Saturday, May 22, 2010
The First Step
I couldn't tell you how many times I've searched for an easy answer to starting a novel. I've searched through pages and pages of google for some author's advice on writing... I've read dozens of How-to-Write books... I've asked writers themselves how they cross that threshold and begin the journey of writing a masterpiece.
And none of these made a lightbulb come on over my head.
The advice on writing is always ambiguous, because truthfully (and any writer, published or unpublished can account for this) there is NO right answer.
Here's a nifty definition for writing, found on dictionary.com:
Write: to express ideas in writing.
Write: to trace or form characters, words, etc., with a pen, pencil, or other instrument or means, or as a pen or the like does: He writes with a pen.
Write: to execute or produce by setting down words, figures, etc.
And sometimes it's just as complicated as the definition makes it sound...
Writing isn't an organized math problem. Writing isn't a recipe. There is no set formula or correct answer at the end of the problem before you. There are no measurements for creativity (add half a cup of characters and one teaspoon of tension and aha! there's your masterpiece). One has to find their own way to write, on their own time, and on their own path.
There is no guarantee that one will end up with a masterpiece as well. Writing is hard work. It can be fun and worthwhile, but anything that is will come with a price. Writing takes courage and the ability to accept failure at every turn, while still maintaining the hope for success.
So when I thought about what the first step to beginning a novel would be... I thought of the reason behind it.
Why does a writer choose to write?
This is what I believe to be the first step one must take before they begin. Because... if you don't know why you're writing then how can you begin a journey without a reason? Without a destination?
First, there is an idea... That idea might be completely random, it might not even surface as a potential book, article, journal, blog post, etc., but that idea is what initially takes place. Someone might say, "Wow, you know you should write a book..." and ta-da! You feel the urge to put pen to paper and let the world know what wonderful things pop into your brain magically! But what are you hoping to gain out of this?
If any of these reasons make the top of the "why?" list, then I must warn you... writing is probably not the right thing for you. You might as well try to be an actress or a singer, or both! Oooh, a double threat! Shucks, you might as well try to be Oprah before you try to make it big by writing a book...
The point is, if you're not in love with the idea of writing, and more in love with the idea of being published and signing autographed copies of your book to the millions of fans that read them, then I'd say put the pen in the drawer and back away slowly, because... it's not likely to turn out that way. I mean, if it does then great! And if you sincerely think you're going to become famous that way then go for it and prove me wrong! But I would be sincerely disappointed in an author that wanted only to gain fortune and fame from his/her novel rather than to share characters and a story that has been stuck in their head and wouldn't shut up or turn off until they told it to the world.
Writing takes courage and patience. But if one is willing to face the failures that are sure to come with it then they will choose to get up no matter how many times they fall.
Why do I want to write?
This is a question that I knew I had to face before I even thought about typing a sentence, before I even began the research or the outline, or even jotted down character profiles...
I want to write because I have a song to sing, an idea to share, and characters that won't shut up...
So, before one grabs their pen and a piece of paper, ask... why? If one can figure out an answer to this question then they can cross that threshold and decide on a path to finishing this long and difficult journey.
For more advice on writing:
See Holly Lisle's article and advice on writing at www.hollylisle.com