Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Birth of a New Story

(PS, that pic is my youngest when he was only a day old. Awwwhh. I stare at this when he throws a big almost-two-year-old fit. Sometimes it helps. Sometimes.) :)

I started a new story this week. At this beginning, I realized again how much birthing a book and raising it up is like parenting. (Please, bear with me. I spend a lot of time with small humans. I need to draw my connections where I can.)  Also, disclaimer:  I'm generalizing and simplifying for my purposes.

 I started researching it earlier in the month. This time is like the pregnancy of the book, the incubation, the preparation. Because by research I mean the general messy way in which I begin a story. Much staring off into space. Some actual “look stuff up” research. A bunch of muttering in front of my storyboard. That all took about a month this time and now I’ve physically opened a new file in Word and proceeded to type things in it.


The first part of a new story is awesome, when it’s all shiny and new. The characters are so eager to get out of my head and the premise feels so fresh. It’s a great hook! It’s like this tiny, perfect baby—it smells good, has so much potential, and its sheer adorableness is unrivaled.

In short, it is love at first sight.

Then, invaritably, it gets harder. In that middle part, there are all those growing pains. It starts with that first temper tantrum. The whine, the characters who say, “I don’t wanna!” and they push back against my desires and wants. In the middle, I hit that wall where I have no idea what the heck I’m doing. (Please say this isn’t just me, both in parenting and in writing.) At this part, it’s all about just pushing through and hoping I am doing the best for the long haul. At this part, I’m basically just cajoling and browbeating them into acting the way I think they should act. I think this must be the toddler through elementary phase.

And then I get to that point, somewhere about 2/3 of the way in, where I can see how it’s going to play out. I can see it shaping into something that vaguely resembles a cohesive idea. From there, I just guide it to its conclusion. I gentle offer suggestions. I mold instead of manhandle. It’s trickier, though, because there’s so much foundation now, so much to consider.

I taught high school so I’ve seen how adolescents start to pull themselves into what they will become through their teenage years. They become someone that interacts with the world around them, not just someone who is acted upon. That’s how a book usually ends, for me. It shapes itself into something richer in my mind than just words I’ve wrestled into submission. It interacts with what I know of the world and finally it becomes its own world.

So, I’m back at the beginning again, when it’s not hard yet. When it still smells sweet and is full of possibility. And I forgot how exhilarating it is to have a new “baby.” And I’m in love, again. I’m reminded once more why this is the greatest job in the world. Creation. How remarkable and humbling.

Tell me, do you love the first part of a story? Which part do you find the most challenging? Which part do you find the easiest? Any suggestions to hold onto this “start of story magic” throughout the process? (PLEASE, if you have any hints, do share!)


Maureen said...

The first part of the story is fun, I admit. I find the first third a wild ride. I find the 2/3 point to be the hardest...the end is so damned close, but man...this is where I stall. All those tangle and lines I've been juggling grow just a bit too complex and I get a bit too nervous...

I'm right there with the current WIP and and had a break through yesterday...while chatting with a goofball eye at Terri...and viola! Now, to just get the writing done...

I think the way to hold onto the magic is to never stop paddling... you take a break and you lose momentum. I stuttered too much with this WIP and nearly killed it...

I know it's harder with you because the tots distract. My excuse is RT...but time to leave that behind!

Marnee Bailey said...

I'm glad you had a break through, Mo! That's how it works with me too. At that point, something has to jar loose and from there, I push out the end.

I get a bit nervous at that 2/3 mark too. I'm not sure if it's a juggling thing or just sheer terror that I haven't juggled it.

But you're right; stopping is the death knell. Must keep that in mind this time. Must!

TerriOsburn said...

I hit that speed bump at the end of the first 1/3. Which is ironically how I was in pregnancy. Total healthy and chugging along until the last couple weeks of the third month. Could not let those saltines out of my sight. But then I floated into the 2nd trimester and it was smooth sailing right through delivery.

*ducks the flying dirty diaper*

I knew I needed to get words on the page over the weekend. I'd given myself that goal in Apriwritmo. Stop lollygagging and daydreaming and start writing. Avoiding opening a new document until last afternoon, then I did it. Low and behold, 2400 words came pouring out.

Haven't gotten to write since then. Monday night is the only night I watch television and the rest of the time has been dealing with errant breakers and non-working dishwashers (meaning I'm washing by hand for the first time since 1997!) and a puppy who won't stop destroying shit.

Anyway, I love this new phase when it's all fun and I'm getting to know the characters. They're getting to know me. A bit different this time since both appeared in the previous book, but no scenes in either of their POVs.

