Tuesday, April 25, 2017

“Novel Beginnings: Stuck Before Even Getting Started”

“It was a dark and stormy night …” (a tried and true opening for sure, and just as oft-played)

The novel idea has been fleshed out, the research done, the writing utensils prepped (for those of us who prefer paper before processor). But the first page remains blank. For some time. Just … blank.

In the midst of writing Broken Benevolence, I paused to turn back to the beginning, staring at the opening lines with a bit of wonder. I know how it starts (fans will too in the near future), but the wonder came with actually seeing … that I started the book (the third in the Dr. Naomi Alexander series).

Writing that opening sentence can be the hardest part of writing a novel; it's a form of writer's block all its own. I utilize an outline, and while that may help with the meat of the story. I still struggle with putting that first sentence down. The options for beginning a story are varied and numerous. Should I start with a description of the setting, or maybe some dialogue? Begin with some backstory narrative, or right in the heart of the action? What about having the main character …?

Any one or even combinations of those options could work (if done right), and so the page stays blank for just a little longer.

Inevitably, my outline helps me get going. I may still pause at getting that first sentence started, but referring to my outline helps me do the one thing necessary: write something. That first sentence may not even make the cut, but it’s enough to keep the pen flowing over the page, or the keyboard clacking away. The same can be said about starting new chapters, but the 'anxiety' is different and not quite as intense.

The feeling that comes when that first sentence (or two) of a novel kicks off, though, is akin to a mild high as 'the Zone' approaches, and the dark, stormy night becomes a bright and sunny day.

Broken Benevolence is scheduled for a Christmas 2017 release.
Click on my logo for more about the Dr. Naomi Alexander novels, or visit www.sfpowellbooks.com.

Engaging, commercial fiction for grownups.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

“Get Over the Fear, Dear”

In my blog (some time ago now), “Getting ‘Thin’ Can Be a Big Mistake,” I stated that I didn’t really have a number “10” for my list of suggestions. But on fifth thought (yeah, I went back and forth on this a few times), I’d like to offer a possible number 10: getting over the fear of being ‘out there.’

Writers write for the utter joy of it. We do. Honestly. But loving to write doesn’t necessarily equate with being fully comfortable with being exposed as authors or having hundreds (or even thousands) of others seeing our work—especially for writers who are introverts. Case in point: S.F. Powell.

My introvert tendencies far exceed my extrovert ones, but if I wanted others to get joy from my work, I had to let them know it was out there. All authors have traces of self-doubt (even bestselling authors), some with more traces than others. But doubt about my work wasn’t a major factor for me; it was a ‘fear’ of people knowing the work existed period—which in turn meant folk knew that I existed, that I have work out there to be ‘judged.’ Yet the ‘judging’ doesn’t bother me as much as one would think (basically: you either like it or you don’t; hopefully you do, but if not, moving on).

And it is not from conceit that I worry about people knowing about my existence (“Who cares about you and what you’re doing?” you might say), but rather, the whole idea of my head being permanently out from its ‘turtle shell’ is daunting. Strangers know who I am now (but I don’t know who they are). Only true introverts get where I’m coming from with this, so extroverts, a little patience and empathy please. How would you feel if your head were permanently situated inside your turtle shell, and you couldn’t interact, or be social or, I don’t know … extrovert?

There are ways however, that introverts can be ‘out there’ with their work without being ‘out there’ (e.g. social media), so it’s not a bad row to hoe if an introvert is selective. Small dalliances in the social media world may not lead to bestseller status, but not every writer is looking for that, so introvert writers must do what feels comfortable, and resist the pressures and advice (that make them uncomfortable). I didn’t like much of the social media arena at first, but I’m finally coming around (albeit slowly).

Although it is a necessary evil for even minimal writing success, getting over the fear is not easy or a one-off experience. Getting over the fear can be a lengthy process, and may require more of a ‘toe-dipping’ approach. 😉


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

“A Toe-dipping Experience”

You’ve see this (I know you have), either in movies or in real life: a person approaches the edge of a body of water, and instead of jumping right in, they … dip their toe to get a sense of the temperature and determine whether to splash, or ease in, or just turn around and leave water-play to everyone else. That’s what this perspective-writing-through-blogging thing has become for me.

I haven’t decided to leave the water-play to others, but rather to ease in (a toe, a foot, an ankle, the other toe, the other foot …)
This ‘toe-dipping’ is sort of how my love for writing took off. While my classmates bemoaned it, I rather liked my English-Lit classes and the writing assignments that went with it. I secretly enjoyed the post-reading discussions of characters and setting and symbolism, while (mildly) complaining about them aloud (as all sophomores in high school were bound to do). Remember Cliff’s Notes? Yeah, those little yellow books could be spotted in many a locker, but the teacher always, always found a way to have questions not covered in those books, resulting in lengthy silences among the group after the question posed. I avoided answering questions many times even when I knew the answer, just to fit in and not be ‘labeled.’ Ahh, the pitfalls of peer pressure …

Nevertheless, my love for reading and those English-Lit assignments also fed my desire to write. Ahh … the advantages of peer pressure.

My 'toe-dipping' with the written word outside of academic instruction started with personal essays about life events, interspersed with poetry. It wasn’t until adulthood that I went the toe-foot-ankle-leg-body route and decided to write a novel. The water was quite chilly at first, but I’ve been wading around for a bit now, and things are starting to warm up …