Starting Something New

Maybe it’s the way the tape holding the cotton ball in the bend of my arm pulls whenever I type. I even give blame credit to the golden sun making patterns on the porch outside my office window.

Starting a new project brings out the best – and worst – of my natural tendencies to procrastinate or run heedless into crowded streets. Not sure there is a “best” when I put it that way.

I don’t chew my nails. Even if I did, I’m not fretting about what’s next for the novel I’ve placed into the capable hands of six beta readers. That isn’t keeping me from getting words on the page in the newest Scrivener file.

I tried to come up with some short story ideas, but everything fell flat. This idea that came to me during November 2013 while I was writing blog posts for the church blog kept resurfacing.

It’s a fictionalization. I’ve decided a journal style will give it the most impact. This means writing in first person and a boatload of research.

Where to Start

Some people would load up by researching the time period and setting. That derails my creativity and puts me in a black-and-white frame of mind. If it helps spark your enthusiasm for the project, start here.

I started in the middle. This isn’t my usual method. Generally, I write the first scene and the last scene. Go back to the beginning and work my way toward the ending I’ve concocted.

That doesn’t seem to work for a fictionalization. Yes, creativity plays a huge part in the writing, but the basic story outline is already written. Shouldn’t this make things easier? One would think.

Since I’m using the Bible as my major resource, I started by reading the passage of the scene I wanted to write. I began with the marriage at Cana (I told you it was in the middle). I read the story several times.

Now to bring it to life. I closed my eyes and imagined how my point of view character, Mary, would have felt. Why was she there? How did she discover the wine shortage? What do her snippets of conversation with Jesus and the servants tell us about her character?

It’s not that much different than when I create a fictional character. Except I have to be true to the facts people already know.

It would be easier just to make something up. Why am I writing this again? *sigh*

What to Avoid

As with all my projects, I have a spiral notebook. The first page shows the family tree of Mary. Beneath that, I have her and Joseph’s family tree. Here again, the historical documents I’m using have only a small amount of information.

It’s difficult not to run off and research every little thing. If you want to get actual words written in the story, avoid this temptation.

Yes, I had to pull up a Jewish calendar and figure out what dates certain events might have happened. After all, how will I know what season events happen if I don’t know the date?

Even this tempted me to run amok. There were hyperlinks to descriptions of different festivals. Some of the information about the structure of the calendar piqued my natural curiosity. I steered clear of these obvious traps.

Don’t get stuck in any one scene. I know tons of research awaits me. My rewrite will require thousands of words added expounding on cultural items. I put an asterisk or a parenthetical reminder where I know this information is needed. Keep moving forward.

I’ve had to skip around. Some stories (like the birth, shepherds and wise men) are so over told, I will need to be especially primed in order to write them with original flare. For now, those scenes are blank folders in my Scrivener binder. I know they need to be written and when the time is right, I will tackle that hurdle.

Do I want to use them as an excuse to bog down? Sure. Now is when I have to use the tough love principle.  If I want to keep moving forward, I must say recognize distractions and swerve to avoid their pitfall.

When only a kick in the posterior will do

Everyone needs a day off. Most days, we can spare an hour for sitting in the sun on our deck. What we can’t do is allow respite to become laziness.

Sitting in the sun is a perfect time to read a craft book or reflect on the next scene in the story. Making notes in the notebook is always in order and can be accomplished anywhere.

I’m yawning after only writing 1,000 words. I can choose to take a nap. If I want to get more writing done, taking a walk around the block is a better choice.

Discover your personal warning signs. There are patterns when avoiding work is in question. Do a personal intervention. When my brain gets mushy and begs for a nap, I give it a dose of fresh air and exercise. If that doesn’t work, I put the daily word count goal in front of my face.

“As soon as we reach that,” I tell my wavering writing persona, “you can take a nap (read a book, check Facebook).” You know the rewards that spur you forward. Shamelessly bargain with yourself using these weaknesses goodies.

I didn’t feel like writing a blog post today. I had no idea what to write about. Rather than checking out images on Pinterest (looking for inspiration, of course), I started typing. This is the end result.

It might not be the best thing I’ve ever written, but it beats a blank page.

What advice do you have for starting a new project? What sort of bribes do you use to reach your daily goals?

What do you think? Add to the discussion here.