Getting Started

I don’t know about anyone else, but starting a new project always throws me into a tailspin.  Not because I lack ideas.  Not because I’m not excited.  Not because the story isn’t jumping up and down on my head screaming, “Write me, Woman!”  Any of those I could handle.

What, then, is the problem?

The problem, dear reader, is there is so much to say, so much to write, so much roiling around in my mind, it’s a hot mess!

And I  don’t know where to start.

In a perfect world (translation: in a world where I made the rules to suit myself), I’d write a dark prologue.  The scene would be set in a cavern lit by smoking flambeaux, bright only in a limited sphere, leaving blurry edges in which any number of critters, whether real or imagined, could hide.  Sound would be magnified; the slightest whisper would become a shout within the high, stone walls.  And my heroine would not yet exist except in the mind of the man orchestrating the scene, planting seeds that wouldn’t sprout for nigh a millenia.

In case you didn’t get the memo, it isn’t a perfect world.  

The previous two books in the series, while originally written with prologues, have since swallowed them at the insistence of my CP and a best-selling author who happened to judge the second book in a contest.  Digesting those graphic but somewhat gruesome scenes came hard, and I cursed in five languages (yes, I can!) as the body of the story refused to accommodate the necessary information they provided.  It kept rejecting them, vomiting them out.  Naught I did would induce acceptance when the scenes were served whole.  Their violence glared from the page, angry red hives erupting on otherwise smooth flesh.

It’s like the danged thing developed a severe allergic reaction.  Leave it to me to have a manuscript—or two—with anaphylaxis.

In the end, small, brutally edited bites served over the course of several chapters did it, but my inner-purist had a hissy fit the size of a small continent throughout the process.

Since I’m not into masochism, I promised myself I wouldn’t make the same mistake yet again.  I would write the story sans prologue, putting things where they belonged in the first draft.

That’s a promise I will, in the interest of getting the draft done during my limited lifetime, probably break.

Writing this series has taught me several rather annoying things about my process, not the least of which is that, while I plan to write in a spare, linear fashion, it never works out that way.  Elements in book three have required minor tweaks in both the previous books.  That translates into writing complete series prior to submission of any part of a series.


Even so, that little snippet of book three on my About Gwyn page has taken on a life of its own, opening doors I never anticipated.  It’s exciting.  It’s exhilerating. 

It’s driving me quite crazy. 

The research into Celtic mythology has been both frustrating and enlightening.  Every myth has numerous versions, and every god or goddess several names or incarnations.  Unlike the more studied mythologies that have gained some degree of standardization over the years, the Celtic myths remain much as they have always been.  This can be either blessing or curse; I get to choose the version that best suits my story, but there will be some reader somewhere who is acquainted with only one version—and you can bet it won’t be the one I need.

The heroine’s physical blindness being mitigated by her perception of visual energy has demanded deep consideration of things usually taken for granted.   What would a squirrel’s quivering energy look like?  What colors would a tree’s energy be when the sun is high?  How about at night?  What color is a lie? 

And the prophecy, the heretofore unknown thread spun in the age of Arthur, weaving itself through time to destroy a unifying threat, has thickened, gaining filaments until it has become a cord strong enough to pull all the stories together—and finish what was begun.

Yep.  This story could prove a one-way ticket to the white-coat fashion expo.

I’m foundering here, folks.  Please share how you begin a story.  Keep in mind, I’m a pantser.  I’ve tried plotting and storyboards and every other trick I’ve read about or heard mentioned to no avail.  My process is inefficient, annoying, and the only thing that works for a mind as convoluted as it seems mine is.  Still, I’m desperate.  This story is stealing my sleep, my peace, and my sanity.  If you haven’t a rope or a floatation device, I’ll settle for a pumpkin or a few empty milk jugs—anything to keep my head above water until this particular hot mess begins to take shape, cool, and gel.

When it does, when all the pieces finally come together, this is going to be one kick-ass story.  And that’s a promise I intend to keep.





