How do you get started?
When people ask me how to explain the writing process or why I write fiction, I am always stumped for an answer. Stories just seem to come to me. No, they don’t jump out of my head in one big piece, but once I start developing them, they start to take form. And it all starts with small steps that keep me moving, from the feathery touch of an idea, to a shadow of a character to a setting that slowly comes into focus. And through it all, the plot is building, like a city waking in the morning. Small steps, with first one car moving on the street, to someone coming outside to get a newspaper (okay, maybe in the old days) to kids coming out of the house to head for the bus stop. The story starts with that first step out the door, with a rhythm that continues to grow until the streets outside are crowded with cars and the shouts of those kids getting on the bus. And from there the story builds, but it wouldn’t start at all without taking those first small steps.
As writers, how often have you said, I wish I could get started on my next book? Or how many times have you heard other people say, “I wish I could write a book, but I have no idea where to start.”
The answer is simple, though the process may be difficult.
It all starts with that first step out the door – whether it is just an idea for a plot or a character who talks to us in our sleep or a setting that begs for attention. But we need to open up that door and take that first small step.
Recently my little niece came to visit for the first time. She’s 18 months old and just learning to walk and she ended up staying alone with me and my sister for a short time. She had never been in the house before, but she was curious. She took a few steps, then a few more, then wandered into the next room and the next and discovered she could go in a circle from room to room and even as unsteady as she was, she was ready to run almost as soon as she figured out the route. She ran from room to room, saying hello as she passed each of us on every round. Sometimes we’d jump out at her, acting as though we were going to stop her, and she giggled and ran around us and kept going. I kept thinking she might fall, but she was steady and certain of where she was going and she kept getting more confident until she was finally too tired to continue, and she was ready to end the dash.
Wouldn’t it be lovely to be able to do that as a writer?
Wouldn’t it be nice to just have a regular route and run through it over and over until you’re exhausted and the story is over? Well, unfortunately, we can’t do that. But we can do some of those things as we map out a route through our stories. We can start with those small steps in the beginning by learning and trying to perfect our craft and then mapping out our story’s plot. We can watch for the pitfalls that we know are waiting up ahead, whether it’s writers’ block or a reluctant character. That way, next time we encounter one of them we’ll know the way around them, or through them and we won’t stumble. We can study our characters and make certain they come alive and speak to us as we move through the chapters. And we can be ready to re-reroute or make changes when those characters suddenly throw a roadblock in our way.
As writers, we need to be taking those small steps all the time.
Recently my sister was telling me about reading a Stephen King book and how much she was enjoying the dialogue between two of his characters. They were teenage girls and she was amazed at how real he could make them sound. I told her he does what so many good writers do – he listens. I’ve heard many bestselling authors say that they constantly eavesdrop on conversations. It isn’t that they are so interested in hearing what the people are saying, but how they say it – body language, speech patterns, etc. That’s a small thing that can be done at any time – in restaurants, airports, coffee shops, bookstores. Listening to conversations can help writing dialogue.
Another small step we can take when we aren’t writing is to pay attention to our surroundings. At a recent book signing I heard Anne Hillerman talk about how she has been able to pick up on writing books set in the same location as her father, famed mystery writer Tony Hillerman. She told us when she visits the areas where the books are set, in northern New Mexico, she not only makes notes on the area, but she absorbs the feel of the location, everything from scents to sounds and she uses all those senses as she brings the setting to life.
Watch the little things
And finally, another small step we can take is to not get so wound up in the big picture, we lose sight of the little things. A veteran news writer once told me we can’t get so caught up in the big details that we forget the small things. Those small things are often what readers remember. And it is those small things that can help us get started on a new story or provide ideas for the book we’re working on or direct us as we edit. Small steps, like that first step out the door in the morning, can lead to getting more pages written, and more, until we actually get the story finished. We can be off and running, just like my little niece racing through the house. We won’t worry about falling – we’re on our way! But it all starts with that small step…
Join me and learn how
Coming up soon, I’ll begin teaching a class for Savvy on those small steps that go into getting a new book started. Whether you’re a beginner looking to finally make the first attempt, or a writer with an idea that you aren’t quite sure about, hope you’ll join me for the Beginning Writer’s series. We’ll plot, develop characters, come up with a setting and start writing! In other words, we’ll take those small steps out the door and move forward to whatever destination you want to go.
[box type=bio] BIO:
Becky Martinez is a former broadcast journalist who writes romance and romantic suspense for The Wild Rose Press as Rebecca Grace.
She also regularly teaches classes for Savvy authors and presents in-person workshops at writing conferences. With fellow author, Sue Viders, she has co-written a series of books for beginning and intermediate authors titled Let’s Write a Story. 7 Ways to Plot, Creating Memorable Characters and The Plotting Wheel are all available at Amazon. Their next book on Creating Great Villains will be available this summer.
[box] Latest Release:
Investigative producer Connie Romero is determined to find out who murdered her sister during an afternoon jog. But putting her investigative skills to work might also be putting her life–and heart–in danger. First, she discovers that her sister’s life was not as idyllic as she thought, and she’s getting an uneasy feeling that she’s getting too close to the truth.
And then there’s that crazy feeling she gets every time she deals with a certain Inspector!
Canadian Inspector Mitch Weldon respects Connie’s motives and determination, but he has his own case to solve–a serial killer leaving bodies dumped in the park where Connie’s sister was found. Could the cases be related? He needs to find out and find out fast.
He doesn’t need an amateur getting in the way of his job, nor does he want a woman getting into his carefully planned life.