Wednesday, September 8, 2010


I'm pretty sure you've all heard me say before that I can't really write a beginning until I write The End. That's mostly because I change so much throughout the book that the beginning needs to be tweaked to reflect the different directions the plot took.

I had an aha! moment the other day as I stood in front of a class of 36 college students. Someone had asked about my process of creating a novel, and I was telling them how hard beginnings were for me. Most authors I know love beginnings. Fresh starts, new characters... Me? I fairly dread them. It's not that I don't have a million ideas. And hundreds of characters who want their day on the page. It's because I always try to start a book without really knowing the full story--just trying to get something on the page, to get it done. But that hasn't been working so well.

I always thought I was more of a "pantser" -- an author who doesn't outline, one who flies by the seat of her pants. I do have a notebook for every book I write, but no one but me can decipher it. There's no "outline" -- except in my head. Most of one at least. Every once in a while, a character will pop out of nowhere and surprise me. I love that--one of the best things about writing, in my opinion. It's just not as fun when I know the whole plot in advance.

I plan on outlining a bit more. I need to know my characters, their quirks, what they look like. The town--how it's set up, what it looks like. The main character's house. The cat. The murder victim--and why they were killed. And the murderer, too. Why did he/she kill? There needs to be reasons, explanations, resolutions. Maybe then beginnings won't be so painful. (But I do hope there will still be some surprises.)

So my aha! moment of realizing how much work I need to put into a book before I even start it will hopefully help me from now on. I'll let you know how this all plays out. I've finished one of my September proposals (you might remember my goal was to get three out by the end of the month), and I'm about to start something brand spanking new. Just need to get a new notebook first...



  1. Kudos to finishing one of your proposals.

    So, do you use a bound composition book or a spiral one?

  2. Usually spiral. Office Depot often has really great (cute!) notebooks. I like the smaller sizes, 5 x 7 - ish. I never use the whole thing, but I like keeping notes for books separated.

  3. I've coined myself the 'pany liner' writer! I heard that term somewhere, but I can't remember where. That's where I pants the first 20k words and then I plot out the rest. This way it gives me a good feel for my characters and where they want their story to go.

  4. I loooooathe writing beginnings. Ugh. Usually I speed up once I hit page 50 or so, but those beginning chapters? Ick. Nightmare. Trudging through mud. I wish I didn't need an outline, because I do have that problem about feeling like I already know everything so what the heck is the fun in writing? But I always try to leave some room to play, so when new scenes come along, it's so much fun to watch them develop. And so far I haven't written myself into a corner because I've planned ahead. Good luck with your new strategy!

  5. I've had the same aha moment... quite a few times. So far it hasn't helped me any, but I'm still hoping!

    Good luck!

  6. So, it seems, like my daughter, you are what they call a Global Learner. She likes having the "whole" and only then can she go about figuring out the details! Your method of writing is working for you because your books are wonderful! I want to get to the end as soon as possible, but once I am there I don't want it to end!