I haven't posted here in a while, because, you know... writing. This is about how my experience at last year's WUUCON and the members of the Writer Unboxed community are still helping me find my way through the writing jungle.
You know you do it. Pick up a new book and take it to the bathroom with you, the intention being you'd give the book as long as whatever takes and the author would be lucky if you brought a bookmark. I have two piles on the desk outside the bathroom door and one of them is a lot tall than the other.
Now, I know that sounds disrespectful, but I've been multitasking since I was first inducted into Ma Bell's army in 1971. According to the Bell telephone company, if you weren't doing at least three things at once, they were paying you too much and sayonara! This morning the book was “Author in Progress”, edited by Therese Walsh, articles contributed by the Writer Unboxed community.
WUUCON was five months ago and I'm just now picking this book up. True, after Salem, I swore off all craft books to just get my first draft finished. Fairer still, I loaned my copy to someone before I got a chance to read it and didn’t think I'd see it again, but it's been on the TBR pile a couple of weeks.
This morning, I needed some inspiration. I'm on my first full day of staycation and deep in the heart of revision hell with the first draft of "Prophet's Tango" (There! I think I may have committed to using that apostrophe.)
I opened the book to a random page. 65 – Story First, Plot Second, by Lisa Cron. Ding! She had my full attention, still, I hot skipped to the bold headline at the bottom of the page - FIND THE START OF YOUR STORY and read,
“All novels start in medias res, a nifty Latin term that means “in the middle of the thing.”
I had long thought this meant, “in the middle of something, anything happening” and it looks like I'm not alone. The next line clears those muddy waters.
“Thus the first page of your novel opens with the second half of your story; the first half creates an unavoidable problem that your plot will catapult your protagonist into.”
I felt the beginning's of a slacker's high because I have just finished changing my opening scene, because, in a recent writer unboxed post, no less a star than Donald Maass very generously read my old opening lines and thought I was writing a thriller. And that problem was squarely on me.
To be fair, I'm not even sure what genre it is yet, but a thriller, no. Paranormal Romance leads the hit parade, but with nary a vampire or shape-shifter in sight, I'm afraid that crowd would be bitterly disappointed. Except for the sex. Maybe. The genre is the least of my concerns right now.
DM's reply to my post confirmed a worry that's been nagging at me. From page one, people would not know what they were getting into. Now they will - Ghosts in a bar with two drunken strangers who are destined to fall in love. It's a start that makes sense in light of everything that follows. My new opening scene was mostly written a long time ago but recently polished with the help of a couple of fellow suffering scribblers. We get together to hash over our WIPs and scare the owner of the place, who offers free coffee and snacks.
And now Lisa Cron has confirmed that I'm at least in the right forest, in not on the right path.
Thanks to everyone in the Writer Unboxed world. One foot in front of the other, one word at a time...