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8 responses to “Getting Started

  1. Beth Langston

    i always start writing a story with dialogue, usually in the ballpark of the inciting incident. i imagine what is going to kick my heroine out of her comfortable world–and who is going to be the catalyst. and i have them talk. i key in the conversation, stream of consciousness–no quotes or punctuation. just let it flow.

    on the pantser/plotter spectrum, i tend to run closer to the plotter end. but not generally for the first 10k words. they are almost always pure dialogue. the revisions are exhausting 🙂

    • Thanks, Beth. I must say, while I start chapters with dialogue, and I can write dialogue with ease, my books tend to start in a narrative POV. Of course, rewriting changed that in the second book, but not the first.

      It’s also good to know I don’t live in revision hell alone. Thanks, Ruby Sis!

  2. Gwynlyn, why is it that we can write several novels, but when it comes to writing a new one, we’re as frozen as a lake in 30 below weather. Interesting about your CPs and prologues. My editor had me put one in. If a prologue belongs in your story, it belongs. I received such great advice in my writing career from three published authors at their book signing. Don’t get hung up on the opening. Chances are when you reach the end of the book, it’s going to be completely different anyway. Our words are tools, they’re not gold. I say that to myself daily as I get my chapters down. Why is it it feels like we’re cutting off a body part to delete them .

    You’ve done it so many times before, with such beautiful eloquence. Believe. Take a deep breath, block out the outside world, including CPs, and let your muse guide you. Most of all, have fun! That’s why we write, isn’t it?

    • why is it that we can write several novels, but when it comes to writing a new one, we’re as frozen as a lake in 30 below weather

      Amen, Donnell.

      As for my prologues, they are (or should I say were?) both graphic and a tad gruesome. Surgical strikes were unheard of in medieval warfare; men faced each other, one on one, in a brutal struggle to survive. More than one contest judge commented on the “revolting” opening in a book written for a feminine audience. But I still think it was great. *sigh* Maybe I’ll luck out and some lovely editor will decide it needs to be reinstated. Of course, that will mean going in and extracting all those force-fed bites.

      Taking a deep breath as advised. Thanks for the pep-talk, doll. Now back to the trenches.

  3. You know how I start. I call my CP and get her opinion. 🙂

    Seriously, the only way I can start a new book at the right spot in the story is to use the the hero’s journey method. I figure out at what the inciting moment will be (the point at which the protagonist’s life goes to hell) and then I back up in time just far enough to give the reader a taste of what the character’s ordinary world is like before I lower the boom on him or her..

    • I wish that would work for me, but you know the heart of this series begins to beat nearly a thousand years before the stories actually take place, and that must be a consideration. And, for this third book, that element is so defining, it must come up front. Bringing it forward without relying on backstory has proven . . .er . . .um . . .interesting.

      Not to worry, doll. I’ll be calling soon!

  4. Oh Gwyn – I feel for you. I am also a pantser by nature, tending to plot while driving. Lately – I start books by creating a Background document. This is a Word file where I keep my character descriptions, their names, birthdates, etc. It’s helpful because I can document the backstory – but it doesn’t have to end up in the actual manuscript. I also identify their motivation. I also started charting out the GMC ala Deb Dixon in an Excel file. (Once an accountant – always an accountant)
    Since I also write series and connected stories – having this document in a Word file is invaluable for finding out what color eyes did I really give that character. Or even the room names of my B&B, and the times tha they serve meals.
    Crafting this background document helps me start the book closer to the right place. :_)

  5. Not to worry, Nan. I broke down and wrote the prologue. Eleven pages that are now in my Cut Bits file for future force-feeding.

    I don’t use spreadsheets, but I do keep file cards with all the characters’ particulars on the front and their GMC chart on the back. The file box has dividers with the names of the books on them, and I move the cards where they are needed. I also have a folder with pockets and looseleaf paper for each book. The notes look like a two-year-olds finger painting since I jot as I go, but it all makes sense to me.

    I wrote a blog about it for the Rubies. If you’re interested, here’s the link:

    Thanks for stopping and sharing. Nice to know I’m not slapping at the water alone!

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