I’ve Started. Now What?

Yesterday I wrote about getting started on your next book, how intimidating it can be and how important it is to just start, regardless of quality. And then I followed my own advice, and started my new book.

Now I have the prologue, but don’t know where to go from there.

Well, two things have to happen here. Let me start with a disclaimer though: what works for me might not work for you. I tell students that they have to find their own formula for success. But the bottom line is simply this: words on paper. Until you have completed what you started out to write, you have no business calling yourself a writer. It doesn’t have to be good, it doesn’t have to be pretty, but it has to be…something. You need to have some tangible results.

So how do you get tangible results? Recommendation #1: Outline. Now I know a lot of you who are in school or remember school are probably wrinkling up your noses, thinking of Mrs. Schwarzkopf (or whatever your fifth grade teacher’s name was) teaching you how to outline essays. The principle is the same. You just don’t have to be as formal as she was. What I usually do is write out a treatment, short at first, then a couple of pages, then finally breaking it down chapter by chapter. I also budget for myself three to five scenes in each chapter, but that’s a personal thing. Then I write the book, scene by scene. Hey, it works for me. It helps me keep track of books with multiple plotlines, which can be a headache without a roadmap.

Recommendation #2: I usually don’t start on a project until I can see it in my head. That makes it easier to characterize, write description and write dialogue. My old friend and mentor Arthur Milward used to claim that every short story he wrote he saw word for word in his head before he wrote a single sentence. I don’t go that far, but I definitely need to visualize what happens. When it’s clear in my mind, I have a better chance of recreating it clear in the reader’s mind.

So that’s where I am now. I know it seems I am putting the cart before the horse, but sometimes I have to write a scene to help me visualize the bigger picture. Right now, I plan on taking time to plot the rest of the story out.

I will keep you posted on my progress.