(Every day I will put another chapter here of this book. Patreon supporters, you will get the full book sent to you when it is all done.)
How to Get Started
One of the established facts of novel writing is that almost no writer can hold the plot of an entire novel in their mind. We just can’t.
So even if you are outlining ahead, you are spending most of your time just focusing in on one area of the book, one scene, one chapter.
I have a reminder on my wall above my computer.
That sign was meant to keep me from trying to think about an entire book, or too far ahead in a book.
The sign under the first sign is:
Trust the Process
Can’t believe how many times I repeat that to myself when feeling uncertain.
Trust the process. Just trust the damn process.
It’s like a signal to my subconscious to come out and play.
But that’s all fine and good, but how to get started with the actual writing? That seems to be the scary question we all face with every book or story.
Some Accepted Ways
In writing book after writing book on this topic, the same basic answers come up about getting started.
They all say that you need one or more of the following:
— An idea
— A cool setting
— Cool character
— Great first line
Okay, those sometimes help. For me, a cool title helps as well.
But if I had to wait around for a cool idea or a cool first line like Billy Crystal in that movie Throw Mamma From the Train, I would be dead.
So sure, all those things help. But then what?
How do you really get started?
For the answer to that, let me back up to the basics of every opening in any story or chapter.
You must have a character in a setting.
Readers read for characters and all characters must be in something besides a white room.
So to get started, stick a character in a setting. Cool character or not. Cool setting or not.
Just a character in a setting.
Sounds simple, doesn’t it.
Nope. Far, far from it.
The Depth Workshop
The most important and successful workshop I do through WMG Publishing Online workshops is the Depth Online Workshop.
Here is how to think of depth in writing openings.
Imagine a lake. All beginning writers just try to get their readers to go out across the top of the lake. But the surface of that lake is the line that allows a reader to leave your story. If the reader gets above that surface line, they put the book down.
A simple image.
A story with depth is one that the writer takes the reader and drags the reader under the surface and down the steep slope to the bottom of the lake. And then the writer has the reader follow the story along the bottom of the lake.
From the bottom of that lake, it is a long ways to the surface and the writer can do all sorts of things without fear the reader will surface and leave the story.
So the worst thing you can do it just let your readers water ski across the top of the water. You want your readers deep in your story, with no chance they will leave.
That is called depth.
And it takes me six weeks and five assignments and a ton of examples to show writers how to do that in that Depth Online Workshop.
So back to the question on how to start a story.
Take a reader quickly down into depth.
Those who have taken the online workshop know how that’s done.
For everyone else, let me just say this:
Depth is caused by having a character be firmly in a setting with opinions and all five senses and emotions about the setting.
None of this can be from a writer perspective.
It all must be inside a character’s head.
A few months back I wanted to write another Thunder Mountain series time travel novel. I always start those novels with new characters, but I had no character, no idea of a character, nothing. I just had a title: Lake Roosevelt.
Roosevelt Lake is a lake in the center of Idaho with a town under it. All the Thunder Mountain books had been around that lake in one form or another, so I figured it was time to call one of the books by the lake name. Thus the title.
So I sat down, typed in the title, and grabbed a character name out of a phone book from some far away city and typed in that as the first two words of the story.
And since I live on the Oregon Coast I figured why not just set the opening here. That thought flashed across my mind from somewhere unknown.
So I started typing. I had the character enjoying the fantastic beauty of the Oregon Coast and going into a small café on a small Oregon Coast town.
Café had great smells, of course. Great tastes, the ocean air, the sounds of the waves, and the warmth of the late summer day. I had all five senses and I layered them in really thick, giving my character’s opinions of the setting with hints of what she was doing there.
Then I ended the chapter and did the same thing with a male character in chapter two who was following the first character.
And it went from there.
I stuck two characters in two chapters in rich, thick setting that they had opinions about.
Did I know where the book was heading? Nope, other than I figured at some point they would make it back to Idaho.
Did I know the characters? Nope, just learning about them as I typed.
Just as a reader would learn about them as the reader reads the book.
How to Get Started Writing Into the Dark
Take any character and put the character in a setting.
Then climb into the character’s head and park your butt there and don’t allow yourself to type one word that doesn’t come from the character’s opinion or sensory feelings or emotions.
Stay parked inside that character’s head.
And let the character (and the reader) experience the story.