As I read this guest post by Kimberly Sabatini, author of TOUCHING THE SURFACE, I was nodding my head in agreement. Starting a new story is not only difficult for me but, like Kim, I have to have a touchstone to keep in mind as I go. I hope you enjoy her essay - and let us know where you like to start.
"Starting is the Pits"
It took me until I was about a quarter of the way through the first draft of my second book (THE OPPOSITE OF GRAVITY) before I realized that starting a new story is the pits. The reason for this is that starting something new can be hard. There are essentially two extreme approaches to story writing with varying degrees of middle ground to chose from. In its most extreme, you can start by blazing a trail with your hair and pants on fire or you can begin slowly, with a tiny nugget of something that you’re hoping to build on. I like to call this nugget of potential—the pit.
Blazing a trail sounds like an exciting and delightfully quick way to write a story, but sadly, it’s not my way. My pit starts like a tiny grain of sand that irritates the oyster--the aggravation usually being in the form of a question. My stories start with some grain of truth that I need to explore in order to become a happier person. Once I have the pit, I roll it around in my head, over and over again, until it bumps into another idea that it’s compatible with. I keep rolling and bumping—each collected thought attracting even more interesting thoughts along the way. It’s sort of like a snowball picking up speed and mass as it travels down hill. I bump my pit against the people, places and things in my own life until there is enough cohesion for my story to begin to tell itself. This is what I think of as the tipping point in the story and for me it doesn’t usually come until about a quarter of the way through the first draft. And I won’t lie—waiting for the tipping point is stressful. I can’t help but wonder if, instead of a great book, I’ll end up with a worn out pit with lots of random stuff attached to it. The thought of it gives me the shivers. The one thing that I try to remember, as I muck my way through this crazy process, is that I can only write books that mean something to me. I can’t control how other people will react to them and I know that trying will make me crazy. All I can do is take my own journey and be happy with the result—grateful to have my own questions answered. Hopefully, at the end (crosses fingers) I also have a book to share.
So, I bet you’re wondering about the pit for my debut novel TOUCHING THE SURFACE. About two years before I began writing it, my father passed away. Because my dad was a great guy, but suffered from depression, I needed to know what happens to a person who is good at heart but dies before they figure out everything they need to know about themselves. I built the Obmil for my dad and I find it oddly reassuring to know he has a place to go until he doesn’t need it any more.
You can find out more about Kim and her books at www.kimberlysabatini.com