I can’t figure out how to title this post. It’s about commitment, see, and I just can’t seem to find the right title. So it’ll wait until the end I guess. Hopefully by then I’ll have figured it out.
I’m about to start a short story, a sort of prelude to DEMON HUNT, the 2nd novel in my Caine Brothers series. I’m primed – I’ve combed through my email, I’ve scoured Facebook, I’ve Triberr’d and Tweeted and gotten another cup of coffee, went to the bathroom, have music on…the house is empty and I’ve got a full four hours in front of me to be creative…
…but actually starting the story is still a dance step or two away from me. So now I’m procrastinating by blogging about my procrastination. I guess this whole thing is a process.
Commitment to the story is paramount. Deciding where to begin is crucial. I already have my characters, my setting, and I know where I want the story to end. But the variables within the parameters I’ve set are endless. Plus, plotting in any depth gives me hives. (Shallow plotting? I’m there!) How, then, to choose amongst a myriad of possibilities?
I don’t know why this story, at this time, has me balking at the gate like a skittish horse, but there you go. Its true, what every successful writer has said – writing doesn’t get easier as you go along. With every book, you learn how much you don’t know. With every book, you strive to get better – deeper, smarter, stronger. So the bar is constantly being raised, and the writer never meets their own expectations.
I guess I have to learn to be okay with that.
Panic doesn’t go away with knowledge. Accepting a hit of panic along with a floodtide of joyous writing seems to be the only way to go. Understanding that the fingers need to just begin – commit to the first words – then the rest of it will come. Permit ourselves to write a shitty first draft – farts and all – will at least get the draft down.
Revision after that is a writer’s best friend. DEMON SOUL went through six completely different first chapters (and numerous main character name changes) before I found the right first chapter to give the right tone to the story. That sixth new first chapter was what helped me sell to the editor.
I know all I need to do is hop to it. Get the words down. 15,000 of them (short story, remember). Once they’re down, I can groom them, perfume them, pluck their collective eyebrows and give them a lovely glow with the right foundation. Once it’s all dressed up in its go-to-party outfit, the story will be ready for publication, and I’ll be one more step on the road to realizing how much I still don’t know.
I guess I’m ready to start. After I get myself another cup of coffee, put on some socks (my feet are cold), and change my playlist to something more soothing than Muse.
What about you? What do you find yourself doing, before you feel ready to plunge into a new project? (Ah, there it is…my title!) I’d love to hear about your tricks and tips to getting those first words down.
Oh, how I hate those first words! They are so important as they set the tone for the rest of the story, but deciding what they should be…terrifying! LOL
Go have that cup of coffee, or maybe a bit of wine? I’ve managed a little over 3000 words today, so I’m going to take a break and get some more inspiration by watching the end of the NASCAR race. (It’s a race inspired story, don’t you know?)
Best of luck with the short story!
Good for you! I’ve managed to procrastinate for two hours. I’d better start writing soon or my alone time will be gone!
Bare with me here. I can be a little crazy at times. Sometimes it’s a simple as sitting with my coffee, musing over the story before me, but not always. Sometimes music will bring me the words. But if I am stuck I may find getting up and working out or dancing might bring me what I need in the end. See – crazy. Showers and the bathroom are great places for the word epiphany. You are so right, those first words set the tone. They can be a make or break. Sending you waves of muse luck.
Not crazy. I’ve done all of those things, too. But the back is still bad right now, so dancing is kinda out of the question…
Maybe my idea is obvious or maybe it’s not, but it’s something I learned in junior high from my English teacher. It is… “when you’re stuck on the beginning, skip it. Jump right into the good stuff and them go back later to create your beginning. By the time you’re done, you’ll have ideas for the beginning that never would have occurred to you and which will make your beginning that much stronger.”
Works for me every time. I always jump to that next great scene that’s nagging at me and then go back once the beginning takes full shape.
Isn’t that also a Nanwrimo lesson too?
Oh yeah. Sure. I do that all the time – it gets rid of the icky slow starts. But with this short story – it’s all in where I want to go with it. And that decision hasn’t been made yet. I can’t skip a scene that I haven’t envisioned yet – you know?
Ditto what Erica said. Also,
“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.”
Morning pages (a la Julia Cameron) and meditation can help, too, by clearing your mind of all the extraneous thoughts that are keeping you from focusing on writing.
