Sunday, 18 February 2018

What does the start of a book look like?


The start of a book is unimpressive.
And hard slog.

Right now, I'm planning the  third book in my series, The Girl the Dog and the Writer. 
I've been reading, scribbling, drawing , making lists, writing down  random ideas as they spring into my mind, gathering old notes,  visiting the library, looking at photos, drooling over recipes and travel blogs...
I've visited my chosen location via Google images, Dorling Kindersly and Google Maps street views.
I've nibbled on chocolates and cheeses and salamis and pickles and pastries - all setting related, of course!
I've made lists of names and places and activities.
The names, I find, are particularly useful. A great character name can unleash a flood of ideas. 

Anything that's vaguely related to my vague theme has been added to the pile.
Notice the double vague reference?
It's all rather vague at this early stage.
Nothing is too big or too small. 
Everything is useful ... or, at least, might be useful. 
Thoughts and notes can be tossed aside so there's no harm in being a bower bird until I know where the story is headed.

I've spent many hours staring out the window, musing over these newly found tidbits of information.
I've spent many hours wandering about the hills, sitting on boulders, chewing on grass, staring at clouds, muttering.
Muttering, muttering, muttering.
There is so much muttering.
And, occasionally, I've chuckled.
A favourite wandering, gazing and muttering site.

There's a lot of coffee that's been brewed and poured and forgotten.
A fair bit has been guzzled, too!
I've dashed, many times, night and day, back to my desk to scribble a fabulous new idea.
I've had several ridiculous dinner time discussions with my husband and son.

Oh dear!
This is sounding daft and messy and not at all the sort of thing that might lead to a proper book with a pretty cover that will sit on a shelf in a real live book shop.
And I must admit that, often, I worry that it won't!

But, now, after weeks of trawling and scrawling and muttering and musing, I feel like a story is beginning to take shape.

I think I know what The Big Thing at the centre of the book will be.
My main characters seem ready to be drawn into The Big Thing . 
Furthermore, they're whispering about the little things that might happen along the way.
They've even chosen their accommodation. It's pretty, with an interesting land lady.
I'm the travel agent who has to organise it all - how they'll get there, how long they'll stay, whether or not they take any overnight trips to other exciting places.

There are fresh characters popping up their hands, crying, 'Ooh! Ooh! Pick me! Pick me!'
Some are kind and quirky. 
Some are gruff but lovable. 
One's a scumbag, the kind of bloke who'd sell his own grandmother if the price was right. I do love finding a dastardly villain.

Other characters, who looked like starters, are slinking away, saying, 'Nah. Not interested. I'll sit this book out. Save me for another tale.'

I have decorated imaginary shops and cafes. I've mapped out imaginary walking routes. There's even a  catastrophic weather incident brewing.

It's all happening on my desk and in my mind.

So this week, I'm going to gather my notes and thoughts and lists and internal dialogues and whacky ideas and coffee-stained pictures together and try to shape them into something useful. 
I'll develop a plot that can, hopefully, deliver tears and laughter and nail-biting drama. 
I'll write a few random character descriptions and an arrival or two at key locations - just to make sure I like the people and places I'll be living with for the the next six to eight months. 
I'll organise a notice board with notes so that I can keep track of it all... until my characters misbehave and take me writing off in a different direction.

And then, I will write The Book.

I'll write the first sentence. 
And then the next. 
And then I'll rewrite them both - several times.

Bit by bit, word by word, sentence by sentence, I'll get the first chapter out. 

I'll grind into the second and third chapters. 
I'll rewrite them over and over again. 
And then three or four times more for good measure.

I'll probably shed a tear or two during these early chapters. Not because my story is moving, but because I'm feeling inadequate. 
At some point, I'll press my hand to my brow and wail that my writing life is finished.
I'll consider applying for a job at KFC, frying chips.
The tears and melodrama always kick in at this stage.

But days will turn into weeks, and then months, and the words will outnumber the tears and, at some stage, the writing - which can seem so very tricky at first - will actually begin to flow. 
I'll slip further and further from reality and live more deeply in the world I have created. 
My characters' lives will become mine and the magic of a new book will draw me in once again.

Blood, sweat and tears will have turned to joy.
Pure creative joy.

At least, that's the plan.
If you see me frying chips at your local KFC you'll know it hasn't worked.

All of these books started life this way.
Scary but true!

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