One of the things I hated most about trying Dean Wesley Smith’s Writing into the Dark method was, I didn’t have to write in order.
Confused? I was too.
What this means is, the method prescribes writing whatever comes next. What does the creative voice inside want to write next? It might be what author and writing coach Holly Lisle calls “Candy Bar Scenes,” the good stuff you can’t wait to write. They’re usually the scenes you envisioned when you wanted to write the book in the first place.
It might be something to fill in backstory. Something that came before where you are now, or before where you’re heading.
Maybe it’s a plant, a bit of subtext you drop, or some foreshadow sentence, paragraph, scene. You think of a snappy line of dialog that would make something better, clearer, more tense.
Whatever it is, writing the next sentence is the way to get the method to work. Move backward to plant that foreshadow or clue or evidence, or whatever. Move forward and write the solution to that puzzle, question, confrontation, whatever, while it’s still fresh in your mind. Jump around, move about, write, write, write.
The next sentence doesn’t have to be the next one the reader experiences, you see. It’s the next one your creative voice wants to put down in the manuscript, whether before your current spot or afterward.
So, that seems clear enough, right? So why was I confused?
Well, maybe “confused” is the wrong term. Maybe I was stumped by it from time to time.
See, I’m a process-oriented, progression-loving kind of guy. I like things nice and linear. I have a horrible time trying to move out of order on stuff. If I can’t figure out what happens next in the sequence, in the order of events, I have a difficult time moving forward. That means I don’t like jumping around in the time line of the story.
And that’s just what writing into the dark requires.
How to overcome this?
When I figure it out, I’ll be sure to let you know, because running face first into this during the writing of my last novel threw me for a loop. I didn’t proceed. I just stopped, stewed for a bit, and when I finally determined to write the “next sentence” – wherever it fell – I ended up breaking through the stall and going forward.
So “the next sentence” was the literal next sentence for me in those cases. I never had opportunity to hop backward or forward until editing. When my First Reader found issues or problems, and pointed them out during the writing process, I’d go back and fix/insert/delete right away.
Then the manuscript finalized, and during revisions, I did the same. Find, fix, delete/insert, save. Nothing new added, really, other than smoothing sentences and paragraphs.
So, during the writing process, everything went in order. The next thing I wrote was the next thing the reader saw in the story. Despite my desire to do things the right way, I couldn’t get over that hump. I couldn’t just write the next thing.
Okay, all very well and good, but what’s that got to do with anything?
As the title of the post suggests, I’m having a hard time finding the beginning of the story. Instead of finding some other scene to write, instead of finding some other place in the story to begin the writing, and trusting the creative voice to move forward or backward and fix and fill in as necessary, I’ve sat stagnant for more than two months.
Now, in fairness, I’ve invited the critical voice into the party a little by thinking how important it is I write book one before I can publish book two. It’s important I shore up the book and make it stronger than it was before, better, more cohesive, logical, character-driven.
See, by making it “important,” I’ve kicked open the barn doors and let the critical voice – the one that stops the fun, the one that stops the creative voice from being able to play, to explore, to enjoy – into the process, and in fact, allowed it to take over the process.
Now I can’t write. Just like the struggles I had with outlining. Outlining is a good, fast technique for a lot of writers. A lot of them. But for me, it causes the critical voice to signal the creative voice that the story has been written. It’s over. Done.
It’s the way my brain’s wired, I guess, and I’m desperate to find a way to fix it, because it’s stopping me, and has been for a long time now. Knowing how it works hasn’t helped me get past the shortcoming. I’m looking for a way to do that.
So, back to the keyboard if I’m able. The first image that comes into my head, the first movie playing, is the one I’m going to write.
Even if it’s not book one of the series.