After several past postings on how I write a novel, we’ve reached the point where I can actually start writing. At this point I have:
- A pile of cool stuff the book could include
- A keel that states the heart of the story: the essence that is more or less cast in stone
- A list of set-pieces giving the general flow of the novel
- Rough ideas for how characters will develop
It’s now time to start some real writing.
I begin with forays into the story. Usually this means writing the first ten pages or so a bunch of times. I want something that has the right chemistry: specifically a tone of voice that will sustain my interest for the months it will take me to write the first draft.
After all, if I get bored, I’ll have trouble finishing…and of course, if I get bored, readers will too. So I need to find a voice that grabs my attention. If I’ll be writing from multiple points of view, I need to find multiple voices that catch my ear.
I’m not one of those writers who believes my characters actually exist. I know the characters are just inside my head. At the same time, when I write from a character’s viewpoint, I’m giving free rein to some specific part of my psyche. I’m putting myself into a particular frame of mind and seeing what comes out. I want the result to be organic, without other parts of my brain trying to horn in on the act.
So I need to find a voice that ignites emotional sparks. It has to be someone who can face what’s going to happen and react in engaging ways. The character will be affected by the needs of the story and the character arcs I’ve envisioned…but the arcs I’ve made at this point are all provisional. If a character goes in other directions, that’s great. That’s part of what “being organic” means. And hey, if it all goes off the rails, I can always rewrite the darn thing.
So I write the first few pages numerous times. Five? Ten? More? And I usually write it all longhand, because writing with a pen makes my brain go slow and feel around for what’s waiting to come out.
Eventually, something clicks. When that happens, I know it. I’ve found the spark: the way into the story.
Then all I have to do is write the first draft.
[Map of forays during the Age of Discovery by Universalis [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons]