallow-uber-casserole lined up in front of you.

Or a five-hundred million foot high bungee jump in South Africa is staring up at you wiggling its eyebrows mockingly.

Then, the horrible, awful feeling... the slightly calm, slightly panicked voice in your head saying knowingly, "This, m'dear, is going to end in disaster."

And you tremble and melt into a puddle like the Wicked Witch of the West in the Wizard of Oz because you know it is all too true.

So what is the cause of this awful anxious feeling?

Well, as illustrated above, it could be the daunting task of cooking (gasp! Guess what? I made pizza buns today. They were only a little bit burnt. Tell me you're proud of me!) or the terrifying feeling of having to launch yourself from high heights into nothingness with nothing but a stretchy elastic attached to your body. But both of these things (in my case, think of good examples for your own cases...) are things that are new.

In general, new things are kind of scary. New experiences, new events, new people, new everything, make me (and other people, I think) kind of nervous. Especially because new encompasses a large part of what everyone is known to fear: the unknown.

Yes, people could've made macaroni-marshmallow casserole (I just made that up, though, don't try it, or I guess you could if you were a genius cooking master. I am not...) before, and could've blogged some tips about making it, but that doesn't make the experience any more new to you.

OK, my writing point (can you guess it?): Same goes with a story. When we delve into a story, it's something completely new we jump into once we start blacking out some of that horrifying blank page with letters. Alright, yes, a lot of us have written stories before but does that make the prospect of starting in again any less intimidating? Besides, every story is different and takes shape differently. I, anyways, have a different experience with each story I write and I'm sure others do as well.

I was thinking about all this because of one of the posts on young author Steph Bowe's blog. She was talking about starting a story, and asking for advice on getting from the idea stage to the point where you can actually start writing.

So I decided I'll share what I do, and maybe throw in a few tips.


Stage 1: The Idea Stage

First, I have a simple idea that could be turned into a story like: the entire world is on fire. (Although usually it has more to do with a character; like there is a deaf girl who is only person who seems to know the world is on fire).

I think up a few characters, then I am on my way to collecting little eggs of ideas. I think up situations and events and things that should happen, like the girl should fall into this pit and hear screaming even though she's deaf...

Once I figure out a few main points, then I start asking myself questions, a lot of them starting with What would happen if...? Other good questions to ask would be: What would be the most unexpected? How could that happen? What kind of secrets should he be hiding?

My idea stage is mostly about plot, so I have a couple of events and then I go off on tangents. It's like a tree diagram!

A lot of this stage takes up the majority of my thinking/daydreaming time... especially during school... hmm... ;)

Stage 2: The "Outlining"

I don't really do outlines. At least, not the really detailed, organized storyboard things some authors do. My "outlining" consists of simply writing down my ideas from Stage 1, and maybe jotting some things down about character traits, although mostly just the characters names and which character they belong to.

Oh, which brings me to a very important point: WRITE. YOUR. IDEAS. DOWN. You WILL forget them, unfortunately enough.

Well, that's about it for my pre-story stages. Although I find one thing that really, really helps me when writing a story is having the end in sight. If I know the ending ('cause endings are hard) then I am much better at filling in the rest, although I'm not exactly sure why this is...

Stage 3: The Story-Writing!

Okay, FINE. The PROCRASTINATION of story writing. The simmering of ideas in my head, of the thought of...  I need to get on writing this one of these days..., the endless hours surfing the many awesome writing/publishing/reader blogs (okay, fine, and Facebook and e-mail...). All, really, just procrastionation. I think you already know my thoughts on this one but I'll say it anyway:

Don't. Don't procrastinate. Just tell yourself to do it. Write those first few sentences, hide away your "inner editor" (read my post on that here.), and before you know it you'll be looking up from your page after three hours and you've written 5000 words already.

Well, since this was more about getting to the writing stage than the actual writing stage itself, I think I'll stop there, although I know there's much to elaborate on and I missed tons (feel free to add your insight!).

Happy New Year!



  1. I'm not a big outliner either, but I do like to brainstorm. I've learned over time to write down what I brainstorm, because for me at least, it always leads to more ideas and a deeper understanding of the story I want to write.

    There always comes a time though that as I write down the details that will shape the story I suddenly know I'm at the tipping point. The tipping point for me is when I suddenly feel that if I brainstorm any more, I will know too much about the story, and there will be no need to write the book. That for me is when I start writing. I like to know enough that I can see the shape of the book, but not so much that there are no surprises left for me.

    Good luck with your writing!

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

  2. Wow, that is it exactly for me. Although a lot of the time I get too excited and start writing before I've collected enough ideas.


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