Everything! No seriously, it’s whatever I’m working on at the time! The first obstacle I had to hurdle over – and the bars kept getting higher and higher – was the dreaded first sentence and that frightening blank page. When first starting out, I just write and write. Throwing down ideas – even though some are so far-fetched it will never get used – from the mind to the paper. It starts to develop more. Characters interacting soon stems more plots. This isn’t the time to worry if you used the proper sense of the word. Don’t worry about editing, grammar, punctuation, or proper order… just get it down. Worry about editing later. Thoughts and ideas start pouring out and the main goal is to get it on the paper (or computer).
Maybe thoughts don’t flow so easily? Been there. Done that. I put down an idea then work around it. “What if… a happily married woman of ten years hasn’t had a baby and really wants one? What would she do to get that baby?” That was how I started with Lies, Sacrifices, & Alibis. Start asking questions about how it’s possible and then answering them leads to more questions or more plot. Before I know it, that little bitty idea starts to grow until it’s the plot for a whole book. Remember, don’t worry about editing, timelines, character flaws, just get it down.
The ‘what if’ game is great but make sure ‘you’ think it through. Can it really happen? If you’re writing unbelievable fiction, no biggie. The sky’s the limit! However, if you’re more like me and want to make it as realistic as possible, then you might want to go over it in your head. Only so many ‘freebies’ (unbelievable shit) is acceptable. Can it really happen? If so, how? Remember, if you’re confused on something in the book, the readers will be too.
Once you have all that, then you need to start stretching it out. Start developing your characters, the places they hang out, jobs, family lives. It can be very intimidating. When I’m starting, I use Scrivener (cost me $40). It allows you to put everything – and I do mean everything – associated with your book in one place. No need for multiple Microsoft Word windows open. Just all in one nice, neat area. Oh, and for all that is holy, use Word. Don’t use the free programs. They don’t tell you when you’re misspelling or grammatical errors. They allow you to put down crap. You can really see a difference when you transfer free programs over to Word. It’s like a rainbow festival of blue and red lines.
Creating characters can be hard. You could be making enough for a small camping group, or an entire city that slowly bleeds through. When creating them, start asking questions. Get to know them. Creating characters is an all-day thing per character! It’s not something you can just throw out there. Not if you want them done right. It’s creating a new person. Put down your character’s quirks, habits, likes, and dislikes in their character pages. You need to fill in as much as you can about them. Get creative. Think about people you know… pick one person… personalities, quirks, flaws, bad/good habits, job, and so on. Are they picky, snobby, classy, or trashy? Do they burp and fart without excusing themselves? Maybe they pick their nose without thinking about it? The more you model your characters from a real person, the more you can pull people in to read about them. They know someone just like them! Make them fall in love with one and hate another. No one likes a perfect person.
Characters carrying on conversations must be real. Is there one who always cuts people off? We ‘all’ know someone like that! Most annoying habit of too many. Does someone say ‘like’ too much? Maybe another says ‘ya know’ like they had a bargain buster sale at the local word store? When working dialogues, read it out loud and make sure it flows. Remember, people don’t talk in complete sentences. “Know what I’m saying?” They don’t talk properly at times either. “Where you guys at?” Just make sure the sentences line up to the character flaws or their personalities. Ya feel me?
Then you’ve got the editing process. Talk about a nightmare? I swear we go over a book six times – reading it out loud together – and each time we find something wrong. This can be tricky since they keep changing the rules of English. Back in the day, you never started a sentence with and, but, or… now you can. But, I digress.
After it’s all beautified and you’re ready to send it out… you have to do a synopsis and a query letter. Talk about a nightmare! IF you don’t have the right query letter to your wonderfully crafted manuscript, it won’t get seen. You have to draw their attention immediately, make them want more… and that has to be the hardest part of it all!