Thursday, September 21, 2006

It's a Love / Hate Thing

Writing is definitely a strange, wonderful, frightening and ridiculous love / hate relationship. Only my fellow writers truly understand what I'm talking about, and I only understand it myself sporadically. That is to say, I only sit down and think about it when I'm feeling strangely moody.

Or moodily strange.

Here's my point. I have a new story in development. I have the title, the major plot and players, and I've been reading up on some facts I'll need to know in order to write a believable and hopefully marketable novel.

I stumbled for a few days searching for just the right names for my characters, but I'm pretty happy with the ones I came up with. It took me two days to find just the right title, even though agents tend to change those. And I've finally figured out the exact location this story will take place in and around.

The only thing holding me back is that opening sentence.

That starter paragraph.

Those first few words.

I have a full 5 days of leave next week, since I've got so much amassed that needs to be used before the end of the year, so my plan is to begin working on this new novel first thing next week.

And therein lies the Writer's Dilemma; Starting.

Oh sure, we get ideas up the wazzu, and get really excited about new characters, new situations, world building and plot constructing. We go positively Ga-Ga at the prospect of creating an entirely new mystery/thriller/Science Fiction epic to weave a complicated-yet-entertaining story that will -- hopefully -- leave our readers enthralled from page 1 to The End.

We love that part. We really do.

In fact, the most favorite part about writing is Getting Ready. We plan, we plot, we sometimes even diagram. We jot down notes, we daydream subplots, and the mere idea of sitting down at the keyboard for several hours of uninterrupted time makes us grin from ear to ear like silly little school girls.

But, invariably, there's a tiny, very quiet yet extremely eloquent voice hidden way down inside, where only we can hear. That voice whispers things like: "Hang on, you still have to do some fact checking." "Wait a second, are you sure you like that character name?" "You'd better put this off another day until you can work out the details of the killer's motive." "Just give it another day, some more thought, another consideration, maybe a few more days of research."

I like to think of it as standing on the edge of a dock, in the middle of a lake, in your bathing suit. It's a lovely sunny day, the water is pure and blue and inviting -- but it's also quite cold and you know there's gonna be that shock to your system if you just jump in. The cold might be too much to bear -- what if you have a heart attack? What if you gasp and suck in water? Wouldn't it be better to stick a toe in, then maybe ease one leg down, maybe even splash some water cautiously up your body, to your arms?

Surely it's gonna be a lot easier if you just sit here and look at the water, talk to all the other people already swimming around, and admire the beauty of the water, the lake, the lovely sunny day. Maybe you don't really feel like swimming today. Maybe you'll cramp up and drown, even.

But eventually, it just gets too hot to stay on the dock, and that water is too beautiful to ignore, and you're physically craving jumping down into the cold blue and becoming one with the purity of the lake. You begin to ache for the weightlessness of floating, the beauty of its coolness.

So you jump.

It's cold, and it's shocking, and for several minutes you're sure you're going to die and never swim again. You curse the thoughts that pushed you off that warm dock, and flail your arms and legs wildly in a desperate attempt to stay alive.

Then, before you know it, you're not cold anymore. Either you've gone numb, or your body has adjusted to the temperature, but it doesn't matter because you're swimming now.

And it feels good.

It feels great, even. You're swimming and wondering what took you so long to jump off that dock.

Writing is no different. The idea comes, you flesh it out and get excited about it, but soon realize the anticipation is such a great feeling, you're terrified the actual writing of it will pale in comparison. Finally, after a huge mental struggle during which you consider writing, quitting, and just treading water like a dead leaf, you sit down and force that first sentence out.

Then you push, and you sweat, and through great effort you turn that sentence into a paragraph.

Then a page.

Then another.

Then, before you realize it, you've adjusted to the temperature, doing the breast stroke with a smile on your face, and wondering why you waited so long to jump off that dock.


At 4:57 PM, Blogger Cath Smith said...

I think we all understand that feeling. But opening lines, I don't have a problem with - I can come up with a million opening lines, but only a small fraction turn into stories.

Hope the new WIP is going well!

At 8:38 AM, Blogger Kristine said...

Man, I envy you, Cath ! I can write long, involved stories till the cows come home - but that dang opening line is like pulling teeth out of my own head - with rubber pliers!

Of course, I can't do Flash either, and you're a dynamo at it!

At 12:49 PM, Blogger Cath Smith said...

Yeah, it's just the long stories I struggle with. :(

If you ever want an opening line, let me know. I'll want a credit in the published book, tho! :)

At 9:56 AM, Blogger Bk30 said...

there in lies my struggle. Plot, no problem, key scenes, no problem,
getting from key scene to key scene...problem LOL

Not to mention when the voice goes from saying you should wait to saying this sucks..who do you think you can't write..

I hate that voice.


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