karen_w_newton (karen_w_newton) wrote,

In the beginning. . .

I wrote a couple books in my head before I ever put one on paper. And I do mean on paper. The very first time I wrote a "novel" (I am using the term loosely; that's one that will never see the light of day) it was on a typewriter. The second one was on a PC with dual floppy drives (I am seriously giving away my age here). It wasn't until the third book that we had a PC with a hard drive.

But what all my early efforts had in common is they all began at the exact place where my subconscious had started the story. I generally don't outline on paper, although I might make random notes to myself when I get a story idea. But I do plan out the book in my head, often trying out different paths and twists for the story to take. Rarely, at this stage, do I change the beginning because that's what comes to me first— a scene in my head where something is happening to someone.

It was only after I joined a writer's group and took a writing class that I learned to let go of that need to keep the story starting at that point. Yes, the subconscious is a good idea generator, but it should not drive the bus. A writer needs to be in control of the story, even if the characters assert themselves sometimes. I have had characters change on me during the course of writing a book, in ways I had not anticipated. To me that just means they're fleshed out enough in my mind to act like real people. But characters changing is different from control of the narrative itself. I understand now that I need to step back from what my subconscious has served up and assess it. Does the story, in fact, start in a good place? Sometimes even when I don't change the plot, I change where the reader starts seeing the plot. Usually I move it back a page or twenty, but every now and then I realize I need to start sooner.

Now if I could just go back in time and teach myself this when I was sitting in front of that typewriter!

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Tags: writing

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