You are on the brink of a great adventure…and challenge. You are about to finally put pen to paper or, more likely, fingertips to keyboard. You will create everything about your story–the plot and subplots, the characters and how they interact with one another, the time period in which the story will unfold, the many scenes that will propel your story forward, and so on–your are the ringmaster. Two new questions now materialize within the mind’s eye: The first of these is the fundamental question of how to begin, and, the second, is how to find what has always been the most fleeting of commodities–the time to write.
It is time to remind you that I am but a fellow writer and, thus, I can only share my own experience in how I began my novel, Clarity is Dying. More important, I believe, is for you to let your common sense be your guide. You see, there are about as many answers to how to begin as there are writers. Some have found that a detailed outline works best for them, chapter by chapter, keeping them on track to completion. At the other end of the spectrum, some choose not to pre-determine the direction of the story with even the broadest written outline, not wanting to be in any way limited by their early thinking about how a story will unfold. Those in the middle might want only the broad strokes of their stories to be placed into outline form and then only as a general guide. Remember, you are writing for yourself and not for a demanding publisher, so you have the freedom to do what makes you most comfortable–no one is going to ask you to send in your detailed outline or synopsis. But do give thought to how you wish to proceed. I fell into the middle category, wanting only the broadest markers for my story. Some of my best thinking on character and plot development, in my judgment, occurred during the act of writing the novel. I am in the midst of writing my second novel, Joshua Rye, and for the same reason that I don’t tell anyone about the detail of it while it is in progress, I don’t work with a detailed outline. I simply don’t want anything to compel me in one direction or another. I prefer for the story itself to direct me, as it is being written.
Finding time to write is a fundamental issue, if you are, in fact, going to actually complete your novel. After all, as a premise of Blog #1, isn’t the lack of time to write a principal culprit in having kept you from writing your novel up until now? If one follows the advice of just about everything you might read on the subject of writing, however, the strong and consistent admonition is to write daily, no matter what. And I suppose if you and I were that young writer trying to actually make a living with our pen, we’d better be in there knocking out something daily–our daily bread would depend on it. On the other hand, for people who are well into their years and have a full plate already, I would argue that the idea that one must write daily is not only unhelpful, but counterproductive. In my way of thinking, it’s an easy excuse to rationalize that one cannot meet such a stern requirement; it is an excuse that will stop you dead in your tracks. Rather, why not think in terms of a schedule to write multiple times over a period of a week or even a month. Select what you think is a reasonable number of times and hours that you can dedicate to your novel over these longer times. Then, if a day or two, or even a week passes and you are unable to write, you have not broken your own frequency requirements–you have planned for the vicissitudes of your very active schedule. Again, you are the ringmaster of your novel, and, yes, this includes your determination of what kind of reasonable commitment of time you can make. But make the commitment, stick to it, and go forward.
Next week’s blog: How do I deal with this thing called Writer’s Block?
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R. Scott Franklin, Author, Clarity is Dying