Saturday, February 8, 2014

How Do You Start Writing A Book?

Two posts in one year. Wow!  I'm on a roll.



This is what's happening--as I said previously, my Riddle in Stone series is coming to an end.  It looks like the final book in the series, Blood in Snow, will be released in March or April (I'll keep you posted as information comes in from the publisher.).  So now I have to start writing a new book with completely new characters.



I had entertained the idea of writing something other than fantasy. In fact, I had begun a satire about higher education and got a good hundred pages in, but my agent strongly suggested that I stay with the same genre since I'm slowly building a readership. 



So I'm back to square one...a blank computer screen laughing at me. LAUGHING AT ME, I SAY!!!!  Damn computer screen.  So smug and arrogant.



Anyhow, this actually lend itself to the question I'm often asked: "How do you start writing a book?"



Well, I begin with a character in mind.  I think about him or her and daydream about what he or she would do in various situations. (Alright.  I really hate this he/she, his/her thing.  So I'm just going to use "she/her" as a way to refer to characters of an unspecified gender.  Sorry.  I'm a hack.  Leave me alone.)



I know this probably sounds crazy, but I actually "talk" to the character in my head.  I have to feel as though I know the character before I write.  Otherwise, I stare at my computer, wondering what to have her do next.  If I know the character, I just let her do whatever she wants and I sit back and record what I see.



So the first step is getting to know the character prior to writing. That's really important for me.



The problem have to have the "right" character for a book to work.  For example, I came up with a male character who I really liked and knew.  I even wrote 75 pages about him.  However, as I pulled back a little and examined what I had written, I realized that the main character was a cliché.  He was a young, streetwise, punk of a kid with a good heart deep down.  Sound familiar?  It's basically the formula for every second-rate fantasy story out there.  Ugh!!!



So I had to make a decision...go on or start over.



I started over.  I didn't want to get four hundred pages into a manuscript only to realize that, while the writing might have been good, the character was as stale as three month old bread--or anything on television.



So now I'm back to square one again. Damn blank computer screen!!  I'LL SHOW YOU!!!!



Now I have to come up with not just a character I know, but also a character who is original.  This is harder than it sounds. 



Not to sound like an ass or anything, but I'm pretty proud of Edmund, my character in Riddle in Stone.  He's a fat, middle age, librarian who stutters.   Pretty unique, eh?  I thought least for fantasy books that are dominated by big, manly men with bulging muscles and perpetually torn shirts.



The problem I'm having is, every time I come up with a character who I feel is unique, I suddenly realize that she's just a version of Edmund.  "Oh, I know! I'll write about a skinny, middle age accountant with a hearing impairment! Wait! That seems vaguely familiar... Hmmm."



So I need to come up with something novel.



But the character has to also be gripping and relatable.  I HATE characters who are tall, good-looking, smart, rich, and great at absolutely everything they do.  I can't stand them.  To me, they just aren't real.  They're also the popular kids in high school.  ASSHOLES!!



You might be asking: "What about the story or plot? Where does that come in?" 



My answer is, I don't really do that.  Once I have a character, I just let things happen.  For example, with Edmund, I started writing with no idea what was going to happen. I literally had Edmund walking down a road.  Where he was going and what his life would be like, I hadn't a clue.  It all developed from him.



So that's what's happening now.  I'm trying to write, but need a good character to show me her story first.  Meanwhile, the computer mocks me.  MOCKS ME!!!!




Okay.  That's it for now.  I have some thinking to do. 



I hope you are all well and warm.