Of how great a love can be
A sweet love story
That is greater than the sea…
No that isn’t right. I’m not writing a love story this time.
Oh if only I had a great and wondrous line that promises what is to come in the story and will be remembered for a hundred years. “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.”
Nope, not gonna happen. At least not with the first clunky paragraphs I write. Maybe by the time I know what the story is and what to promise the reader on the 3rd or 4th draft.
Yep. That’s me dithering over a blank computer screen, or notepad, or typewriter. For as long as I have written stories—I think I was five when I started—I rarely know where or how to start a story. I have tried to start in the middle and work backward, then forward. I have been known to write three chapters and a synopsis to sell a book, then junk it all and start over someplace else.
I have been known to postpone starting a book because I needed to do more research. And some research always leads to more research. I could write a masters’ thesis on some of the stories I have never written.
What all this dithering does, is tell me where not to start. But it also gives me play time with the story premise, or the characters, or the setting that is compelling me to write. I can cover acres of blank pages in brainstorming and research and character studies, but I can’t know how that character walks or talks or thinks until I give him/her space and words. Since I write character driven stories and books that is the most important part.
I sometimes start with a premise. For example: Oh, I have to write one of my historical fantasies about Queen Elizabeth I of England. Um… okay, I have 45 years to cover. Where do I begin? Queen Elizabeth was a strong woman. I need a character who is strong enough to be her foil. I need a man who will love her but never be in love with her. I need… to do some research. I found the right character. He started thumping his staff inside my skull about ½ way through the research. And then I let him tell his story. My best work happens that way, letting the character talk to me and tell his own story, not mine, his, or hers, depending upon who is clattering inside my head at the moment.