LOL Dayle – that’s why I wrote the blog post. I tried Morning Pages, but my lifestyle does NOT accommodate that. I am up, in the shower, and out the door in about half an hour (on good days).
I believe today’s issue is lack of sunshine. I shall take a slow meander around my back yard, and get a good dose of vitamin D…
I have a hard time facing that blank screen when I’m starting a new story. Instead, I write in a journal (one of those lovely ones B&N carries for about $5) and try out different opening lines and paragraphs until I find the right one. I will continue to polish that paragraph as I edit the book, but it gets me rolling. Once I have it figured out, that’s when I start writing on the computer. Evidently it’s less traumatic for me to cross out something written in pencil or ink than it is to hit the delete button. Maybe because even when I’ve crossed something out, I still have visual evidence that I’ve been working and progress is being made. A blank screen remains scary. 😀
Interesting, Alexis! I carry a moleskine around with me everywhere, but I don’t start writing there. Well I do sometimes but…hmmm. Interesting!
Yes, let the light in. I just finished my blog post for tomorrow and while it’s a different subject, there are some similarities. I’d recommend starting out in the head of your protagonist. Get her on the page so you know who your dealing with (you can always revise the opening paragraphs later) then write toward your major turning points. If you already know your ending this shouldn’t be too difficult. Just ask those questions about how she gets from here to there as you poke around in the garden. Easy peasy, eh? Ha ha.
Had to laugh at your description of all the preliminaries (twitter, triberr etc) – all so true! I rarely start with the first scene. I usually dive into some part of the story I’m really eager to get on paper. At some point I do go back and write all the missing scenes though. Enjoyed the post!
I grinned at the thought of a short story having “collective eyebrows” and then I thought…how accurate! You would find the strays that needed to be removed.
Hi Christine and everyone, I thank you for all the excellent ideas to get over the hurdle of getting it done! I lean toward Robina Grant’s methodology of jotting down major turning points. I keep action centered on my protagonist.
Something that threw a wrench into finishing a halfway finished novella and sequel was getting copyrights back on a book published in 2007. I am rewriting it before I self-pub it. Man oh man, I’ve learned so much in the last five years. That part feels good.
Been there. Done that. Have even walked in your shoes, as parts of the latest blog I posted will attest. My motto is don’t sweat the beginning, because it’s bound to change as you get into the story, and taking a nice walk always gets my mind off what I’m struggling to figure out, or doing the ironing. Go figure.
I’m usually good with just sitting down an writing those first few pages, it’s the sticking to it that get me. I’m much more prone to taking a 10 min break for every 15 that I write. It’s a bad habit. 🙂 Great post.
I’m a big procrastinator. I tend to lean toward Erica’s method, though–I jump right in with the scene that won’t stop bugging me, even if it’s not the opening. My WIP has already had the suggestion to start somewhere else twice from two different people. So I skipped it for the most part and just went on before the rest of the story threw up its hands in disgust. I’m also working on a short at the same time–with that one, I let the protagonist take over and tell me what’s happening in 1st person, although it will change later since I need more viewpoints.
The starting can be difficult in general, even if I don’t start at the beginning, and even each day’s starting of the writing process. I work at home and one of the things that motivates me is how much I dislike my job. I remind myself of how much I love writing instead and then, once everyone’s out for the day, I sit down and force myself to write something. Once I get started, the love of getting into the scene takes over and I wonder why I ever had such an issue getting started in the first place.
Now that it’s all said and done, here’s my suggestion. Set a timer for ten minutes and start writing your story. Holly Lisle says you can do *ANYTHING* for ten minutes.
Don’t worry about how terrible it is or whether you’re staring at the right point. Even if you just write a conversation between your characters that you can hear in your head, that’s okay. Sometimes, that’s enough to get me rolling.
I think we stall because we think what if it is not as big as we want it to be. I have had these times and stalled till it hit me at night time. The start that I was waiting for.
Well, I don’t actually have this problem with starting – I procrastinate on so many other areas, but starting is no problem. I just start. I just start writing and even if it is totally “wrong” for that story, I don’t know it until I am done or into the story or whatever. I love starting stories. It’s the middle and the ends that make me crazy and really it’s the middle the most and right now, I am procrastinating on revisions. I cannot wait to start something new. I am of no help. SORRY!