When you’re starting a new book how do you know where the story begins?
People, whether fictional or not, are always works in progress, and beginnings are like speed dates. When you meet someone for the first time, do they tell you where they were born and all that? Not if they don’t want you to nod off. You only have a limited amount of time to grab a date’s attention, so you can’t let up. Yet anything you learn comes through in context; background and story unfold through interaction. Algis Budrys, a great writer and fabulous teacher, once said that you must write about a character with a problem, in a setting. I try to stick to that.
Now, are my beginnings set in stone? No, because books are a process, too. I’m telling myself the story, even though I always do an outline (a good habit I developed during my work-for-hire days). I know when I’m ready to start writing when I’ve got a) the title and b) that last line/scene. It’s just a feeling that builds to an itch and then an overwhelming urge—and boom! Got to write that sucker. (Which is not the same thing as waiting for the muse: except for the week or so downtime I give myself permission to take between books, once I’ve got that outline, I write something every day whether I want to or not.) Frequently, I’ll figure out the best beginning maybe midway through. It just happens.
However I begin a book, though, I always aim to give readers credit for some smarts. Drop them into the messy middle of a character’s life, I say. Have them meet someone at that major fork in the road and make them hop on for the ride." - Ilsa Bick, author of Ashes.
Stop by Tuesday to find out what other genres the authors would like to try!