Hi, folks! Welcome to a brand new year! This year I'm starting out with a series on novel craft. This week I hope I offer you some good advice about how to start your book. That's right, your book is like no other. Your start is like no other. A good novelist has come to trust her mojo. Books start in a myriad of ways: some with dialogue, some with backstory, some jump into the action, some blather on inside the main character's head, some start with the character waking up, some begin with the sunrise. Regardless, a good beginning will spill some of that writer magic on the page--the I've-got-this-attitude.
Where does this attitude come from? There is no magic formula but here are three practices that will infuse your beginnings with your mojo. First, write and write and write. Next learn how to take charge and be your own boss. Finally give yourself pep talks. I will chat about these three hallmarks of a great beginning. (A hallmark is an invisible stamp that shouts this is one authentic book.)
First, you must write, not think about, not talk about, not plan about writing, but actually write. This involves at least a million words before you reach minimally competent. So whatever it takes, begin to write. Type page after page. Fill journal after journal. Write failed story after failed story. You have found the road to a good beginning! Kudos!
Next you must own your writing. If you are a writer, you should be receiving regular critiques of your work. That is awesome. Now you must learn to learn what to listen to and what to toss. This will take hundreds of critiques and hundreds of misses. Take the big risks. Go to that craft workshop you've been thinking about. Read the competition and then compete. Own failure and define it as a stepping stone to success. The thing you must realize -- you are the Boss. Expose yourself on the page, take the risk. You may fail. You may go broke. Regardless, exercise your exclusive rights, own your writing. Ownership will infuse your beginnings with you. Good stuff.
Finally, learn how to pep talk yourself. Here's the deal, the awesomeness must come from within. This is where your voice is. The self talk needs to work like this: I can do something awesome. Why not? I will write something that will shake the foundations. This beginning will blow my own mind, and it will totally transform everyone's universe. I will make this better, faster, stronger. I'm going to totally six-million dollar man this! (Note: if you are not doing 1 and 2, and doing 3, you are not looking like a genius...)
Take a few minutes every day and give yourself the pep talk. Do not neglect this step. Don't try to get this juice from others. If you are like me, call on the grace of I AM. No, no, you don't deserve unmerited favor, but ask for it (somebody out there really loves you), and then give the glory to the Architect of all things.
I just dropped a teacup of useful stuff in your brain: Work hard, be the BOSS, and finally pep talk yourself. All this will build beginning inertia for you. Inertia is all about getting you in a tendency of writing AWESOME beginnings. If you tend to write awesome beginnings, you will continue to write awesome beginnings. This is something you can trust.
I hope you come back next week for more Novel Craft. If your resolution is to finally write your novel, follow the steps. (P.S. this advice works for every creative endeavor.) Good luck!
Here is a doodle.
Finally, here is a quote for your pocket.
Writing is wretched, discouraging, physically unhealthy, infinitely frustrating work. And when it all comes together it’s utterly glorious. ― Ralph Peters