Tuesday, May 29, 2007

A Very Good Place to Start

When you read you begin with A, B, C...when you write you begin with....well, ask twenty-five different writers and I'm betting you'll get twenty-five different answers. Where do I begin?

For some people the characters come first. A boy who doesn't know he's a wizard learns that he's been admitted to a world famous wizarding school. A southern belle, the most sought after girl in seven counties, finds the one man she really wants is going to marry someone else. These are character-driven stories. Sure they have intriguing plot twists and turns, but what keeps us on the path are the characters. We don't just want to know what happens; we want to know what happens to Scarlett or Harry.

Interestingly, both Margaret Mitchell and J. K. Rowling said they wrote the last chapter first. I don't know any other writer who does that, and I certainly couldn't do it myself. Part of the fun of writing, for me, is not knowing exactly what's going to happen. Oh, I know I'm going to end up with "and they lived happily ever after." That's a given because I write romance. But I rarely know at the outset how I'm going to get there.

And isn't it kind of limiting to write the end first? What if something much better comes to mind along the way that makes the ending no longer appropriate? Do you go off and explore that new idea, tossing your finely crafted ending in the trash? Or do you subdue your rampant imagination to stick with the original ending? I guess it could go either way.

And writers never throw away anything. Just because that scene didn't make it in this book doesn't mean you won't find a use for it somewhere else. For every book I've written, there's a separate file of things that didn't make the final cut. Sometimes I dig around in those just to see if anything catches my fancy. Sometimes I'll be writing and remember a specific thing from a previous book and go looking for it. Some of my finest work is still in my computer!

Today I'm writing a scene that didn't make the final cut of my Heiress book, but I feel it's necessary and helps explain a lot of things, so I'm adding it. If I'd thought of it sooner, that entire book would have probably been easier to write in the first place. But better late than never, right?

And so I'm off to lunch with a writer pal. Don't want to be late for that.

Have a great day!

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