Linda Hall here - Right now I’m at that unenviable - but sometimes exciting - position of being at the beginning a brand new book. I’ve been staring at the blank computer screen for a bunch of days. How to begin? Her point of view? His point of view? I want to begin with a ‘bang’, but of all the bangs in the story, which one would be the best? These questions haunt me.
I didn't know how to begin until I realized what the trouble was - I didn’t know my main character. I just didn’t know her at all. What makes her tick? What makes her happy? What makes her sad? What is she looking for? What is her back story?
If you've been to any writing workshop worth its salt, you know that these are basic questions that every author has to answer. And there are many 'formulas' and 'plans' out there to answer them. There are whole spreadsheets you can download and use. If you don't believe me, Google it. But, I wanted something fresh, something new.
So, I decided to journal. No, I wasn’t going to write down about my angst and frustrations about beginning this book. This journal wasn't about me. This was about my characters.
I opened a brand new journal book, got out my favorite gel pen and just in case anyone should come across this spiral bound book some time in the future and wonder at my strange missives, I wrote, “NOTES ON A NOVEL’, across the top.
And then I began writing. From my main character’s point of view, of course. I wasn’t writing plot, I wasn’t writing story, I wasn’t even thinking about story. I wasn't thinking about my main character in an abstract sort of way, I was just getting into my character’s head in a subjective way. .
I pretended I was my main character and just started writing. I had no goals in mind. I had no ulterior motives (such as a good story or plot), I just needed to get her thoughts down on paper. It was sort of like those writing exercises where you begin writing - about anything - and don't let your pen come off the paper for ten minutes. After ten minutes I was surprised. Not only did I know her, but many, many plot ideas had presented themselves!