Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Bright, fun and sparkly... until I mess it up

How do you start a novel?

Do you start at page one and just write until the story is completely told? Or do you put off writing for months and instead develop characters, brainstorm plot twists and create an outline? I've done both, and made both work for me, but neither technique was without its faults.

Good news? I've got a new idea.* It's bright and fun and sparkles in the light. I told my tutor about my new idea, convinced she would knock some sense into me and tell me to put it into a drawer. Instead, she loved it. Even better? I brought two pieces of it into workshop and my fellow students loved it. All very exciting. My tutor told me to keep working on it over the holidays and to see how it went.

But here's the thing... it's so bright and fun and sparkly... I really don't want to mess it up.

Over the years, and especially in this past semester, I've realized plot is a big weakness of mine. I'm so scared of not having it that I tend to have it in abundance, to shove it down all my characters' throats and mold them to my plot's will. That doesn't work so well. So, while my new idea already has a premise and an ending, I'd like to develop the rest of the plot through my character. I keep telling myself it needs to be organic.

But how does one DO organic? Isn't it just supposed to come naturally?

I feel like I'm at the beginning of a labyrinth. Just by walking forward, choosing to take only left turns, I'm making decisions. Even if I leave bread crumbs in my path, will I ever be able to totally erase the decisions I make?

My inclination at the moment is to write some more scenes and to see where they take me. Even though the efficient part of my brain dies a little bit every time I say that.

But all of this being said, I'm happy with my bright, fun and sparkly idea. I've waited a long time to get it. Now I just have to make the most of it.

Any advice?

* No, I won't share my idea publicly. Why? The writing process. Also I don't like feeling like an idiot when ideas blow up in my face.


  1. Oh, good post. I'm struggling with this at the moment. For the first two books I had a vague outline, which changed all the time, but mostly the plotting was organic - chapter by chapter, just thinking what happens next. Now I'm about to start on something new and different and I'd love to plan it, I want to plan it...but I can't. I don't know the people well enough. So I'm going to plunge in and see where it takes me.
    Good luck with your new idea!

  2. Thanks, Keren.
    I'm really resisting being linear in my writing on this one--not sure why and whether I should go with that instinct. So I think I'm in the same boat as you.

    Good luck with your new story too. Let's keep each other up to date on how our plunges are going!

  3. That's great that you've found a project you're so excited about! I know what you mean, though, about being scared that you're going to mess it all up. I guess what I do in that situation is just remind myself that this is a first draft and that I will have ample opportunities to revise in the future. So even if you get off-track at some point, it doesn't mean you won't be able to find your way back. It sounds like you're taking your time and really thinking the story and the characters through, so I say try not to worry and just enjoy the ride. :-)

  4. Yes, just keep saying First Draft, First Draft...

  5. So true. I'm repeating after you wonderful writers, first draft, first draft, first draft. =)

  6. Just keep writing and keep throwing those sparkles in there to surprise yourself!

    HAVE FUN!!!

  7. Hah! Thanks, Angela. Maybe I need to go out and buy myself a bottle of glitter--just for use every now and then. =)


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