Writing Notes: Where to Start?

When I sat down to write this post, it
wasn’t unlike starting a new story, other than opening a new
document instead of a new scene file in yWriter. I started with a
blank page, typed the title, thought for a minute about all the stuff
I’d been planning to put in this post, and put my fingers on the
keyboard.

And I just stared at the blank page –
suddenly, inexplicably wordless.

This is a phenomenon I don’t think
you can fully appreciate until you sit down to write something. It’s
like watching that super-good looking guy across the room, imagining
what you’d say if you talked to him, how witty and funny and
charming you’d be. Then when he comes over and introduces himself,
you suddenly have a hard time forming coherent sentences, never mind
the whole witty/funny/charming thing you had planned.

I love
starting a new story, and nearly ninety-nine percent of
the time I have the entire first scene in my head before I get
started (none of my scenes are ever the same once they come out of my
head, but that’s another blog post). Then I sit down to put that
first sentence into words, and I start questioning myself:

– Is this really where the story
starts?

– What led him/her to this place?

– Do we need the back story first, or
will it be okay to jump right in and sprinkle his/her past in along
the way?

– If I start the story here, will I
have enough story to hit my desired word count? (I always
disregard this question in the end – for me, it’s a simple case
of insecurity/cold feet. There’s always enough story, and word
count is flexible in my world anyway, so it’s a non-issue.)

As you can probably imagine, it’s
kind of hard to write with all that noise in my head. At the same
time, they’re important questions to answer because I don’t want
to redo it later (back to that no big revisions thing). So
inevitably, I end up opening the original idea file again, and
working out back story and the scene before the “first scene” so
I know exactly how the characters got to where they were when I found
them, and whether or not it’s an interesting enough place to start
or not.

Once I have all that hashed out, I can
decide where to start writing. Surprisingly (or perhaps not), I
almost always go with a hybrid of my original “first scene” and a
decent helping of the back story I figured out while answering my
list of questions. This time when I go back to that blank page, the
words come pretty easily and I can knock out the whole first scene
without too much trouble.

Readers, are you surprised at what
it takes to start a new story? Have you ever tried to start one, and
frozen up?



Writers, what happens when you
encounter a shiny new blank first page? Are you so nervous/enamored
that you forget how to form a sentence, or are you witty and charming
right from the get-go?


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4 comments on “Writing Notes: Where to Start?

  1. Lisa

    There is nothing better to me than a new idea. I usually get the jist of it down on paper, but sometimes, once I really start plotting, I realize I have all sorts of holes and things I hadn’t thought of. Sometimes it discourages me because I lose that newness of it and realize how much work I really have. But other times that exciting feeling stays all the way through:)

  2. Jamie D.

    I think we all go through stages with a WIP – sometimes we’re excited, others we’re frustrated, some parts feel like they will *never* end, and some scenes just fly right off the fingers. Now I sort of know where I’m going to hit each stage, so I can be ready for it, but I still manage to hit all of them every single time. LOL

    There are no shortcuts, it would appear.

  3. Brooklyn Ann

    I freeze up a lot…especially if the scene in my head is not the opener. To get over this, I do my best to write the scenes I know and jot down a brief note, anything from “X happens” to “Blah blah” in between. Then later I can come back to them when hopefully my muse fills me in. 🙂

  4. Carol

    Great post Jamie! I love the analogy with the cute guy in the bar. 🙂

    I have definitely suffered through the “blank screen at the beginning” syndrome. Even when I’ve got everything all worked out in my head I’ll sit down at the keyboard, all excited about the beginning and then . . . nothing. Should I start the story here, or here, or maybe here? Once I push through it’s ususally clear sailing, but sometimes that blank screen can be really be a pain.