Thursday, September 17, 2009
How to start?
People often ask me, 'where do I start?' They have a story idea, but no clue where to begin. It's important to remember that you can always fix bad writing, you just can't fix NO writing. So, just write. What lands on the page is never what remains after you've completed a redraft, or ten. Get your character doing something. Remember to use your five senses (we'll go into those with more depth later), so the reader gets a sense of the where and when. Make sure you 'show don't tell'. Have your character touching, smelling, seeing, hearing and tasting everything around her. An example of sight, touch and sound:
'I head toward the light. Wind slaps sharp salt spray in my face as I trudge up the narrow path, eyes down, blinking away sand. I follow the mess of footprints. Minutes later, the path breaks ahead and I come out on the beach. Men stand in clusters; a hum of low conversation filters through the wind. I duck into my jacket collar; the cold is making my ears numb. I pass a group of reporters held back by yellow crime scene tape. Lot of people here. Maybe ten detectives shuffle on the spot to keep warm. A photographer pops in and around the scene, while the top office watch on from beneath thick woolen trench coats. Crime Scene dots the area with their white coveralls.'
Beginning any piece of writing is a stage I like to call the spew. It's where every adjective, adverb, clause and noun, known to man, spills out onto the page. Of course, you'll think it's pure brilliance. Until, that is, you read it again later. Don't panic. You need the spew. Without it, you'll never find the gems. In there, somewhere, is that one sentence that is quite possibly pure genius.
As your word-count grows, so will your story. Around the three thousand mark, you'll need an outline. And this, is where your original idea gets pulled into shape. More on this next time.