3 reflections have been on my mind this past week:
- It’s January. January always reminds me of new starts. There was an interview I read once about one of my favorite authors, Isabel Allende. She starts a new book every January. It’s a great way to start off the new year, she said, and I couldn’t agree more.
- Last week my book club discussed one of my books, and since they’re not writers, they were especially interested to know my process. They asked me how on earth I had started to write that book, once I had a general idea of its concept.
- Also last week I reviewed the Lester Dent plot formula for a short story I was writing. Pulp writers were (and still are!) masters at story. One of the points I especially love is: “start with a different murder method for the villain to use.” 🙂
Why reflect about this stuff now? Because this week I am jumping into a new project, a new mystery novel. It’s not easy to suddenly change gears from the old book I spent so much time drafting to the huge unknown of the new book. Can I get to know my new set of characters as well as I knew the comfortable, old set? Can I even write another book again?
Heck, yes! I have to believe I can. If I follow my process, then I will.
Personally, I like to begin a new project with 2 main steps:
- Research/Study, which includes lots of reading, yay! One of my favorite tips, which has come from several different sources, is to start with the crime. Once I know what the crime is, then what mistakes does the villain make? Uncovering those mistakes will enable my sleuth to solve the mystery.
- Think Time boils everything down into my notebook. I’m a visual learner, so I clip articles and photos that resonate with my general idea, setting, and characters. I like to collect these and my notes into a 3-ring binder. I add a picture and tentative title to the cover of the binder, something that illustrates some aspect of my concept.
As my notebook grows, the novel starts coming to life. I call it magic. Bits and pieces fall together, and I can start developing characters and sketch in the plot. This work suggests an opening, although probably not the opening I will end up keeping. It’s just one way to start.
If I don’t set a time limit on my prep work, though, it will take over my life. What’s most important is to get started. You can’t finish if you keep putting off starting. My prep work puts me in the right mental place. Once I jump into the project, the magic keeps building.
I’d love to learn more ideas. How do you start a new project?