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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Author Insight: How to begin

What's the hardest part about starting a new book? Do you have a trick to get started?

"It always starts with an idea for me. I have a drawer full of story folders, so I'm never at a loss for ideas. :-) But since I'm a plotter, I always begin by figuring out what's driving the main character (aka the goal, conflict and motivation) and what the key turning points are in the story. From there, I flesh out the story piece by piece until I understand it and the characters well enough to begin putting words on the page." - Kay Cassidy, author of The Cinderella Society.


"The hardest part? All of it. But that's also the best part. Writing is such an amazing, frustrating, glorious, painful thing, all at once, all at the same time. There's no trick, or anything--just a matter of sitting down and doing it." - Beth Revis, author of Across the Universe.

"The hardest part for me is staring up at that mountain and knowing how much time, energy, and sacrifice it will take to climb it, especially when there’s no book deal on the table and the possibility is very real that the story I’m committing to may never be published. At that moment, I pause and consider all of the other things I could do with that time and energy, and I weigh the cost and benefit in the totality that is my life. For now, I’ve determined that the undertaking is worth it, so I start climbing one sentence at a time. As for tricks, I don’t have any, but I’ve always seen the first and last scene of my novels before anything else. The writing is just a matter of filling in the middle." - Ty Roth, author of So Shelly.

"Starting is SO hard.  I usually sit with a character and idea for several months. The main character usually starts talking to me – when I get a great first line, then I know it’s time to sit down and start writing. " - Cynthia Omololu, author of Dirty Little Secrets.

"Starting is easy! I honestly think I could start a book a month for the rest of my life and never get tired of it. It doesn’t get tough for me until the honeymoon phase is over and I start having to think—what time of day is it now? Should they meet now or in two chapters? I have to introduce this stupid character, but I don’t know how! AUGH!!!!" - Carrie Harris, author of Bad Taste in Boys.

"For me the hardest part is trying to figure out where the story begins- and from what point of view to tell it. Often I will begin with a main character and try beginning his or her story in first-person POV, then third-person and usually one of them will feel more 'right.'" - Maurissa Guibord, author of Warped.

"I like to have the first few paragraphs already formed in my head so I can start confidently. I never start until I know how the book ends. The hardest part for me, immediately, is trying to get comfortable inside my main character's head and figuring out the narrative voice. Once I find that voice, I can stay in it forever, but getting secure there initially can be very difficult for me." - Hannah Moskowitz, author of Invincible Summer. 

"For me, starting is easy. I let ideas percolate until I’m about to burst with them, and then it all comes out as the opening chapter. I usually have a pretty easy time ending, too. It’s the large part in the middle that’s the hard part!" - Tracy Barrett, author of King of Ithaka.

"I’m an enthusiastic rewriter, but I dislike first drafts in the extreme. If it’s an entirely new protagonist and world, I do a fair amount of character work and brainstorming on the setting first. Figuring out the 'who' and 'where' are key to my nailing the 'what now?'" - Cynthia Leitich Smith, author of Blessed.

"Slogging through a first draft is always torture for me.  A blank Word document has so much potential, but I'm frequently intimidated, feeling like I won't do the story justice.  I try to think in scenes, and just write one at a time formulating them as I go.  Put one foot in front of the other…" - Gretchen McNeil, author of Possess.

"When I'm working on one book, I've got the next one percolating, including the opening, so by the time I finish a project I'm usually ready to dive into the next one. Beginnings are usually all right. It's somewhere around 20 or 30k words that gets me every time..." - Jaclyn Dolamore, author of Between the Sea and Sky.

"The hardest thing for me is getting the general outline in place. I can't write when I'm figuring this out -- I have to be moving. So I walk a lot. Miles and miles, just thinking about what happens next." - Inara Scott, author of Delcroix Academy: The Candidates.

"I can’t just plunge in. I have to know a lot before I can start. I need to know my main characters very well, their personalities, their motivations. And, since I write mystery, I need to know what the mystery is and the solution before I can start page one. So I take a lot of notes and scribble things down until I feel like I have a solid enough handle on things to get started." - Kim Harrington, author of Clarity. 

"The hardest part is when you reach the first speedbump - after you've blasted out a couple of chapters that came so easily because you were excited about the story. You get to a point where you're not sure what's going to happen, you have to write a scene you're not jazzed about... it's tough to power through and keep going." - Sara Bennett Wealer, author of Rival.

"The hardest part is just getting started. It feels so daunting. But it's exciting too. I don't really have a trick, no, I just remind myself that everything can be edited and rewritten and start typing." - Stacia Kane, author of City of Ghosts.

Remember to drop by Thursday when the rest of the authors share the most difficult part of starting a new book!

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