So, we’ve got all these wonderful characters talking in our heads, a fabulous plot, a gorgeous setting. We may or may not have an outline, depending on whether we like that sort of thing or prefer to wing it. Now it’s time to sit down and start banging out the words, right? Absolutely! We sit down, open our word processor of choice and there it is….the blank page and the blinking cursor. Blinking at us.
Starting on the shiny new story is always exciting and often comes with no small amount of trepidation. Will it be any good? Will I come up with the right words? Do I have enough plot to make a whole novella/novel out of it? I love the start of a new story. By the time I sit down to actually start writing, I’ve usually had these characters talking to me for a while and know them as well as I know the people who live in my house. They are getting pretty bossy by this time and insisting I get going. Since I am a panster, I don’t write outlines and timelines and such before I start. I do, however, have a general idea of the plot arc and know the main events that will get us from beginning to end. How I get to these points of interest along the way is always a surprise and there lies the real excitement for me in a new story. I can’t wait to see what surprises the characters will spring on me, what secrets they will reveal, what action develops, how the relationships among them evolve.
But that all happens once I have actually started writing. How do I actually get started? Here’s a little bird’s eye view of (cue dramatic music) THE BEGINNING.
If you’ve read my earlier posts, prior to this series, you will have seen one about my schedule change to being an early riser so I can get my writing in before the kids get up. If you haven’t, now you know, so the scene is set. My alarm invades my sleep just before 6 AM. There is always an momentary wish to sleep in, which gets tossed out, then I climb out of bed. I get dressed and head to the kitchen. Today is easier since I am finally going to start on that new story idea that has been bugging me mercilessly for weeks. That’s pretty exciting and once I have coffee (or hot tea) in hand, it’s off to the computer.
So now we are there with the blank page and cursor. What happens now? There’s a popular acronym in the writing world: BICHOK, i.e. butt in chair, hands on keys. I start writing. Whatever comes to mind. This may stay, or may get edited out later but the important and essential first step is to get the writing flowing, prime the pump. Chances are that I will eventually come back here to polish up this beginning, make it stronger, more enticing, but for now, the main thing is to get started. And keep going. Not everything you toss into this first draft will stay, but it is essential to get the thoughts moving, get the words on the page and don’t worry about perfection at this point. Once you get the draft done, then you can start to edit and polish, since you will have the whole plot arc done to reference when ‘fixing up’.
And whether you use extensive outlines, note cards, storyboards, novel writing programs, or go simple with just a word processor of one variety or another, or paper and pen, the important thing is this: start writing. Keep writing. Don’t look back. Stay consistent, and the story will flow. Keep at it till done. The formula is pretty simple, but what it can do it absolute magic.