In a recent article in The Atlantic, Stephen King discussed opening lines. My favorite opening line is from Rebecca – “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” Immediately I wanted to know who the speaker was, what Manderley was & why she couldn’t go back. So much feeling & promise contained in nine words. So intimidating to a would-be writer!
He also discusses the importance of a writer’s voice, that way of telling a story that identifies the writer. My struggle has always been: how does one go about finding their voice? I think that a writer develops her voice only by writing, by finding what she’s comfortable with, what feels right. And that takes time. And it takes writing, actually putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). That can be daunting and full of ‘mistakes,’ which makes it difficult for someone like me. I don’t like to do something unless I can do it well. I don’t like putting out a product that I’m not completely satisfied with. Those traits don’t often mix well with creative endeavors that require trial and error.
Temple University psychology professor Robert W. Weisberg has said “You have to immerse yourself in a discipline before you create in that discipline.” In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Joanne Lipman recounts Weisberg’s findings that “there is no such thing as a born genius. Most creative giants work ferociously hard and, through a series of incremental steps, achieve things that appear (to the outside world) like epiphanies and breakthroughs.” I might hang that quote in my home office.
Tomorrow marks the beginning of another National Novel Writing Month. At midnight, writers everywhere will begin work on a 50,000 word novel. You can visit here to find out more about how it works. I participated last year, but sadly did not get very far. This year I am determined to get those 50,000 words!
It’s common for authors to write from an outline. The entire plot is planned out before the first words are written. This year I am trying to write from an outline, but am struggling to get the outline together. The hardest part for me to get the story started, to come up with the idea. Once I have an idea, I can run with it. It’s all of the little moving parts that overwhelm me – the plot twists, the character traits, the over-arching theme. What genre do I want to write? First person or third person? Impartial or emotional? So many decisions to make before midnight!