The secret of getting ahead is getting started. Mark Twain
Writing is so much more than putting down the story, which for me is the easy part. The story just flows and it is fun to write. My mind fills with characters and plots as my fingers fly across the keyboard. Once completed, I feel exhilarated. Now comes the hard part – editing.
I have been editing my second book for publication at a snail’s pace. The marked up draft sits there mocking me as I say, “I’ll work on you tomorrow” and laughing at me as I walk by too busy to work on it.
Two other stories are sitting nearby gathering dust and waiting for my attention. At this point, they have remained silent, but I expect any day to hear their murmuring complaints.
Slowing my editing progress is the new stories that keep trying to come out. The new story’s characters march across my mind developing their personalities and whispering things they would like to do. Then out of nowhere comes a plot line that needs to be jotted down for future use, which leads to doing a quick bit of research to confirm that the plot line is even doable.
“Stop the editing!” The new story demands, “Write, now!” Sigh. Editing continues to wait.
When I die, there will be stacks of stories that have never seen the light day because they lack editing. I tell myself that at least the stories will have been written, and maybe someone will pick up the story and do the editing. But will it still be my story if I’m not there to direct the editing? Sigh. Another story plot just popped into my head.
I would welcome hearing from other writers about how you get and stay motivated to edit.
Storytelling is ultimately a creative act of pattern recognition. Through characters, plot, and setting, a writer creates places where previously invisible truths become visible. Or the storyteller posits a series of dots that the reader can connect. Douglas Coupland
I was raised in a family of storytellers and never thought of a story as a dot-to-dot, but there seems to be some truth to this quote by Douglas Coupland, novelist, designer, and artist.
When I write a story I follow a formula of if this happens what is the logical thing to happen next – one thought leading to the next. Imagining a conversation between characters with their quirks and writing it can be a challenge. But by taking one sentence (sometimes one word) and then thinking about what is the logical response, I develop a conversation.
To write an action scene, it the same thing. If this happens what happens next. Even in the world of fantasy, there are rules by which the imaginary world works. Using these rules to formulate what happens next, keeps the story moving and holds the scene together.
So are authors really dot-to-dot creators?
As a child I was taught about sequencing – what happens next; if this then that; etc. I never gave it much thought but over the years, I have come to appreciate being able to answer these types of questions to help resolve problems and situations that are encountered every day.
When writing, the answers to these questions helps to move a story along. These answers will provide conversation between characters and results to actions (or inaction).
When trying to figure out where to start a story ask “What happens if ____”. Then by using the sequencing questions your story will move right along.
For my story, Canyon Riddle, I thought about a time my family was camping and my young sons had a scary adventure that involved learning that tarantulas can jump straight up in the air. I asked, “What if they had found a skeleton rather than a tarantula?” The story grew from there. Always keeping in the forefront the sequencing questions helps to keep me on track.
When you are writing what do you use to get you started?