The only advice I have is to live with that storyboard. That's my umbilical cord to the story for me. (To give you a rather disgusting analogy.) That's where I can see what I have and where I'm going and the source behind most of my light bulb moments.

Sabrina Shields (Scapegoat) said...

The start is nice - it can be and go anywhere you want to take it.

I seem to be fine until after the 2/3rds part. It's the end that killed me. The "Holy cow are they ready to get to the end and be together yet?"

Marnee Bailey said...

Ter - Live with the storyboard is great advice. Sometimes, in the middle of my mid-story panic, I forget that I have it. LOL!!

As to the rest of the issues, sorry about the broken dishwasher and destructo-dog. The puppy phase is the worst.

I like the get to know them phase too. I've been dealing with sickness (AGAIN! When is flu season OVER!?) so I haven't had a lot of time to write this past weekend. But I'm excited to get going.

Sabrina - Huh, it seems like we all struggle at different spots. The end seems to fall out for me. But that middle point? Ugh.

MsHellion said...

That’s how a book usually ends, for me. It shapes itself into something richer in my mind than just words I’ve wrestled into submission. It interacts with what I know of the world and finally it becomes its own world.

I love this. This is just beautiful. You should be a writer. :)

Though I still didn't interact in high school. I was in college before this sort of thing happened and actually became a person who wasn't completely acted upon. (i.e. became less of a victim. *LOL*)

Yes, I do love babies...and new book ideas. They do feel like they have so much potential and good baby smell (new car smell for me). But I give up quicker. Really hate those terrible twos and tyrannical threes--and can abandon a story before it reaches full potential. It's rare I make it to the 2/3 stage. *LOL*

P. Kirby said...

Mines in the terrible two stage. Lots of tantrums...I say, "Let's go this way"....characters say "NO" and fling themselves on the floor screaming. There's also a touch of awkward adolescence in that the external conflict still hasn't caught up with the character-driven stuff.

Any suggestions to hold onto this “start of story magic” throughout the process? Both of these are me. First, I try to read fiction that really works for me. In fact, at a stage like this one, I either re-read keepers or lately, read fan fiction. Both help me tap into the a rather youthful enthusiasm to write, without all the angst about methodology and craft.

Second, I draw my characters and/or find actors who fit their part. Somehow, seeing my characters, gets me into their heads. I think what I'm saying is that it helps to create an almost "fannish" obsession with the characters and their story.

Speaking of which, I'm off to read fan fics.

TerriOsburn said...

My dishwasher isn't actually broken. It would work great...if it had electricity. That's where the breaker issues comes into play. Grrrrr... Part of me says, "Google it. I bet you could change a breaker." While another part says, "You'd kill yourself, call a damn electrician."

Maureen said...

I wonder if we all suffer our tangle at the same time in every WIP... For me, it really is that 2/3 wall... I can remember in it every story I've written. Doesn't mean the other sections slip through with ease, but that almost to the end stuff gets me everytime!

I don't do the storyboard thing, but I do find bouncing ideas off of Terri seems to jar stuff free for me. I usually confuse her a bit with the speed I juggle my diverse items in front of her...but she has an uncanny ability to say the right thing and help me find focus.

So my advice is to get a Terri.

And yeah, don't stop writing, even if it's a tablet of paper in the bathroom for those moments free of chaos.

Terri? Maybe you could get your cousin's husband to help out?

TerriOsburn said...

Ha! I'm available for cloning, but remember that copies are never as good as the original. Since this original already comes with many defects, I make no guarantees.

Ha! Micheal was a SEAL, not an electrician. No way would I let him near that breaker box. LOL! Unless I decide to let him shoot it. THAT he could do.

TerriOsburn said...

WHY did I Ha! twice? WTF??

P. Kirby said...

Terri: Your washer's on its own breaker? Or is something else putting too much of a load on the circuit? Husband-critter is good with wiring. I can ask him about changing breakers. Off hand, I can't remember if you need to power down the whole box or not...

(I got a C in Circuit Analysis, my only EE class, so I'm not much help.)

TerriOsburn said...

Far as I've been able to tell, the dishwasher and garbage disposal are the only things on the breaker. Shortly after I bought the place I noticed that breaker tripping a lot. Then it would work fine for months. Lately is started tripping and when I would reset it, I could hear a sizzle. I knew this wasn't good.

The panel is original from the 70s. Looks like I could get the cover off and probably slide the bad breaker out and new breaker in, but I also figure the whole box needs to be shut off. Any knowledgeable advice is appreciated!

