The Blank Page
Remember high school essays? How painful it was to stare at that blank page even wit all the research sitting there in your notes next to you? Or even elementary school book reports? Ugh! Weren't those the worst? Having to prove you read the book and understood it. I know - ironic coming from a writer. After all, I do want people reading and understanding my books.
Did that blank page give you anxiety? Sometimes it gets me excited about the possibilities. You never know what you are going to end up with when all is said and written. The blank page can be an exciting adventure!
I have been promising to write a blog about my writing process for a while. I suppose I should fill up this page with that promise. However, I can’t be exact. No two stories have been born the same way. I like to remain flexible in my process. But, there is a basis.
Let me start with the idea. I have lots of ideas in my head. Problem is, few of them can stand on their own. The ones that can are difficult to identify from the other ones in my head that can't. And, often, a solid idea is actually the conglomeration of a few ideas combined into one.
Some ideas come to me from lots and lots of time staring at the blank page and throwing sentences on it like throwing mud on a wall and seeing what sticks. Other times they happen like a bolt of lightning out of the clear blue sky. In fact, that bolt hit me while out on a five mile walk and became The Power of Ketchup. I got so excited by it, I practically ran home to get started. I wish they all hit me like that.
Not that the entire idea hit me like that. BOOM! The entire story in one flash of genius! I wish! Not even close. It was more the culmination of lots of ideas, some my own, some from news stories, that suddenly came together in one moment as one big idea. I had the premise, the catalyst for chaos, and the ending. Everything else in between and the cast of characters were far from born.
Once you have that, it should all come pouring out, right? Wrong.
Different writers write differently, and sometimes write different books differently. Some work from beginning to end. Some develop an outline. Some do mind maps. I do some of each of these techniques, but for different purposes as I create. But I'm not at this point yet. I am still at the blank page.
I don't simply start typing away. I've tried that. No good for me.
With Shattered Crystal and Between Layers, I did mind maps or what I used to call brain storms. I took pen and notebook paper and just start writing whatever words or phrases or ideas came into my head as fast as I could no matter how ridiculous. I drew circles around them and connected circles with other circles if things seem connected somehow. I took more notes along those drawn lines. I spent time staring at it letting it soak into my brain. Then I created a loose outline in some sort of chronological order. I created a cast of characters on more paper and kept all those papers next to me making new notes and changing previous notes as I went along.
For Shattered Crystal, that worked well. For Between Layers, I had to modify because most of that book was two, separate, interwoven stories. Each needed their own outline, characters, and connections between them. That was complicated.
The Power of Ketchup was born a different way. I had spent months and months starting stories, writing a few chapters, and getting nowhere so I abandoned them to a desolate file in my laptop. Over and over I did this wondering if my writing career was already over. And then, it hit me just as I mentioned above. I was out for a five mile morning walk when I remembered a news story about people getting excited about a tree ring image that resembled the face of Jesus. Now, I am a Christian believer with a pretty strong faith in God, but I still recognized that it was a tree. God can easily use a tree to reach people, but he doesn't have to. He has more obvious methods if he really wants to reach someone. But, hey, it's a tree.
Then, I started thinking about these odd times we are in as this was still deep in the world shutdown. The local news was filled with stories daily about the battle for paper products at Costco. I kept thinking about how ridiculous it was to fight over toilet paper. I thought, "We have trees with leaves on them, people. Better to pick a leaf rather than pick I fight."
There. There it was. The ridiculousness of fighting over toilet paper and the ridiculousness of getting religiously excited over tree rings. BOOM!! I was struck, frankly, in my opinion, by God. I felt he was telling me to write it.
I picked up a new book one of my children had given me to help me restart my career on a method of writing a novel called the snowflake method. It's a 10 step process to write out ideas, create characters, and make an outline without feeling all the dredge. It doesn't eliminate all the work dredge, but it helps to streamline it. At least, for me writing this book, it helped a lot. I intend to use it again for the next if possible.
Well, there is the first step, generating the story idea. I'll tackle the next steps in subsequent blogs.
If you have a comment or question, or a blog idea, shoot me an email at email@example.com.
Thanks for reading!
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