Friday, November 6, 2009

On Novel Beginnings: Is there a right way?


With NaNo already on the loose and everybody on their special way to begin new projects I am thrown into the topic of beginnings. I’ve spoken with a very sophisticated writer friend of mine, who has been discussing how the whole concept behind hoarding words at draft stage is not working in my friend’s case.

That got me thinking again about how similar and different as a breed we are. In theory we do the same, our stories have the same elements and tropes and the problems that plague us are in theory the same. Yet every writer has an individual approach and while two writers can share the same work pattern and process, there are differences nevertheless. With the Internet and the myriad of authors sharing their personal experience it’s hard for a writer on his/hers first attempts to discover whether he is right or wrong in his strategy. And as with everything that has to do with writing a writer needs to find the best way to channel his story into the Word fail or on the paper, if you are a traditionalist.


Some like to handle multiple projects and hop from the main to the side projects, while doing rough drafts. This is what I do for the most time. While working on my main project “SMH” [btw I plan on revealing the title while I am done with the first draft], I am attending a rather fun novel called “SIL” [a title I am planning on not revealing]. And to keep my juices boiling I am entertaining a rather pesky main character from a YA project I will be doing soon. I do this because I bore easily and when I lose interest in a project, which happens always when it dominates my schedule, I lose interest in the act of writing, because it feels like a chore. Now I know people that are like bulls, who after fixating the red cape do not let go of the chase until victory is theirs. After the initial stages of getting to know the stories I get enveloped and focus on the primary one.


Some like to do research before sitting down to write the first chapter, while others research, when it is absolutely inevitable. I tend to be a lazy researcher, who has no idea what to do a research about to bother. When the story demands something I sit an research and make notes on how to fit the info later or earlier during redrafts. It has to do with me being confused and lazy, which has a lethal potential for any human being.


Some like to chug in words until the rough draft is done and then go and fix anything. Others for sure are perfectionists and know how their story will go down so they try to be as pristine as possible. I myself am not much of a plotter and have a basic skeleton figured out for my stories. Around 2/3 in any project do the pieces of the puzzle start revealing themselves and if the novel gets better it has happened during the revisions, when I have sewn the elements I had discovered earlier into it.

In the end what I am trying to convey is. Start the novel any way you want to and see what sticks best. Reading all the methods can be tiring to the mind and making you believe that you are doing something wrong or you should be doing things this and this way. Usually it involves opposing ideas. So experiment. I have done it around three times and know what sticks with me and what doesn’t. Now with every following project I will weed out the kinks in the process. Anyway this is how I feel about it from personal experience, when I used to take any advice to heart from anyone with a book on the shelves without actually writing. At the end of the day when the fingers meet the keyboard it’s your subconscious that decides what works best and delivers faster and more comfortable. All you need to do is catch on where the mind stirs and refine its course.


T.D. Newton said...

Yeah, everyone has a different way of doing things. Where and when to start a story are very important, but what people don't realize a lot of the time is that their words are never set in stone. Everything can be fixed, edited, altered, or replaced later... what's important is that you start, and then continue.

And don't always assume you need a Prologue ;)

Charles Gramlich said...

I have tried working on multiple projects and just can't do it for more than a few days at a time. I wish I could.

Harry Markov said...

@ T.D: That is the main lesson I had to learn my time writing. I am still new to this so the idea that the text can morph is still a bit alien and uncomfortable.

@ Charles: It's not a permanent method that sticks through all the time during creative process. At least with me. I juggle, when I need a bit of creative momentum and then I would vary the tempo and frequency with which I do several things. It's a tricky path to choose, but ultimately helps with my focus.