Thursday, September 24, 2009

Getting Started

Even though this is my twelfth book (not counting all the practice ones still hiding under my bed) getting started can be daunting. I look at all those 300 blank pages looming in front of me and think: can I really make something out of nothing? Again?

Of course, the answer is always yes (so far!) but that doesn’t diminish the sheer overwhelmingness of the task sometimes. Especially as part of me is still wanting to hang out in medieval France with my dark YA heroine. But duty calls. And this is where “love what you write” is so important, because if I didn’t adore Theo and her world so much, this switch would be excruciatingly painful.

So what do I do when I’m stuck staring at a blank page (or 300 of them) and need to get moving?

The first thing I do is write down what I DO know about the story. All the characters, plot layers, locations, events, and actions that I know will have to be in there.

Some of them will be there because I’m picking up threads from previous books. Others I know because they are inherent in the concept itself. Then others can be extrapolated from that.

This will be tricky without spoilers, but I will try to show you what I mean.

Theodosia and the Last Pharaoh
(An aside: I am amazed at how I manage to misspell pharaoh every. single. time. Medieval, too. Which is astonishing when you think about how often I use them.)

What I know has to happen in the story:

Theo et al have to get to Egypt
Arrive in Cairo
Meet with Antiquity Services officials (simply b/c Theo’s parents are returning to their dig)
Illustrate burgeoning nationalist movement (because that is the backdrop the plot plays out against.)
Travel to Luxor
Set up household there; living arrangement? Servants?
Meet Luxor Antiquity Service personnel
Theo meets XXXXXXXXX
Parents begin their work in Valley of King
What does Theo do during that time?
At some point in here, she will need to see that Chaos has a presence in the area. (Did she and Wigmere have planned for this?)
Theo orchestrates her clandestine trip to XXXXX to XXXXXX – complications ensue.
Brainstorm complications
Theo is introduced to the concept of the Last Pharaoh
Theo plans trip to return XXXXXXX to the hands of XXXXXXX – her plans either go awry or are thwarted.

This last entry was Theo’s original goal in this book-to accomplish this. So now she’s finally worked her way to being able to accomplish this, and it has to explode in her face. This will come at about the midpoint of the book.

I know it’s a little tricky with all those Xs to avoid spoilers, but you can see how sometimes just taking stock of what you do know highlights what has to happen in the story either to connect the actions and events or for them to make sense.

Also, looking at the sheer mundane-ness of some of that stuff, setting up a household for example, it becomes clear that whatever does happen, has to have some drama to it.

And now I'm off--beginning a new adventure with Theo and seeing all the possibilities on paper like this gets my blood humming. To work!

4 comments:

PJ Hoover said...

Whoo hoo for Theo and her new adventure! And thank you for the peek inside your head.

Robin L said...

I don't know, PJ. Sometimes inside my head is a scary, scary place. :-D

beckylevine said...

I love this, Robin. It feels like one of those reassurances that we won't lose track of all the things bouncing in our heads. I may have to start this for my YA, even being 100 pages in. It still feels like there are little threads floating away every time I focus on another one. :)

Robin L said...

I totally agree, Becky. I feel so much better once I have those flittering ideas recorded somewhere. It allows me to free up some hard drive space for new stuff to flourish!