Janga said...

My fascination with the new baby stage lasts through all the easy scenes--the ones that flow almost effortlessly and leave me feeling like a real writer. It's when I get to the stitch-together scenes that I grow disenchanted and am ready to throw out both bathwater and baby.

P. Kirby said...

Terri: The totally off-topic electrical talk: :)

Okay. Talked to The Man. He says, “Yes, you can switch out the breaker. Yes. You have to power down the box; probably a switch at the top of the box.” You then need to unscrew the wire on the breaker (probably a black wire) and slide it out.

You have to replace the breaker with the EXACT same type (manufacturer/amps) as is in there now. Basically, take the old one in to Home Depot or an electrical supply place and say, “Gimmee one of these.”

It’s possible the problem is with the line. A) if it pops when both appliances are on, there’s too much load for that ciruit. B) the line is borked. You can buy a line tester at the hardware store; hubby says it’s not expensive. It’s a little device that plugs into the outlet where either the washer or disposal is plugged. It’ll tell you if there’s a “fault” in the line. If so, you need an electrician.

I'm at adobedragyn at yahoo dot com
if you have any more questions.

Marnee Bailey said...

Hells - thanks! :) You're right; maybe I should write.... LOL!!

Seriously, there's a point, for me usually around the 15-20K point, where I just start forcing the words. They wrestle and hurt and make me miserable. I look at them and think, "WHY are you being so difficult?" Then, around 50-60K, I stop entirely to reevaluate. I don't know if my brain just goes, "Okay, like half of what you wrote has been manhandled and was clearly unwilling. Why don't you just pause for a moment and figure out if you're doing this right?"

Then there is much teeth gnashing and chest pounding before I have some random crystallizing moment (in the shower? while washing dishes?) and then the rest just happens.

It's happened every time (well, all three times).

Pat - fan fic huh? I hadn't thought of that. I do read some keepers. Like, if I'm having problem with dialogue, I go read someone who does great dialogue. Or if I'm getting too wordy, I read something with good action in it.

If I'm not sure what to read, I read Harry Potter. Because all of it is awesome.

And, it's funny you say that, but this is the first book I've used actors to get into the character's mind frame. It's working out, I think. :)

TerriOsburn said...

Pat - I just watched a "How do I change a breaker?" video on YouTube and it was exactly as your Hubby Critter says. BUT, I'm going to take pictures of the breaker box, the breaker, and the brand sticker at the top so I can show them to the dude at Home Depot and see what he says. The age of this breaker box is the thing that makes me worry it won't be as simple as I'd like.

And I can't believe I forgot to say how cute that picture in the blog is!!! Babies are so cute. (Especially when they're not coming home with me.)

Marnee Bailey said...

OH! I missed the breaker part, Ter. Sorry about that. I am not going to be able to help with that. I did attach my dishwasher to the cabinet a few weeks ago. And I have installed a garbage disposal (twice), but I'm afraid of the breaker box.

Mo - I concur. Everyone should have a Terri. LOL!!

And I don't know if the 2/3 mark is everyone's bane, but it is for me.

And Ter, you are extra Haha-ish today. It's fine.

P. Kirby said...

Marnee. I haven't read fan fiction in several years. But then I hit a reading slump, which exacerbated my writer's block. The fan stuff isn't necessarily good, but it's written with some much enthusiasm, it reminds me of why I started writing.

Harry Potter is totally awesome. Definitely a go-to-read when I want to "see how it's done," as it were. :)

Marnee Bailey said...

Awh, Janga! I loved that you continued my baby analogy! LOL!!

I can guarantee that your stuff is worth saving. Please don't throw anything out.

I hope that you get your breaker fixed, Ter. Good luck.

And thanks about my little dude. :) He wasn't exactly little though. I'm not sure you can tell from that pic, but that boy is was born a burly 9lb 11oz. I think most of it is in his cheeks. :)

Marnee Bailey said...

I think a burst of enthusiasm is a great thing, especially in the middle. I'll remember that in my lulls. :)

Sin said...

The beginning is the hardest part for me. Absolutely would rather throw myself off a bridge than write a beginning. Like right now.

The beginning makes me all angsty and I feel like I need to dress in all black and slump around with a skull in one hand talking to it as if it were my best friend.

But the middle? The end? I find my enthusiasm tenfold. I write those first.

Marnee Bailey said...

I think it's cool that we all run into our snags in different parts.

And I can picture this goth, skull-toting Sin in my mind very clearly. LOL!!

Good luck writing your beginning, girlie!!