If only it were this easy to begin a novel. My YA work-in-progress love story has been a blast to work on. I love the characters and actually have dialogue running through my head quite often. The setting is beautiful, the research has been stimulating, and the plot twists have been as exciting to write as if they were happening to me.
The lovely and talented Laini Taylor describes the process of writing a novel so articulately on her blog, Not For Robots. I would advise anyone out there who is writing a novel, is thinking of writing a novel, or even those who believe novel writing to be an easy job…those who picture us lounging around coffee houses all day, philosophizing about life, love, and loss, effortlessly cranking out masterful prose in between smoke breaks…to visit Laini’s site to get a real taste for how complicated novel writing is.
What rang so true with me is Laini’s idea of The Snick, which she describes as “the sound and feeling of a puzzle piece fitting into place.” So true! It’s the most satisfying part of writing, that elusive Snick. It can’t be forced. It has to slide easily and feel right. In my insomnia haze the other night I took her puzzle-metaphor further and compared writing to having an enormous, small-pieced puzzle spread out in front of you. Oh, but the thousands of pieces are scattered about the table and they're all white. And what you have to do is paint an idea or feeling or spot of dialogue onto one piece, then find the pieces that fit around it (mind you they’re all white), and paint those pieces. In the end, the entire puzzle has to create one large picture, with no gaps or unbelievable images, like a horse with wombat feet or something (that’s just wrong). The big picture has to make sense and everyone staring at it has to go, “Oh! I totally get it. That’s so clever.”
Which brings me to this: I’m on a serious roll with my feelings and images and Snicks and all the rest, but, I can’t seem to figure out how to begin the bloody thing. Agent Nathan Bransford had a wonderful “Surprisingly Essential First Page Contest” where he dissected what goes into an extraordinary first page of a novel, which I found very informative. However, creating a tone, a memorable entrance for the main character, suggestion of the main problem, appealing setting, and hooks that are intriguing, but don’t hit you over the head with over-the-top-ness is easier said than done.
Where to start? Where to start? Action? Dialogue? A question? Setting description? A thought in the MC’s head? It’s the strangest feeling to be so close to this novel, yet so completely unaware of where the real story begins. Once upon a time…? It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…? It was a dark and stormy night…? Help!