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Starting A New Story

One of my biggest challenges with writing a story is getting started. As an example, I had a hard time working on my newest novel idea this past week. While this was partly because of other commitments in my personal life, another part of the struggle was understanding the high level story arc.

In my current story, I have great intro–a thousand words of action that give the reader a pretty good sense of the intended story. The intro came to me in moments, colors and scents of this new world rushing to me almost like a memory. These first thousand words were easy to write, in a large part because I just had to write down what my mind’s eye saw perfectly clear.

Even so, while the intro is compelling and exciting, I struggled with where to go next.

While I understood the high level idea (a conflict between two parties, where the reader has to decide who to root for), I struggled with getting the abstract down to something I can actually create.

I finally had to sit myself down for a frank discussion. “George,” I said, for that’s what I call myself…everyone else calls me ‘Mike’, “You know where you’re starting. Now all you have to do is figure out where you want to go. Once you figure that out, just think about the steps you need to get there.”

That helped. But it only got me halfway there. The truth is, I’m not 100% sure where it is that I want to go. The story is more important than the destination.

So I compromised.

Instead, I’ve planned out the next three chapters, and once those are finished, I’ll start to think more about where the story should wrap up. Sometimes I change my direction mid-course anyway, so not knowing where I’m going isn’t a big deal.

Besides, this is just the beginning. I know I have about a hundred thousand words to go, so there’s some time for me to figure out some of the details.

Why is the ending important anyway?

The big reason I want to figure out an ending is that I want to know when my story is complete. Once you know where the ending is, you can start to figure out how close you are to completing your novel. It’s something that helps for planning purposes, especially since my goal is to have this particular story ready for review by an agent in about 6 months.

Planning a book is like any other project. Having a plan helps you to understand whether you’re ahead of schedule or behind.

As of this point, I’m sure I’m behind. But now I have a plan to figure out the ending, and see how far I have to go. This will also help me to know how far I have to go in order to catch up. Six months is an aggressive goal for any novel-length work, but I’ve decided that I need to start setting goals so I can make progress every day.

I’ll keep folks updated with my word count each week. Eventually, I may even start showing graphs of the work. This should be a good way to encourage myself to keep making progress.

Current word count: 940 (~1% complete)


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