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Newsletter Dated: 2/14/2010 3:41:58 PM
Subject: beginning a new story
ďBob Lemon peeked through the driverís side window of the VW van. He pulled on the door handle but it was locked. There was a half eaten banana on the dashboard and an open bag of peanuts on the passengerís seat, a few having fallen out. There was a bottle of water in the cup holder between the seats, cap off, and another one on the passenger side floor, cap on.Ē
These are the first few sentences of my new novel. I just wrote them within the last half hour or so. Actually I wrote the first 550 words, a page and a half, which, for me, is a good start. The working title is ďWishing Well Bluffs.Ē I started making notes for this story last summer and then put it all in a folder while I reworked parts of ďCharlie No Face,Ē but even then the story was already at work in my mind. Itís drawn from a tragedy that occurred in Scotland last year, one I had read about and then researched. Once I closed the folder on my notes, I have let the ideas simmer under a low heat, not trying to cook them too much, but tasting them from time to time just to get a sense of what the flavor might be.
For me, at the beginning of a new story I maintain a delicate balance between needing some concrete ideas to work with but at the same time avoiding becoming too concrete about the story itself. I havenít written any new ideas down since I closed the folder, even though ideas come with regularity. I just fold them into the stew and continue to let them simmer.
A point comes, though, when I know that itís time to write something. Itís not that I know what the whole story is about yet, or that Iíve worked out the characters and plot line, but I have a feeling that itís time to write, that only by writing it will I know what the story is about.
E. L. Doctorow offers and even better metaphor than my stew of ideas when he describes the writing process as like driving in the dark. Your headlights only provide enough light for a very short distance down the road, but itís actually enough light to make the whole trip. I guess the point is that at the beginning I go out not knowing exactly where the path will lead but being excited and confident that I will be able to find or create the path by writing it.