The next book. Where and when to begin….
Good morning Miss Demeanors! I’ve been on the road recently, first to the wonderful Southern Kentucky Book Festival in Bowling Green, then to the Mystery Writers of America symposium in New York, and finally to Malice Domestic in Bethesda. At every point, there was talk about writing. Lots of talk about writing. One of the questions is how to know when it’s time to start a new project. My question today is, what part is the most difficult for you? The initial idea, outline, writing the first pages? Do you have a process to go from idea to “start”? ROBIN: The opening scene. I try to subscribe to the crappy first draftprocess where I focus on getting the story out of my system. Ideas areeasy, 3-dimensional characters take a little more time, knowing whereto start the clock ticking is hard, a great first sentence is where I agonize. I have to remind myself I have permission to just spit thefirst draft out and worry about that all-important first page whenI’ve got some clay on the table to work with. SUSAN: I’m with you, Robin. I really like to know the opening scene, and even though I plow forward with a rough first draft, I’m never truly happy until that first scene is set. Once that’s done, I usually have a pretty good idea of where I’m going, but I go over and over it obsessively, even though I know I shouldn’t. CATE: Hi everyone, I outline extensively before I start writing so, for me, the outline is the most difficult because that’s when I try to put down the character arcs and all the moving plot points on paper to see if the story will work. My outlines often change as I go along and am writing, but that initial outline is probably the most difficult. ALISON: I don’t think I can improve on what Robin said. I’ll add that once I have the first draft, I find it’s at the 60%-75% point that I really struggle. For my first book, I completely pantsed it. This second one, I did a rough outline (nothing like what I did for my dissertation, so I won’t call it extensive). Regardless of process, though, when I pass the halfway point and can see the end I feel like I’m standing on a rock in a fast moving river and don’t know where to jump. I’m there right now…so I better get back to it. MICHELE: Sometimes I want to dive into a new manuscript before I’ve finished the one I haven’t finished. I get all excited about starting a new book and so the most difficult thing for me is to have to put it on hold. I do jot down ideas and fragments of character sketches so I don’t forget them. ALEXIA: The initial idea is the most difficult part for me. I have so many ideas competing for space in my head, it’s hard to choose one. Which idea will transform itself into a fully developed story? Which idea will lead me down a rabbit hole of wasted time to a dead end? How much time should I devote to developing an idea before I give it up as a lost cause? I’m always fighting with my inner editor, which can be positively demonic at times, because it tells me, “That’s a dumb idea, no one wants to read that,” “This story’s will go nowhere so don’t even start,” “That’s a horrible/boring/otherwise inadequate opening/sentence/paragraph no one will want to read it.” I need a brilliant idea diving rod and an inner editor exorcism.