Though I have not been even remotely successful in my writing career and, to be honest, I can hardly call it one, I've been writing long enough to know what I can't start writing a new story without. Today, I'm going to look at three main elements that enable me to proceed with the new project: the plot, the names of characters and places, and the first sentence or paragraph. These are the three crucial keys that I need in order to unlock the content of a blank notebook page or a computer document that is concealed there. Let's look at each one of them in turn.
I: THE PLOT. I learned a long time ago that vague ideas, however great and numerous, are not sufficient as a foundation for me to build my new story upon. I need to have something more substantial than that. I need a plot. I'm a plotter. I must know, even roughly, the beginning, the middle and the ending of the story. I'm not saying, of course, that I plot every little thing and detail that is going to happen throughout the story — writing, after all, is a journey and an adventure and there's nothing more exciting than to come across some unexpected revelation, to be surprised by the characters or the story itself — but I must have a solid idea of where the story is going, otherwise it has little to no chance of moving forward. Sometimes, I write a chaptered outline with an estimated number of chapters that can and will vary during the process. Sometimes, I just write an outline, dividing it into parts or segments if chapters don't work. Sometimes, I simply sit down and write a summary of the story without breaks but with lots of ellipses and question marks in place of the information I don't know yet. Naturally, these first outlines never stay unchallenged or unchanged and I usually have piles and piles of notes to wade through once I decide upon a definitive outline.
III. THE FIRST SENTENCE OR PARAGRAPH. Finally, I won't be able to start writing the story if I don't have that first sentence or paragraph that feels just right. I usually take my time thinking about how I want to begin. I mull the sentences over in my head, say them aloud, savour them, then rush to write them down. I write different versions one after another in the same document and if none of those work I usually change the angle and try it over and over again until I know — feel — that I've got it at last. Here are some of the first sentences from my books that I really love:
James Westfield was not an idle man and was never known to neglect his duty, unless it concerned his sister-in-law, in which case, like any man facing an unpleasant task at hand he was in no hurry to fulfill it.
Almendra opened her eyes on the seventh chime of the clock. She quickly sat up, stretched and smiled. Just then the door to her room opened and in entered a large, grey wolf with a tray on his back.
Mr McBride and his lady were at breakfast when a letter was brought in. Mr. McBride, a big man of five and forty, took the letter from the tray and upon seeing that it was from his uncle's solicitor exclaimed “Ha!” and tore off the seal. “So!” he muttered a moment later, clearing his throat. “The old coot is dead. Well, well!”
CURRENT REGENCY WIP
So... once I have all these elements together, I am ready to embark upon another writing journey. What about you? What elements are crucial for you in order to begin writing a new story?
Three key elements I can't start writing a new story without. What are yours? bit.ly/1Ldifr1 via @faridamestek (Click to tweet)