Friday, July 28, 2006

Hanging Out in the Outer Sphere

Well, hopefully, you aren't checking in to see Xandra's thoughts on RWA National...because I'm not there. ToT (is there an emoticon for pouting? LOL). So instead of the publishing process (which does include attendance at events like RWA National, RT Convention, and other, smaller venues), I thought I'd talk a little about writing process.

Jennifer Crusie, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, and Nora Roberts have all said "you can't fix a blank page." Many authors among us can nod our heads in sympathy when someone talks about how difficult it seems to get the words on the page. Others just shake their heads and can't conceive of sitting down to write without a well-developed map (aka an outline or scene synopsis). I suspect most of us veer somewhere to the middle of these two poles.

Myself--I just can't hit my stride without a good start. I think it comes from my checquered past, when I used to write short contemporary romantic comedies. I entered so many contests and submitted so many partials, that I gradually got used to thinking in terms of Hooks and Cute Meets that before I could go on, I had to have that hook scene or cute meet scene hammered out solid. Of course, looking back at some of that, I see that the rest of my stories tended to suffer because while that hook scene or cute meet scene was fine, the rest of the story often diverged from the promise put forth in that opener. Back then, I was sailing up that river in Egypt about what I really wanted to write, and it shows now that I look back on it.

A few years ago, I reinvented myself, starting from the writing process up, and thought I'd had my old habits kicked. But I see them resurfacing sometimes, albeit in different forms. For me, I need that good beginning still. It's not so much a "cute meet" or even a tried-and-true "hook" thing anymore, but I need to have that opening scene hammered out before I can do much more than noodle on the rest of things.

How about you? For you writers out there, what has to be in place before the rest starts flowing? And for the readers...what's your favorite part of a good yarn?


Bernadette Gardner and Jennifer Colgan said...

I need a good first line. For some reason, once I get that on paper, I can get into the zone, but I can't just start a story with any old thing and figure I'll get back to it and fix it up later. The first lines of my stories usually stay as is - so they have to be what I want them to be before I move on.

Lynda K. Scott said...

I, too, need that first scene hammered out completely. For me, it sets the story in motion, sets the tone and provides important characterization.

That said, it may not stay in the final manuscript (though I certainly try to keep it), but, since I'm a Fly-into-the-Mist kind of plotter, I need it to write the story.

Angela Verdenius said...

I get the first few pages done, then I'm in the swing of it. The first chapter, the first couple of pages, gets me in rhythm for the rest of the book. It sets the tone.

Introducing the characters, the atmosphere...

Yep, the first few pages and I'm usually okay. We won't go into the-head-pounding-on-desk moments when I write myself into a corner, or the characters just won't co-operate *g* That's a natural progression for me LOL