Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Beginning The Beginning: Penny Dolan

I'm a few thousand words into my new "big idea". A simple synopsis for the novel already exists, so I know something about where I'm going. Some people advise that this is the time to go with the flow. Just get that first draft written at a cracking pace! Write, don't think! Scribble out the unconcious text.

That's not how it's working here. I am taking slow careful steps of the opening chapters, finding the dry path across the moor. I am watching for the brief moments when the story itself - not the skeletally lean synopsis - reveals itself. It's when a host of tiny ideas and questions and all that wonderful word stuff comes flashing into my mind. I need to catch each one before it disappears. This very slow writing pace lets the emotional plot as well as the factual plot grow and echo in my head. At least that what's I'm hoping.

I go over each paragraph time and again. I expand lines into paragraphs, paragraphs into scenes. I change telling into showing, build in snatches of dialogue, cut this or that, move ideas around. It is very enjoyable, almost as if I'm placing minute pieces of bright glass into a mosaic, watching the pattern take on beauty and shape. Yes, I have to keep the free and dreamy state, but I have to focus on the miniature details too.

A version of the "Three Pigs" I tell has the first sister building a house of flowers and grass, the second one of twigs and leaves, and the third a house of iron. The first two houses are the most immediately beautiful, even to tell, but I must get that iron into my writing too, or my whole story won't be strong enough to stand.

9 comments:

Yunaleska said...

My advice: do whatever feels best. For me, I have an idea, work out the main parts in my head and then just beaver away at the first draft. Other fellow writing friends work completely differently, creating detailed outlines before committing anything to paper/screen. We're all different: use what works for you.

Nick Green said...

I too think it's worth taking all the time in the world to get the beginning right. The start is an anchor point, and it needs to be firmly fixed so that the rest of the story has something to cling to, so it doesn't blow away.

I tried the 'just write' approach once. 90,000 words of unreadable gunk. Never again.

karen ball said...

What a wonderful description of the process.

Dianne Hofmeyr said...

A brilliant post Penny! It made me want to start scribbling just to get what you've got at the moment... that wonderful ethereal state of fragility when things come and go. Enjoy it!

Catherine Johnson said...

I am right at the same stage Penny, taking two steps forward and then two steps back. I must have written the beginning at least four or five times . But I so love the idea I want it to work and I want it to work right! Good luck! Cx

Anonymous said...

Hi, Penny here. Yes, Yunaleska, I agree. We all have to find what works for us. "The first rule of Write Club is that there is no rule . ." etc. I've always been attracted by the "go with the flow" approach, Nick, but realised that's not what I actually do. I'm often scribbling questions to myself or my characters, but write straight on to the computer because my typing and thinking skills work together at the same speed. I don't have to face my own handwriting either. Thanks for all your comments: I can now type away feeling Catherine (and Di and Karen) all working away in other areas of some huge virtual studio. Or the many many corners of some idyllic virtual shed.
Excuse the anonymous - I've lost the knack of getting into the comments under my own name.

Dianne Hofmeyr said...

Penny isn't there a button at the top that allows you to choose your own identity (you have to be signed in)???

Gillian Philip said...

I love this description! Yes, the beginning is so fragile. I'm just starting a new one at the moment but it's all reading, getting ideas... and it's like snatching at moths. Sometimes they get away. I'm a write-by-the-seat-of-your-pants type but I agree the beginning is different - that has to be right so you have something to fly from.

(And I know that's a misplaced preposition.)

Linda Strachan said...

Lovely! It makes me want to start something new.. just for that great feeling of catching those butterflies of thought.
But for now I am at the polishing, cutting, expanding stage; fighting and cajoling the story into that little gem I know is in there, somewhere...
So, no giving into the temptation- back to the shed with the errant tale, until it shows off its true potential.