In the first article of this series in turning your book idea into money, we covered the pleasurable Step of conceiving your book idea and fantasizing it to life.
In the second we explored the vital usefulness of outlining, and how this Step will make the job of writing that much easier and quicker. In this post we will examine the actual writing of your brilliant idea, illuminating the methods to the madness of this solitary activity, ways to create compelling opening lines, and how you can make it all a successful breeze.
WRITING YOUR BRAINS OUT IS FUN
It can be intimidating, staring at that blank sheet of paper, or that empty white screen with its evil blinking cursor.
But you have everything you need to begin. You’ve conceived your idea. You’ve fantasized about it, molded it, outlined it to the point where you could name the type of grass your second-tier character is standing on while exposing a shocking truth late in the seventh chapter.
And yet, a roadblock remains: how to begin?
Beginning a 100,000 word novel (hopefully your first is not much longer than this or you risk scaring away prospective literary agents) can be a daunting task, and sometimes even more intimidating than writing the rest of it.
No matter how hard I try to perfect that opening line/sentence/chapter, and no matter how pleased I am with it at first, I always end up returning to it. Through a series of edits and revisions, my opening lines rarely survive unaltered. After years of reading and writing and study, I finally stumbled on 2 valuable solutions to this dilemma. Allow me to share them with you now. They are:
- Don’t spend days or weeks agonizing over your opening words. DON’T. Once you write your ending, you’ll feel compelled to rewrite the beginning. So just write whatever feels comfortable; you’ll end up editing it anyway.
- Wherever you think it is you should begin, ask yourself: Is this really where my story begins, or do things take off after this? Does this opening jive with the rest of my narrative? If it stands alone—cool, contrived, disconnected—it needs to be rewritten.
Blasé Pascal wrote: ‘The last thing one discovers in composing a work is what to put first.’
As you will be coming back to rectify any weaknesses or inconsistencies in your opening, you might want to give yourself a break here, and just start writing already. You’ll have a better idea where to start once you’ve ended. It sounds contrary, I know, but it makes sense. You’ll see. Becca Puglisi of writershelpingwriters offers some tips on openings.
THE TOYS ARE ALIVE!
A manuscript needs room to breathe, to ‘become’, and to reach a point where it and the characters inside it take on very real personalities. When this happens, you’ll know you’ve got a winner on your hands.
When it happens, they will start making decisions. They will start dictating to you.
This phenomenon is one of the greatest thrills of writing. It is—I believe—a bit how God must feel with his creations, when we start making decisions, good or bad.
DON’T FORGET THESE 3 WRITING ELEMENTS
Three other factors to consider before beginning writing are:
- First or Third Person Point of View
- Who will be your Point of View Character(s)
As for the first factor, no one can tell you what is right. This is a consideration for you alone. A few points to consider when figuring this out would include the voice you wish to convey; for example, if you wish to emphasize your main character’s voice or if your MC has such a unique voice (replete with smarminess and sarcasm) that it would likely enhance the plot, you might be better off employing First Person perspective.
As for the second factor, you’ll need to decide who brings the most to the table, which character(s) has the distinctive voice and worthy tale to tell.
As for the third factor, you would be wise to avoid anything but ‘past tense,’ as writing a novel in present tense exponentially increases your odds of ‘tense’ issues cropping up.
HINT: Employing multiple viewpoint characters brings with it the inherent advantage of providing relief from a dull character—if there is one.
So with epic Third Person PoV stories, you would do well to employ multiple viewpoint characters, just in case one of them doesn’t come off as shiny as you think to readers. If you provide only one viewpoint character and she turns out to be a dud, readers are going to stop reading your book. But if you provide multiple golden sons and daughters, one black sheep isn’t going to hurt you too much.
George R.R. Martin understands this better than most.
Take it to the Bank goes into greater detail, covering strong viewpoint character traits, First Person Omniscient pros and cons, and clues you in on precisely how to craft and choose all your viewpoint players. If you would like to know how to make your writing a wild ride of sheer creative pleasure, check it out, available for a few more days for only .99 cents. I trust you’ll find some useful tips and inspiration within its digital pages. Godspeed, new writer!