It’s happened before. Or maybe it’s the first time. You’re standing in the kitchen, doing dishes, when it hits you. You’re getting a drink of water at work, staring at the cooler as the inspiration comes. Maybe it happens on the commute, between traffic lights #3 and #53867. The question, the query, the first bloom of an idea.
For me, it’s usually a scene that comes to mind. Some conversation or scenario that once it begins, quickly transforms into a continuous background loop throughout the writing of the book. It’s rarely the instigating incident; it tends to be the climactic confrontation that the book builds up to.
I mull. I scribble notes. But I don’t write out the entire scene, not yet. I let it foster, I brood, I get excited about it. I find an excuse to get a brand new notebook and I start writing out the notes and the random backstory and the continuing plotlines that are all sparked by this brave little idea.
Then, I start writing. Since my ideas are usually from some later-in-the-book scene, I rarely write it at first. I avoid putting on paper that question-answering/world-shattering revelation that first woke me up to the promise of a new story. It’s like overwatering a plant that has barely had time to take root. You have to add some more dirt first. Just start writing. Take these stick-thin characters and walk around in them a bit. It doesn’t matter if this is how you’ll actually start the book or not. Wake them up on an ordinary day and interact with them.
I wait to write down that scene that kept me up at night and sat on the back burner during the note-writing and world-building and person-meeting. I wait until my enthusiasm is lagging and I’ve written myself into corners and my notebook is no longer as shiny as it used to be and my characters are flat and ugly…then I revisit that spark. I remind myself why I was excited, what got me into this frightening thing called writing.
If my spark came as the opener of my new work in process, then I have to write it down. But then, when my computer is slow and my brain slower and my ideas ground to null, then I go back to that opener and I rewrite it, no matter how shiny and kick-butt it seemed at the beginning. It’s like pushing the reset button without erasing everything. I’m able to write something that excites me, regardless if I’ve put it on paper before.
You can begin your story a thousand times. Just because you don’t get it right the first time doesn’t mean you can’t come around for another shot. You may wallow around in pages of person-meeting before you find that day when it all begins. And then…it begins.
How do you begin? Do you savor that shiny moment and keep it for a rainy day, or do you push it from the nest and watch it take flight?