Thursday, September 23, 2010

Believing in Beginnings…and what Follows

I’m having a very writerly problem. I can’t seem to get going on my YA novel manuscript. See – I put it on the back burner to attend to some edits on a middle grade project for my agent. You’d think once the edits were done and the manuscript turned over, I’d just pick up where I left off, right? Ha. No so much.

With the finished manuscript in capable hands – and lots of waiting and nail-biting to do – I started this blog. And as some of you know, blogging is addictive. So it is easy to keep putting off working on RLR (my code name for The YA Novel That Is Languishing On My Laptop).

Confession: Even thinking about opening the file makes me a little queasy lately. I get a bit of a sour taste in my mouth and my mind jack rabbits to about 32 other things I should/could/ought to be doing. Folding laundry. Walking the dog. Hounding a kid about homework. Washing my hair. Planting geraniums in neat little rows in someone else’s back yard.

The good news: I think I’ve managed to identify part of the problem. I read like a maniac – sometimes as many as 3 or 4 novels in a week in addition to all other necessary activities (see above) – oh, and a full time job. And lately, I don’t think I’ve read a book I haven’t liked. And even if I didn’t LOVE it, I still found things to learn from the author about craft. Each time I put down a novel I’ve really enjoyed, I think RLR will never be that gripping. Or funny. Or beautiful.

I know…I bet most writers have these evil, self-defeating thoughts. I’m not unique in this problem. I need to get the heck over it.

And I’m not going to let READING become the reason I’m not WRITING. (Shaking my head and rolling my eyes at myself.)

So here’s what I’m doing tonight. I grabbed a stack of random MG and YA books that were sitting around my kitchen. And I’m going to read the first sentence – just the first – and write it down here. I’m going to prove to myself that beginnings are possible. That even if the first sentence I have in my manuscript right now isn’t perfect (truly – it pretty much sucks) that I can overcome and write a beginning equal to these random authors. And what follows beginnings? Well, the rest of the story, of course.

Wish me luck!

I remember the day the Aluet ship came to our island. Island of the Blue Dolphins, Scott O'Dell, 1960.

Once when I was in ninth grade, I had to write a paper on a poem. (first line of the prologue) Blood Promise, Richelle Mead, 2009

Until the age of twelve, I led what most people would consider an unexceptional life. Kiki Strike Inside the Shadow City, Kirsten Miller, 2006

“You don’t look much like your sister,” Chip said, bouncing the basketball low against the driveway. Found, Margaret Peterson Haddix, 2008

Zach Freeman woke out of a deep sleep to see his butt perched on the ledge of his bedroom window. The Day My Butt Went Psycho, Andy Griffiths, 2001

It’s a perfect night to run away, thought Fadi, casting a brooding look at the bright sheen of the moon through the cracked backseat window. Shooting Kabul, N. H. Senzai, 2010

So – there are a couple I really like, and a few that aren't gripping or funny or beautiful. Which means – I should suck it up and just write. And quit fussing. And …um…believe in my writing. Yeah. Believe. It’s a beginning.

PS -- There are no psycho butts in my book. Just sayin'.


  1. Jut sayin' -- just start, darlin! Actually, maybe just freewrite afresh since it's been so long - go back to a tried and true writing exercise??
    I got super inspired today and just blogged about why stories MATTER and can save/change lives -- your story matters!! believe it! I do!

  2. Ah, the self-defeating sprites that sit on our shoulders and whisper in our ear, "Who are you fooling? You're just a mom who wants to be a writer." And we believe them and worry that it will never be good enough. Poo. We both know that there is a TON of crap out there that is sitting on the shelf at Barnes and Noble right now that somebody got paid big bucks to write and it is trash.....and yest somebody published it, people paid money to buy it and some actually read it and liked it. And we both know that you don't write crap - not even close. So as Cher said in Moonstruck, "Snap out of it!" Who says you have to start at the beginning.....I'm working on the end, and I've just started.....which is helping me shape the beginning so the arc is complete. I respect how much harder fiction surely is when the sky is the limit, no fences to rein you in. The two beautiful books on my desk next to me begin with completely un-engaging, plain as biscuits beginnings. Just write, Darlin. It will come.

  3. You guys are too good to me! Thanks for the "lifting up" kind of support. We writers need to stick together.
    Oh -- and T -- I LOVED your post on why stories matter. Loved it.