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I am a writer on a journey to get published the old-fashioned way–with the help of an agent. Of course, that means I have to get an agent! My blog, Work in Progress, documents my journey through that process as well as my journey through life (with teenagers, dogs, cats, horses, and an abundance of swamp critters.) Check out my About page to find out more about me or my Books page to find out more about the projects I’m working on. 

 

Work in Progress

The Start of a Story

Posted Oct 18 2017 in , , , ,

As a writer, I naturally think a lot about stories. Specifically, how a story starts. When I go to book signing or reading, I love hearing about how a writer’s story began, how they plucked an idea from the sky and transformed it into 400 pages.

Beginnings keep coming to mind as I’m working to finish my second novel. Even though I’ve passed the halfway mark and momentum is building toward the end, I keep thinking of a little blurb I wrote last winter at a writer’s retreat. A beginning. I keep thinking how I want to make that beginning a short story. And I keep telling myself to scoot that to the back burner. I have a pot boiling right in front of me. Writer’s ADD. 

So I thought maybe if I tuck that blurb in here on my blog, I’ll leave it be. Maybe that will be enough to satisfy my need to see it in print for awhile. 

One afternoon, last January, the attendees of the Texas Writing Retreat sat around the lodge living room, listening to a workshop by author, Joe Clifford. Joe gave us an assignment on setting. If you’ve read his books, you understand his authority on this subject. I swear I want to wrap myself in a parka every time I open a Jay Porter book. His harsh, cold northern New Hampshire settings will make you shiver. Anyway, Joe’s assignment was to quickly write a setting about the ranch. Just a few minutes, write it fast.

Here’s what I wrote:

Morning air heavy with impending rain settled around the open the porch. Horses snuffed, lizards scuttled, Spanish moss waved from craggy limbs in anticipation of the storm. Sprigs of green grass fought their way through the gray, leafless landscape, hoping for a chance to replenish. The muddy water in the pond rippled. The tall pines swayed, whispering along with the first pitter-patter of rain on the tin roof.

When I read it out loud (with a shaky voice), Joe nodded and said, “Then what?” He explained how I’d built it up but hadn’t finished it. “What happens next?” 

Later that night I added to it, and I thought, now we’re getting somewhere. Now a story’s starting. 

Morning air heavy with impending rain settled around the open the porch of the lodge. Horses snuffed, lizards scuttled, Spanish moss waved from craggy limbs in anticipation of the storm. Sprigs of green grass fought their way through the gray, leafless landscape, hoping for a chance to replenish. The muddy water in the pond rippled. The tall pines whispered. And the first pitter-patter of rain on the tin roof mixed with the screams coming from the back bedroom.

I’ll tweak this beginning several times before it’s done. For one thing, I’ll attach it to someone’s point of view. As it is now, it’s more like an image shot from a drone camera up high, looking down. I want it seen through someone’s eyes. I just don’t know who’s yet. And who’s screaming? And why? You see how this snowballs.

Hopefully, now that I’ve told you, I can leave it. Let it simmer. Get back to the end of my novel. And then get back to a new beginning.

And the writing journey continues…

 

 

 

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